Stangs end season with big W

Andrew Gonzales, Staff Writer

The Los Medanos College Mustangs muscled their way to a 27-20 victory over the Hartnell Panthers in the Nov. 12 contest which saw the winning team deploy late-game heroics en route to its eighth win on the season, and a bowl bid. Z’andre Givens provided the game’s definitive play with his 30-yard catch and run for a touchdown with 17.5 seconds left to play, improving the Mustang record to 8-1 in the final game of the regular season.
LMC needed the game-winning touchdown since the team struggled to find consistency on offense after nabbing an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Stangs got off to a hot start when the special teams forced a J’uan Campbell fumble on the opening kickoff and recovered the ball setting up the Mustangs in scoring position at Hartnell’s 33 yard-line. The Mustangs capitalized on the opportunity when quarterback Gabe Taylor scored with his legs on a 14-yard touchdown after only four plays, putting LMC up 7-0.
Hartnell looked to answer back after being set up with good field position at their own 36-yard line, but LMC’s defense swarmed the Panther ball carriers and forced a punt.
The Mustangs then found themselves pinned back on their own six-yard line and, in attempt to create breathing room, Taylor heaved a ball down the right sideline to his receiver but was intercepted.
At the LMC 40-yard line, the Panthers gained 32 yards on three run plays to bring the ball down to the eight-yard line. The LMC defense bent but didn’t break as they began to fight back and forced Hartnell to settle for a field goal, bringing the score to 7-3.
The Panther defense came alive on the next possession and stifled the LMC offense, forcing two negative yardage plays and an incompletion.
Building on the momentum of their defense, the Hartnell offense started their next drive firing, mixing in runs. A 24-yard pass to Marcus Washington where he was drilled by Antwan Hendricks, but managed to hold on, highlighted the drive. The catch was crucial, as it brought the ball down to the three-yard line where Sherrod Hawkes ran in a TD giving Hartnell its first lead of the game at 10-7.
LMC looked primed to re-capture the lead as running back Billy Wells took a handoff and scampered up field for 40 yards, but the Hartnell defense rallied as Wells was stripped of the ball just as he was going down, which resulted in a Hartnell recovery.
The LMC defense was not ready to let Hartnell extend its lead, getting a huge sack on second down which created a long third down for the Panthers, which they could not convert.
Both teams traded possessions that saw them move backward because of penalties and failed to convert the resulting third downs
The Mustangs then mounted a long 11-play, 58-yard drive where they ran through the heart of the Hartnell defense, bringing the ball close to the end zone, but settled for a field goal attempt that sailed wide right leaving the score 10-7.
Hartnell answered LMC’s empty possession with an empty possession of their own, with just under two minutes left in the half.
The Stangs started out with a quick first down after a run up the middle and a short sideline pass, but found itself facing a fourth down and four. The Hartnell defense called a blitz with the hopes of sacking the QB, but the LMC offensive line held up and Taylor hit Tyrone Roberts on an eight-yard crossing route on the left side of the field.
With momentum swinging their way, LMC rushed to put points on the board as the clock was expiring, but endured another field goal miss, ending the half with Hartnell leading 10-7.
LMC received the ball to start the second half, but could not manage a single first down. To make things worse, the fourth down snap was a low one that punter Michael Church could not control, and the Hartnell special teams unit recovered at LMC’s 12-yard line.
Despite finding themselves defending their own goal line as soon as they stepped on the field, the Mustang defense ended Hartnell’s touchdown hopes after three plays, resulting in a Panther field goal.
With Hartnell leading 13-7, LMC looked for a spark to turn things around. The Mustangs turned to their ground and pound running game to lead a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped off by Namontte Grisby’s rushing touchdown. It was not a good day for kicker Tellez, as he missed the extra point leaving the score at 13-13.
On their next possession, the Panther offense faced quickly faced third down, but they struck when it counted most, as quarterback Dorion Isaak connected with Randy Ivey on a 35-yard pass into LMC territory. After four rushing plays, Hartnell was down to the six-yard line facing a third and goal. The LMC home crowd was roaring behind the Mustangs pleading for a stop, but Isaak made another key pass, connecting with Elisha Peat on a six-yard pass for a touchdown to put the Panthers back on top 20-13.
LMC got the ball back as the fourth quarter began, and after two short runs and a false start penalty, the team was staring down a critical third down at their own 22. Taylor then found Billy Wells on a short pass he managed to turn up field for a gain of 20. Just outside Hartnell territory, running back Isiah Turner made his way into the Panther’s den, taking a handoff 41 yards to put the Mustangs in scoring position. The Mustangs sat at the 17-yard line when Taylor hit Morgan Benjamin streaking through the middle of the defense for an easy touchdown, leading to another tie, this time at 20 points apiece.