By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
After Santa Rosa JC’s 2-0 start in 2012, a lot of people might have been surprised by the Bear Cubs’ 37-32 loss to Sacramento City College at Bailey Field on Saturday.
Keith Simons was not one of them.
The SRJC coach had watched one of the worst weeks of practice he has witnessed in a long time, and knew his team was vulnerable.
“We learned a hard lesson today in preparing during the week to play a football game,” Simons said after the loss. “Got caught looking in the mirror, had ourselves reading our press clippings. We tried to stop it all week as coaches, and you just see it’s gonna happen — and it happened. Because we played exactly like we practiced this week.”
Simons saw a noticeable lack of hustle in the days leading up to the game. Even worse, he felt some of his players were malingering.
“We had offensive starters that took themselves out of practice with mystery injuries,” the irate Simons said. “One of those guys was a captain for us on offense. I mean, what kind of example is that, stay out of practice all week long with a bent eyelash?”
The Bear Cubs’ lack of commitment was evident during much of Saturday’s game. Then again, Sac City frequently didn’t look any more efficient.
What can you say about a game that started with consecutive turnovers on the first two plays? Santa Rosa’s Jordan Bergstrom fumbled away the opening kickoff, giving the ball to the pumped-up Panthers — who immediately gave it right back on a pass that Santa Rosa’s Randy Harvey intercepted in the end zone.
That set the tone for a game of takeaway. SRJC lost two fumbles and threw five interceptions. Sac City tossed four interceptions.
Unless you’re an old-school football coach like Simons, it made for a highly entertaining afternoon.
The Bear Cubs were behind 21-0 at halftime, and 31-13 early in the fourth quarter, but twice pulled to within less than a touchdown.
The comeback attempt really got rolling when SRJC freshman Kepa Luat-Hueu stepped in front of Ronald Beverly’s hitch pass, picked it off and sped 75 yards for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 31-26 with 6:35 left.
The Panthers (1-2) fought back with a long drive, Lanier Logan capping it by taking a screen pass, hurdling a tackler and using a downfield block to complete a 52-yard touchdown. Sac City’s 2-point conversion failed thanks to a sack by Max Marshall.
Down 37-26, Santa Rosa went on the march again, scoring on Alex Ciudad-Real’s (Montgomery) 5-yard touchdown run. The Bear Cubs went for 2 points, but David Sowards got swarmed on a quarterback draw.
“I’m very happy with the way we fought back,” said Sowards, a freshman. “We were down 21-0 at halftime, and everyone’s giving their own halftime speech, trying to get everyone going. But the fact of the matter is, we (manned) up. … We showed that we’re not going down without a fight.”
Sacramento’s Raymond Bautista recovered the ensuing onside kick, however, and the Panthers were able to run out the clock.
Simons rotated Sowards and freshman Christian McAlvain (Windsor), and isn’t sure he has found his leader yet. Sowards threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions Saturday; McAlvain had one TD and three picks.
“The last thing that we need to do is play rotating quarterbacks,” Simons said. “But I don’t know where to go with those guys. We’re gonna take our playbook this week, which only had 12 plays in it, and we’re gonna throw out about nine of ’em.”
Beverly completed 38 of 54 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns for Sac City, but also threw the four interceptions. Lanier rushed for 188 yards on 34 carries and added 108 yards on five receptions.
Bergstrom, Sowards’ teammate from Clackamas High in Portland, Ore., had 118 yards on five catches.