SRJC’s defense proves again why it’s the best in California

SRJC+quarterback+Mitch+Hood+hands-off+to+running+back+Ja%27Narrick+James.+James+had+10+carries+for+92+yards+against+Contra+Costa+on+Oct.+15.

Albert Gregory

SRJC quarterback Mitch Hood hands-off to running back Ja'Narrick James. James had 10 carries for 92 yards against Contra Costa on Oct. 15.

Albert Gregory, Sports Editor

Thanks to good offense and a spectacular defense, No. 1 Santa Rosa Junior College shut-out No. 15 Contra Costra College 34-0 in its conference season opener on Oct. 15 at Bailey Field.

Heavy rain and strong winds made for a very sloppy game. The opposing teams combined for seven lost fumbles. SRJC coughed it up seven times and was unable to recover the ball three times. Contra Costa did even worse by coughing it up six times and recovered it only twice.

“It changed the way the game could overall be played,” said sophomore defensive back Keith Benjamin. “It slowed us down a bit but we knew turnovers were gonna be big so we just focused on winning every down.”

The Bear Cubs defense had its strongest showing of the season holding Contra Costa’s offense to only 53 yards of total offense, including just eight yards rushing.

“I think we played a solid game,” Benjamin said. “Still a lot we could’ve accomplished.”

Despite the rough weather, SRJC controlled the game by managing the play clock with a stout defense and consistent run game. In the end the Bear Cubs ran nearly 30 more plays than Contra Costa and walked away with a victory.

“[I] thought the guys played well considering the conditions,” said running backs coach Christian Mello. “We knew we would have the upper hand being that Contra is used to turf [SRJC’s field is real grass].”

Both teams struggled to complete passes due to the wet conditions. Although SRJC quarterback Mitch Hood completed only 12 of 34 of his passes, took advantage on many of them, racking up 325 yards through the air including a 94-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. early in the fourth quarter.

SRJC struggled to get the run game going but stuck with it and was able to put together 155 yards on the ground, including sophomore running back Ja’Narrick James getting 92 yards on 10 carries.

“I thought the running backs did very well for the field being so torn up,” Mello said. “Ja’Narrick was very impressive and made multiple guys miss on every play. He always seems to put a move on a guy at just the right time.”

SRJC’s offense struggled to get going again throughout the first quarter and after scoring a field goal the Bear Cubs went into the second quarter up 3-0.

In the second quarter the offense started to put some points up with two successful drives, one resulting in a five-yard touchdown run by Hood and a 23-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Andros Pedroza.

The defense scored board in the second with a scoop and score on Contra Costa’s one-yard line.

The Bear Cubs led 20-0 at halftime.

In the third quarter the team continued to control the Contra Costa’s offense and SRJC’s offense was able to put up another score late in the third with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Hood to sophomore wide receiver Ben Putman.

SRJC capped off the game with a 94-yard touchdown pass from Hood to Johnson early in the fourth quarter and felt comfortable enough with the lead to take most of the starters out of the game.

SRJC is still ranked first in the Northern California National Division and second in the state.

“I’m trying to get my guys to not even look at that stuff because our toughest opponents are still ahead of us,” said head coach Lenny Wagner.

The Bear Cubs’ next opponent is No. 5 San Francisco City College who has beaten SRJC for the last five years.

“I don’t have any real expectations for [San Francisco],” Benjamin said. “Just for it to be another code blue party.”

SRJC’s faces off against San Francisco City College 1 p.m. on Oct. 22, at SFCC.