Butte falls in shootout to City College of San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO Facing offensively potent City
College of San Francisco, the Butte
College
football team found itself in the
shootout it never wanted to be in.

In the end, the Roadrunners simply ran out of ammo.

Butte’s bid to rally back from a 17-point, fourth-quarter
deficit fell short when Jon Hays’ do-or-die pass to the end zone
was intercepted to lock up a 37-34 Rams victory Saturday, putting a
wild ending on a thrilling NorCal Conference battle between two of
the nation’s top-10 programs that each entered play at 5-0.

“Obviously it hurts, and our kids would rather be talking about
a win right now,” Butte coach Jeff Jordan said, “but what a great
college
football game. We played every
minute thinking we could win it and we had a chance. I’ll never
forget this one.”

Those who saw it might have trouble rifling through memory for
all the details and momentum swings, because there were plenty as
the game transformed from a battle for possession and field
position into precisely the kind of high-scoring showdown Jordan
had dreaded coming into play. The Rams, ranked third in the
JCGridiron.com national poll and also in the state, enjoyed a
hugely productive performance out of quarterback Steele Jantz, who
liberally sprinkled in touchdown passes as he torched the
Roadrunner secondary all afternoon. Jantz connected on 19 of his 32
pass attempts, providing 343 yards through the air and four
touchdowns when all was said and done. He led one productive drive
after another.

And yet, there were the Roadrunners, renowned for their
grind-it-out style, counterpunching each big Rams haymaker with one
of their own. The key to all of it was Rashad Ross, whose
second-half kickoff returns for 70 and 93 yards both went for
scores and recharged a Butte defense that was on the field far
longer than it had ever planned on being.

When Ross fielded San Francisco’s kickoff at his own 7 with
14:38 left in the fourth quarter, Butte had already fallen behind
37-20.

Less than 10 minutes later, the Roadrunners had drawn to within
a field goal when Hays crossed the plane on a sneak play and after
Butte forced the Rams’ third fumble of the game on what was
supposed to be San Francisco’s death-knell drive, the Roadrunners
were poised to drive from midfield and possibly win it themselves
after Hays converted a third-and-9 to reach the Rams’ 36-yard
line.

Travis Davidson, who had 139 yards on 29 carries with two more
touchdowns to add to his state-leading total, appeared to have a
clear lane to the end zone on second down, but a San Francisco
defender managed to save the game with a diving tackle to trip him
up “literally, it was a shoestring tackle,” Jordan later said and
Hays threw incomplete on third-and-7 from the 33.

His last pass was a deep ball into the end zone for Anthony
Spain, who had defender Allen Chapman beaten by a step, but the
ball hung up in the stiff San Francisco winds, Chapman came down
with it, and the Rams kneeled the clock away to hearty ovation from
their home fans.

After its 5-0 start, Butte is now facing an 0-1 record in the
part of the season that will be weighed with more significance.
Last season, an equally demoralizing loss to the Rams at Cowan
Stadium provided a hangover effect for nearly two weeks before the
Roadrunners righted the ship. But Ross, whose dazzling return of a
squib kick the Rams had no intention of even sending his way, said
a setback to a high-caliber opponent wasn’t necessarily the end of
the world quite yet.

“We played good, all the way down to the wire, and they just
made more big plays than us,” Ross said. “Last year, just like
this, they stole it from us and it kicked us out of our season. But
this season ain’t over. We ain’t gonna let that happen.”

It’s hard to imagine that Butte will see an offensive squad as
gaudy as the Rams fielded on Saturday. Aaron Horn had a game-high
eight catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including
back-breaking hauls of 51 and 65 yards, and Royce Spencer added
another seven receptions for 104 yards and two more scores. On top
of it all, San Francisco got 16 effective carries from Jimmy
Haynes, who finished with 85 yards and punched in what stood as the
game-winning touchdown with 14:55 left to play on a 2-yard run.

While big plays might have been the story, though, the
difference in the game was an extra-point miss and a two-point
conversion both happened on the same play when Nigel Malone picked
up Winston Fox’s blocked extra-point attempt after Davidson’s
second-quarter touchdown run, then ran the length of the field to
make it 9-6 instead of 7-7. Butte rapidly took the lead coming out
of the halftime break, when Ross had his first return for a score,
the Roadrunners forced a punt and then Davidson took one 30 yards
to the end zone for the 20-16 advantage at 12:56. But it was
short-lived Jantz hit Horn on a 65-yarder two drives later at 9:02
to restore the Rams’ lead, and San Francisco never looked back.

“What I’m most proud about is that we kept making plays to put
ourselves in position to win. Every play they made, we answered
back,” Jordan said. “It hurts, but losing like this to a team like
that isn’t something we’re going to be ashamed of.”