The Santa Rosa Junior College football team’s relentless passing attack helped turn the Bear Cubs’ conference season around, as they narrowly escaped No. 11 Chabot College’s impressive comeback in a 47-40 overtime win Saturday night in Santa Rosa.
The Bear Cubs (5-2, 1-1 Bay 6), ranked No. 15 in the state heading into the game, are playing home games at the neighboring Santa Rosa High School this season as they remodel their field. Even though it’s not their campus field, the return home to Santa Rosa after playing the last three out of four games on the road was a welcome change for the team.
Especially after the Bear Cubs’ big loss to No. 7 College of San Mateo, when their normally potent passing game was held to under 200 yards. And their defense allowed nearly 240 yards of rushing offense in the 41-9 loss in their conference opener.
“Their offense is really similar to the offense we played last week in San Mateo and very similar to the offense we saw the week before in Feather River,” Santa Rosa head coach Lenny Wagner said of Chabot.
“So, it wasn’t like we came in here like, ‘We need to stop the run’ — it was more like, ‘We need to get off the field and let our offense get out there and score some points this week,’ as our offense really struggled last week,” he said.
Santa Rosa quarterback Jake Simmons also looked to return to form after his disappointing performance in the week prior and did so, looking nearly unstoppable in the first half and sealing the victory with a touchdown pass in overtime.
Chabot was down 27-7 after the first two quarters but came out fighting in the second half, putting together successful back-to-back drives. One ended in a 20-yard touchdown run by running back Ponove Veimau and the other was capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chayce Akaka to cut SRJC’s lead to 27-21.
“This the Bay 6, man; teams can score so fast. They score on offense; they score on defense,” Wagner said. “That’s just how it is in this conference — it’s never over until that final tick goes off the clock.”
The two teams then traded field goals, with Santa Rosa’s Keven Nguyen making a 32-yarder and Chabot kicker Alejandro Cervantes answering with his own 22-yard kick to make the score 30-24.
Simmons and company responded by setting up Nguyen for another field goal — this one from 20 yards away, giving Santa Rosa a 33-24 lead.
On the following kickoff, the Bear Cubs, Charles Powell recovered a fumble to put the SRJC offense right back in enemy territory. Simmons made quick work of the good field position, hitting Lucas Triplett on a 20-yard touchdown through the air to go up 40-24.
The Gladiators answered with a 54-yard touchdown pass by Akaka and converted a 2-point attempt to get within eight points of SRJC, 40-32.
Chabot didn’t give up. With less than three minutes left, Akaka hit Da’Juan Jones for another 54-yard score and then ran the now-famous “Philly Special” on the two-point attempt to tie the game 40-40 and force overtime.