Photo by Maddie Harrell
COALINGA, Calif. – The Shasta College football team exploded for 444 yards of offense in Saturday's 30-14 road win over West Hills College Coalinga to open the season with back-to-back victories.
Sophomore quarterback Hoku-Lani Wickard completed 21 of 28 passes to nine different receivers and threw for 341 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, orchestrating the offense to score on four of its first five possessions of the game.
"That's balance for us, it's not just about run and pass but threat distribution is important for us to have success," said Shasta College head coach Bryon Hamilton, who becomes the first Knights head coach to start 2-0 in the first season at the helm.
After Shasta (2-0) turned the ball over in the end zone on the opening drive, the Knights settled in with a 30-yard field goal from Matthew Ramirez, rushing touchdowns of 4 and 5 yards from sophomore Matt McCree and a 1-yard touchdown run from freshman Vinny Smith to take a 23-7 lead into halftime.
Shasta scored in the third quarter on a 46-yard strike from Wickard to freshman receiver James Lee to go up 30-7. Lee was the leading receiver with four catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, his second straight game with more than 100 yards receiving.
Shasta, which was ranked 25th in the CCCSIA state poll last week, allowed a Dwan James touchdown run in the second quarter on a drive aided by four defensive penalties. The Knights' defense gave up only 71 yards of offense in four drives in the second half until an 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter but only let the Falcons (0-2) reach the red zone once on 11 possessions. Shasta got its first interception of the year with freshman safety Joe Merkel sealing it with a late pick.
"Our defense is flying around, doing a nice job stopping the run game," Hamilton said. "We got an interception back there, a chance at a couple more. That's what you ask for."
McCree led the rushing attack with 97 yards on the ground on 17 carries and two scores while Smith added 15 yards and his first collegiate touchdown on 10 attempts. McCree also caught two passes for 25 yards.
Tavian Wallace paced Shasta with seven tackles while Merkel, Garrison Roach and Andermadson Pierre each tallied five tackles. Sophomore defensive end Cole Parker had his second straight game with 1.5 sacks to bring his season tally to three while Torren Calhoun-Ray (1 sack) and Payton Harrell (0.5 sack) were also pressuring the West Hills quarterbacks all day.
Shasta College goes on the road Saturday to face Santa Rosa Junior College, which lost 45-13 to No. 3 Butte, for a 1 p.m. kickoff.