Photo by Mike Daly

REDDING, Calif. – Shasta College opened the 2019 season with a 26-3 home victory over Chabot College Saturday at Memorial Stadium, earning the first win for new head coach Bryon Hamilton.

The Knights scored four times on special teams with freshman Ivan Smith starting it off with a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Matthew Ramirez added field goals of 23 and 43 yards before half to lead 12-3 at the break.

Shasta's George Fountain recovered a fumble on a punt and the Knights capitalized three plays later when sophomore running back Matt McCree punched it in from 2-yards out for a 19-3 lead. Less than 2 minutes later, Chabot's punter bobbled the snap and Dashawn Gregory picked it up and returned it for a touchdown with 3:27 left in the third.

"We talked before the season about being the best in special teams," Hamilton said. "It can be the difference in a game and the specials scored 20 of our 26 points."

That would be all the scoring needed for the Knights, whose defense was locked in to stop quarterback Chayce Akaka and company. Shasta limited Chabot to 51 total yards in the first six drives. The Gladiators were stopped for a loss on 11 plays, including 1.5 sacks from sophomore Cole Parker and a 0.5 sack from Torren Calhoun-Ray.

The Knights had a pair of goal line stands with freshman Joe Merkel forcing a fumble at the 1 resulting in a Shasta touchback. In the second half, Shasta held Chabot out of the end zone despite the drive starting at the 10 after a long kick return.

"We're resilient, we can bend but we won't break," said Shasta sophomore defensive tackle Detrius Kelsall.

Shasta College racked up 342 yards of offense with quarterback Hoku-Lani Wickard completing 19 of 33 passes for 262 yards. He found freshman receiver James Lee seven times for 115 yards and Lee added another 30 yards rushing showcase his play-making ability.

McCree led the team in rushing with 42 yards on 15 carries and he added 43 yards receiving on three catches. Kentrell Petite caught five passes for 55 yards.

Merkel, Tavian Wallace and Garrison Roach tied for the team-lead with seven tackles apiece while Parker finished with six tackles, 2.5 for a loss, and Kelsall had six stops with two tackles for a loss.