Photo by Mike Daly

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Shasta College's football team survived its only back-to-back road contests of the year with a 24-17 win over Santa Rosa Junior College Saturday to improve to 3-0 on the season.

The No. 19 Knights led 24-10 entering the fourth quarter but gave up a 5-yard touchdown run with 11:59 to go for the Bear Cubs to cut it to a one-score game.

Needing to put the game away, Shasta marched deep into Santa Rosa territory only to have Vinny Smith fumble inside the 15-yard line. The ensuing Santa Rosa drive stalled but the punt pinned Shasta at its 5-yard line with 4:28 left.

Quarterback Hoku-Lani Wickard connected with tight end Jusiah Gabel for a 12-yard gain on 3rd and 11 to extend the possession. Needing one more first down, Wickard connected with James Lee for 17 yards but Lee fumbled while trying to extend the play, giving Santa Rosa one last shot with 2:40 remaining.

The Bear Cubs picked up a yard on first down but the next three plays resulted in incomplete passes thanks to the pressure from the defensive front and Nick Smith batted the fourth down pass in the end zone to seal the victory.

"We brought energy the entire game; we were fast, flying around," said Knights' head coach Bryon Hamilton.

Shasta added another 10 points on special teams in the game with Ivan Smith tying the game at 7 with a 55-yard punt return, which he cut across the field for his second special teams score of the year. After a 51-yard Santa Rosa field goal, Wickard converted a fourth down pass to Kentrell Petite on a broken play for a 34-yard score to go into half up 14-10.

The Knights opened the third with the defense forcing a 3-and-out and fed off the momentum with consecutive scoring drives.

Matthew Ramirez nailed a 37-yard field goal to go up 17-10. Shasta recovered the onside kick and took advantage by marching on a six-play drive capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass from Wickard to sophomore receiver Carson Marx. Santa Rosa sent a jailhouse blitz on fourth down and Marx caught the short pass, slipped a tackle and took it for a score to lead 24-10.

"This feels like when I was at Southern Oregon – it feels like a university," said Marx. "In JUCO it's hard for people to stay as a family because they're in and out but this team in the locker room is a family everywhere we go."

Shasta's defense came up big late just like it did all game. The Knights held Santa Rosa's trio of quarterbacks to throw for 114 yards on 8 of 24 passing and the Bear Cubs managed only 67 yards rushing on 32 attempts. Shasta had five sacks, two each by Rashard Budd and Troy Lyons and one from Detrius Kelsall.

"We play as one, every day in practice and it pays off in the game," said Budd. "We run every day in practice, stay in shape and the effort at the end put us over it in the end and got the dub."

Lyons' five tackles paced the Knights while Tavian Wallace and Cole Parker each had four tackles.

Vinny Smith led Shasta in rushing with 76 yards on 15 attempts and Wickard was 18 of 33 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Shasta hosts Sacramento City on Saturday at 6 p.m.