Siskiyou Daily News
WEED - After a seriously delayed season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College of the Siskiyous Eagles had a game to remember versus the Shasta Knights on the road in Redding Saturday afternoon.
With seven seconds left in the fourth quarter in the season opener for both teams, the Eagles were down 16-13. With the ball on Shasta's 37-yard line, COS had time for one last play. Freshman signal-caller O.J. Calleja dropped back and heaved the ball toward the endzone in one last gasp of a play. It appeared Shasta defender Jaiden Harris would pick the ball off, but it went through his hands and was tipped as sophomore Ted Wickman came down with the ball around the five-yard-line and ran into the endzone as time expired for the improbable 19-13 victory.
"It was incredible," said COS head coach Tyler Knudsen. A longtime assistant with the Eagles, this was his first game as head coach. "This was certainly a roller coaster of a game full of highs and lows.
"It was great to have three hours where they could forget about COVID and just play football," he added. "Our kids waited so long to finally get to play again."
Knudsen said it was "pandemonium" on the sideline and on the field as players and coaches celebrated the dramatic victory. While he has been part of last second wins– and losses – he said he never experienced a win quite this dramatic.
Knudsen commended Wickman for coming up with such a clutch play and having an exceptional day overall. He finished with 189 reception yards for COS, along with the touchdown.
"He played well all day," Knudsen said, adding Wickman is a hard working player that does whatever is asked of him. "It was wonderful to see him have a big moment like that."
The game was the first community college game played in California since December of 2019 and the only game played Saturday, which only added to its significance.
Unfortunately, there weren't any fans in the stands to share in the excitement. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no fans will be allowed at games this spring season, but Saturday's game was streamed live by Shasta County Sports.
Most of the contest was a defensive battle. In the first quarter, it appeared the Knights would strike first while deep in Eagles territory. But they held the Knights as Shasta tried a short field goal which was blocked with 3:47 left in the first quarter. The Eagles scored with 11:37 left in the second quarter when freshman signal-caller Hunter Davis ran the ball in from 10 yards out.
The Knights scored on a safety with 6:29 left in the second quarter, as the score remained 7-2 at the end of the half.
At the start of the third quarter, Shasta fumbled the kick-off and COS recovered ball at the Shasta 24 yard line to give them a great chance to score. But they were unable to capitalize and Shasta got the ball back. Another failed scoring chance for the Eagles took place later in the quarter.
A nearly 60-yard reception had COS at the 2-yard-line of Shasta with 5:37 left in the third. But the Eagles fumbled the ball away to Shasta on the next play.
The Knights were eventually able to move the ball downfield and scored with six seconds left in the quarter to take the 8-7 lead; the 2-point conversion was no good.
With 11:28 left in the fourth, COS was at the 3-yard line of Shasta looking to score. The Eagles fumbled the ball, but fortunately, a heads-up play by Addison Galen saved them and he recovered the ball in the endzone for the score. The 2-point try was no good, and the Eagles went up over Knights 13-8.
Shasta bounced back and with 42 seconds left in the fourth quarter by scoring on a 15-yard touchdown throw when Toren Tuttle found Gentry Cox on a 4th and 14 play, and a successful 2-point conversion to give the Knights the 16-13 advantage.
Down, but not out, the resilient Eagles drove down the field for the edge of the seat victory.
"Even though they were down with only 42 seconds left in the contest, Knudsen said his team did not hang their heads down and instead were focused and believed they could score. "We just kept battling. We were positive and we believed we could win the game," he said.
Knudsen said he was proud of his defense and how they were able to contain the normally explosive Knights run game all day. They constantly attacked the ball, keeping Shasta to only 65 net rushing yards.
"They were determined to work hard and do their job," he said. "It was a great team effort on defense."
Freshman defensive back Josh Campbell had a big game for COS. He had an interception, a pass breakup, as well as a key tackle on fourth down, and seemed to be around the ball all day. He finished with three tackles. Galvin Parker had 11 solo tackles, 12 total tackles and two sacks for the Eagles. Knudsen said he was moved from DB to linebacker and played lights out. He said he was impressed how the true freshman was able to quickly adjust to the college game and make such a big contribution. Jayden McDonald had eight tackles for COS.
COS played three quarterbacks on Saturday. Calleja went 12-for-24 for 171 yards and a TD. Davis finished 3-for-8 for 44 yards and had the nine-yard TD run. Hayden Chittock went 7-for-13 for 94 yards.
Knudsen said he thought all three players did things well and had other things they need to work on. For him, the spring season is a perfect way to give them playing time and experience.
Jordan Cummings finished with 66 yards, while Jamison Earle had two receptions for 19 yards, and Joseph Haulcy finished with 17 yards on two receptions.
Mount Shasta High School graduate Jackson May, a freshman, saw time at tight end for COS and had two receptions for 13 yards.
Coach Knudsen said the four-game spring footballs schedule is a great tune-up for the fall football season and a chance for many players to see the field and for the coaching staff to use these games to access the players. The good news about the spring season is it will not affect eligibility, Knudsen said. That means sophomores will still be able to play in the fall and the freshman will still be counted as freshman, making the spring season a pre-season of sorts for teams that choose to participate.
Knudsen said he thought the Eales did well on offense, considering it was the first game of the year but need to be more consistent. He also hopes to get the run game going, as the team did not get much on the ground. The Eagles had only 43 net rushing yards compared to 309 net passing yards.
COS is off next week and will be at Feather River the following week. They will host Shasta College on April 3 and end the spring season at home April 10 versus Feather River. Shasta College is at Feather River on Saturday.