Perhaps Gavilan College should have stuck with the trick plays.
The Rams gashed Merced College for an 86-yard touchdown with a reverse pass on the first play from scrimmage Saturday aftenoon.
The Blue Devils’ defense seemed to take offense, allowing Gavilan just 129 total yards the rest of the game. Led by Wendel Sidelien’s career-high 2.5 sacks, Merced racked up a season-high seven and put quarterback RJ Clark (13 of 39 passing, one interception) under constant duress.
The Rams only tacked on a defensive score the rest of the way, and the Blue Devils cruised to a 49-14 road victory. The win was Merced’s third straight and at 5-3 put the Blue Devils two games over .500 this late into the season for the first time in more than 15 years.
The Blue Devils (3-2 Golden Coast Conference) can clinch the program’s first winning season since 1998 with a victory at struggling Yuba (2-6) this Saturday.
“They came out and ran a reverse pass that you don’t expect on the very first play,” Merced coach Bob Casey said. “Our guys got caught looking in the backfield and they made a play. We settled in after that and they weren’t able to do much the rest of the way.
“Coming in, we felt like we could create some pressure. We had several sacks in the first half, and you could see it took its toll. Their quarterback got tired of getting hit and started short-arming a number of balls in the second half.”
The Blue Devil offense, which came in averaging 424 yards and 46 points during its last two contests, didn’t take long to get going.
Frank Cocio (12 of 19 passing for 209 yards) answered with two first-quarter passing touchdowns to put Merced in the lead. The freshman found running back W.R. Sanders for a 15-yard strike to tie the score. Cocio then connected with Nih-jer Jackson (four catches, 120 yards, two TDs) for a 43-yard touchdown pass on the next series.
Sanders (75 all-purpose yards) added a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give Merced a 21-7 lead at intermission.
“Offensively, we had some poor execution in the red zone to start the game but started playing pretty well to close the first half and start the second,” Casey said. “Then towards the end of the half, we started to look disinterested on both sides of the ball. I laid into them a little bit at halftime, and we came out in the third quarter and just put them away.”
The Blue Devils marched right through Gavilan (4-4, 1-3 GCC) on their first three possessions of the second half to pull away. Utilizing its best balance of the season (209 passing yards, 239 rushing yards) Merced seemed to make every right call in the third quarter.
Cocio tossed TD passes to Nick Cook and Jackson, and Jaques Buchannon (15 carries, 123 yards) punctuated things with a 2-yard scoring run.
UC Merced 7, Cal Maritime 0 in Merced – Brian Chongtoua scored twice and added an assist as the Bobcats (9-6-1, 8-1 Cal Pac) scored early and often, putting on a show for senior day.
Cruz Trenado, Cody Golbad, Andy Galvan and Artemio Contreras found the back of the net, and Joseph Mayer had a goal and two assists.
William Jessup 97, UC Merced 94 (OT) in Vallejo – Aaron Laflin paced the Bobcats with 23 points and Andrew Williams scored a career-high 22, but UC Merced (0-2) squandered an 8-point lead with 1:52 to play.
Cole Taira and Sean Rodriguez each scored 18 points as the young Bobcats fell in overtime for the second time in two nights.
Northwest 67, UC Merced 53 in Portland, Ore. – Brittany Martinez had a team-high 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, but it wasn’t enough for the Bobcats (1-1) to overcome a poor third quarter.
Aubrey Hayes also scored 12 points, and Christina Castro had 11 in the loss.
UC Merced 3, Pacific Union 2 in Angwin – Dominique Andrews (18 kills), Rachael Schaefer (16) and Jade Fachin (16) had big nights as the Bobcats (10-12, 8-4 Cal Pac) locked up their place in the Cal Pac Tournament with a big 25-17, 23-25, 16-25, 25-20, 19-17 road win.
Brooke Wheeler reached 50 assists in a match for the third time this season, with a career-high 53 to go with a team-high 18 digs in the victory.