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

Bear Cubs end season with Gridiron Classic Bowl win

Albert Gregory
Sophomore running back Zach Smith fights through tackles in the Bear Cubs 17-7 win in the Gridiron Classic Bowl on Nov. 19. Smith rushed for over 200 yards and was named MVP of the game.

Despite poor field conditions, and thanks to an impressive running game, Santa Rosa Junior College defeated the College of the Siskiyous Eagles 17-7 to win the Gridiron Classic Bowl Nov. 19 at Bailey Field.

Once again, the Bear Cubs showed that not only does rain and muddy field conditions not affect them, but they thrive in it.

“I think we played great,” said sophomore running back Zach Smith. “Most importantly the o-line got it done up front.”

While the Eagles struggled to find their footing, SRJC took advantage in the running game.

“I thought it was good considering the conditions,” said head coach Lenny Wagner. “It was about as sloppy as I’ve ever seen a game, but we’ll take it.”

Smith led the Bear Cubs offense with 201 rushing yards on 27 carries and was named MVP of the bowl game. The offensive line as a unit received player of the game honors.

“I really ain’t worried about the award, I just like to play football,” Smith said. “But a big shout out to Jalen [Soto], our center. He was telling me what holes to hit. After the first couple of carries he came up to me and said, ‘Zach, run behind me. I got you.’”

SRJC’s offense struggled to get going in the first quarter, especially the passing game. Sophomore quarterback Mitch Hood threw for only 119 yards, only completed 9 of his 19 passes, and threw one touchdown and four interceptions.

The Bear Cubs running game came together and lead successful drives in first and second quarters. A passing touchdown from Hood in the first quarter gave SRJC its first score, and a short touchdown run by Ja’Narrick James gave SRJC its second.

SRJC allowed only one score to the Eagles, which came in the second quarter on a 10-yard touchdown run.

The score was 14-7 at halftime.

The Bear Cubs defense was solid, as always, throughout the game and did not allow the Eagles to score the rest of the game. The defense kept the Eagles under 100 yards passing and 100 yards rushing and allowed an impressive combined yardage of 167 yards.

“It was physical as hell and we dominated,” said sophomore linebacker Henry Stelzner. “I mean, on defense, I know it was like if some guy hit the opponents and didn’t make the tackle, the next guy was right there.”

The SRJC offense put up three more points on a 20 yard field goal from Andros Pedroza and the defense shut out the Eagles securing the victory for the Bear Cubs.

This was the last game of the 2016 season for the Bear Cubs, and despite missing the playoffs, SRJC still walks away with a bowl win. Also, the All Bay 6 conference team included several Bear Cubs. Including Stelzner, who was also named defensive player of the year for the conference.

“It feels unbelievable,” Stelzner said. “With all the work we put in it’s just great to be recognized for something you put so much work into. I couldn’t have done it without my squad; the whole defense, the coaching staff, everyone else that’s been a part of JC football, I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Defensive back Keilan Benjamin also earned All-conference team honors. He is focusing on the future now in regards to his football career.

“I definitely want to go to college,” Benjamin said. “I can’t quite call it yet but my top three is Utah State, Illinois and Hawaii.”

Many of the starters and leaders on SRJC’s football team are sophomores; which means most of them played their final football game together.

“I’ve just been with everybody here for so long and it’s finally over,” said sophomore defensive back Keith Benjamin. “It just doesn’t feel real right now. I didn’t think I would feel like this.”

A lot of the team was emotional after the win, including coach Wagner.

“It’s been a lot of fun, this is a fun group right here,” Wagner said. “These guys play hard and they’ll do anything you ask them to do. I really enjoyed coaching these guys. I’m going to miss them.”






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Albert Gregory
Albert Gregory, Managing Editor

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