A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

OPINION: SRJC football team finish conference play strong with a 4-1 record

Christian Vieyra
A few Bear Cubs kneel for a prayer minutes before the kickoff of their matchup against Modesto Sept. 10.

At this point in the season, the Bears Cubs sit at 2-3 heading into conference play, however their record doesn’t reflect the progress they have made from week to week.

In their season opener the Bear Cubs gave the defending CCCAA champions, San Francisco City College Rams, a scare but eventually lost 31-20. Many predicted the Rams would blow out the Bear Cubs in the season opener, so a close game showed the Bear Cubs were for real.

The Bear Cubs followed up their week one performance with a defensive-battle loss. During Santa Rosa’s home opener, the defense solidified themselves as an elite unit and forced two gigantic goal-line stands to keep them in the game. However, in week two the offense was still trying to figure out its identity, and as a result, lost to the Modesto Pirates 15-7

Quarterback Santino Chavez solidified his role as starting quarterback and the offense found that identity in weeks three and four. The Bear Cubs caught fire against Contra Costa and Chabot, winning both games by double digits. 

But the fifth game of the season against Reedley slipped through the Bear Cubs’ grasp. Santa Rosa possessed a lead for the majority of the first half, but 20 unanswered points by the Tigers led to a 23-13 defeat for the Bear Cubs.  

Coming fresh off a bye week, the Bear Cubs are ready to make a serious push against their conference opponents and to the playoffs.

Game: Saturday Oct. 15, Santa Rosa Bear Cubs at Butte Roadrunners

Prediction: Roadrunners 28 – Bear Cubs 21

Analysis: The Bear Cubs will lose another late-game nail-biter against the Roadrunners due to Butte’s high-powered offense. 

Santa Rosa is heating up offensively as of late. Multiple different weapons like running backs Gavin Lemos and Rasheed Rankin and wide receiver Isaac Torres are getting more targets in the offense. However, Butte’s offense will be too much in this one. 

The Roadrunners have averaged 33.2 points per game, with quarterback Tanner Hughes and wide receiver Jailen Hammer’s connection proving vital to their success. Hughes has thrown for more than 800 yards and 10 touchdown passes this season, with six touchdowns thrown to Hammer. 

Earlier in the season, Butte blew out the San Francisco Rams 35-14, a team the Bear Cubs lost to. The Roadrunners should be able to replicate the complete game they had against the Rams to the Bear Cubs and put up four touchdowns against the Bear Cubs’ defense.  

Game: Saturday Oct. 22, Siskiyous Eagles at Santa Rosa Bear Cubs

Prediction: Santa Rosa 45 – Siskiyous 21

Analysis: After losing two straight, the Bear Cubs will rattle off 45 points to defeat the Eagles in a much-needed bounce back game. 

The Bear Cubs need to target a weak Eagles’ passing-defense to be successful. The passing game can exploit an inexperienced Eagles secondary by mixing up the screen game with crossing patterns to confuse the defensive backs. Siskiyous has allowed more than 38 points per game and more than 290 yards of passing offense this year. 

Santino Chavez should have a major night and take advantage of a favorable matchup. Don’t be surprised if Chavez puts together his best game of the season and shreds the Eagles for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns. Chavez will be looking to his No. 1 target, Isaac Torres, for a big night as well. 

The Eagles will likely play a majority of cover two coverage on defense, trying not to give up the big play to an explosive Bear Cubs offense. However, Chavez proved he can carve up a defense with the short, intermediate and deep passing game and will do just that against the Eagles. 

Game: Saturday Oct. 29, American River Beavers at Santa Rosa Bear Cubs

Prediction: Santa Rosa 27 – American River 10

Analysis: Despite scoring 29 points in week five win against Modesto, the Beavers have not put up more than 15 points in the previous four weeks. 

In total, American River has given up 16 sacks to opposing defensive lineman. The Bear Cubs’ defensive line should continue this trend and sack American River’s quarterback Matt Carlisle more than four times. 

Throughout the season, the Bear Cubs have brought linebacker Dimitri Johnson on blitzes right through the center and I expect them to do just that against American River. Johnson can confuse the Beavers’ offensive line by lining up over the center on early downs to keep the offensive lineman guessing if he’s blitzing or not. Johnson leads the team with four sacks; he lived in the backfield against Chabot and made it a long night for Chabot’s quarterback, he should do much of the same against the Beavers. 

Game: Saturday Nov. 5, Santa Rosa Bear Cubs at Shasta Knights

Prediction: Santa Rosa 20 – Shasta 8

Analysis: This game will likely be a low-scoring affair, with both teams trying to run the ball and control the time of possession. 

The Shasta run defense has struggled immensely this season, giving up 170 yards on the ground per game. A talented Santa Rosa running back core should dominate in a great matchup. Rasheed Rankin and Gavin Lemos could eclipse 200 combined rushing yards for the first time this season. 

The Bear Cubs run defense has stifled opponents so far, allowing a mere 85 rush yards per game. However, they will need to show up in a big way to slow down the Knights rushing attack. 

Shasta’s offense runs through its running game in a big way because not only do players run the ball effectively, they also use the run to set up the play-action passing game. If the Bear Cubs can minimize the Shasta running attack and take advantage of a poor Shasta run defense, they should control this game from start to finish.      

Game: Saturday Nov. 12, Sierra Wolverines at Santa Rosa Bear Cubs

Prediction: Santa Rosa 27 – Sierra 24

Analysis: This game will be the Bear Cubs’ biggest challenge, and they will overcome it to win on a last-second field goal by Jo Jo Martinez. 

Sierra is one of the CCAA’s best teams, currently ranked No. 5 in JCAB’s Football Poll. The Wolverines are an all-around team that doesn’t have many weaknesses. 

However, one weakness the Bear Cubs can take advantage of is Sierra’s terrible ball security. The Wolverines fumbled four times in their lone loss, and the Bear Cubs will need to win the turnover battle to sneak away with a win. 

Hard-hitting cornerback Gyasi Mattison could be the x-factor because of his ability to generate big plays and turnovers. 

The Bear Cubs put together a complete game against Chabot and will need to replicate their ability to drive the ball down the field and score in bunches to defeat a highly talented Sierra team. 

This game could decide the National NorCal champions if these predictions are correct. The Bear Cubs walk into this game with a 3-1 conference record, while the Wolverines walk in with a 4-0 record. If the Bear Cubs are able to knock off the Wolverines, they possess the tie-breaker to win the conference.

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About the Contributors
Tony Moeckel
Tony Moeckel, News Editor, Reporter
Tony Moeckel (he/him) is in his third year at SRJC and returning to The Oak Leaf for his third semester. He enjoys covering football, basketball and baseball for the Bear Cubs. He aspires to be a professional sports journalist or sports broadcaster.
Christian Vieyra
Christian Vieyra, Sports Editor, Reporter
Christian Vieyra (he/him) is in his fourth semester at The Oak Leaf and is a sports editor. He aspires to be a professional sports journalist and plans to transfer to a 4-year college this fall.

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