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Roland runs Merced College football into win column

Darius Roland cradled a pitch and began probing for a seam behind his left tackle.

Just as it had done for the entire second half, the Merced college offensive line provided the hole Roland sought out.

The Blue Devils sophomore running back exploded 5 yards untouched for a TD with 1:03 to play.

The score sealed Merced College's 34-24 victory over Cabrillo at Stadium '76 on Saturday night, and provided a fitting end to a tremendous day for both Roland and the entire Blue Devil run game.

"This was big," said Roland, who finished with a season-high 169 yards on 33 carries. "The running backs have been working hard and it's nice to get rewarded.

"We were just looking to move the ball and help put points on the board."

Roland, Trevor Staats and Xavier Gladney helped make sure points weren't an issue.

The trio of backs combined for three scores, a season-high 250 rushing yards and control of the game in the fourth quarter.

Cabrillo (0-2 Golden Gate Conference, 2-5) cut MC's lead to 20-12 with a 1-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter.

The Blue Devils (1-1 GGC, 1-6) needed just seven plays to answer, marching 75 yards. Staats finished off the drive with a 7-yard surge.

"I think the credit for tonight goes to our offensive line finally clicking," Gladney said. "Those guys worked their butts off.

"We've known all season we had the players. Tonight, we finally put it all together."

Predictably, however, the Blue Devils' first win did not come easily.

The Seahawks responded with a quick scoring drive of their own as quarterback Nick Wanner hit Nick Johnson with a 19-yard touchdown pass.

Staked to 27-18 lead with just over nine minutes to play, the Blue Devils turned in their best drive of the season.

Starting from its own 30, MC ran off 17 straight plays. The Blues Devils chewed up more than eight minutes of clock and finished off Cabrillo with Roland's 5-yard score.

It was the kind of drive that defines a season -- and in this case -- the kind coach Tony Lewis hopes will turn a season around.

"Cabrillo showed they could score quickly, so those two fourth quarter drives were huge for us," Lewis said. "It was the difference in the game.

"If we go three-and-out and give them the ball right back, it completely changes the momentum in the game.

"It's the first time this season we've really been able to turn in back-to-back drives like that, so it was really nice to see."

MC took a 20-6 lead into the half on touchdown passes from Ryan Williston to Kyle McMillin and Marquese McIntyre, and an 18-yard run by Gladney.  

But the night belonged to Roland.

The sophomore saw his workload double with Garrett Turner perhaps out for the season due to an infection, and Roland has responded with consecutive 100-yard performances.

"Garrett's a big part of our offense, and with him out I knew I had to step it up," Roland said. "The yards are cool, but I'm just happy we finally got a win."

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

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