REDDING, Calif. – Shasta College's football team lost to Merced 21-7 in its home opener Saturday night in front of a packed crowd at Memorial Stadium.
The Knights cut a 14-0 fourth-quarter deficit in half on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Trent Darms to Karnell Calloway with 10:18 left to play. But the Blue Devils answered with a 43-yard touchdown pass five plays later, intercepted Darms in the end zone on the ensuing drive, and kept the Knights scoreless the rest of the way to hang on for the win.
"There were some inconsistencies, some of it was us not making plays and missing opportunities when we had them," Shasta College head coach Craig Thompson said.
For the second straight week, Shasta (0-2) pulled within a touchdown in the fourth quarter but were unable to overcome a slow start. The only points in the first half came on a blocked field goal returned 80 yards for a touchdown to give Merced (3-0) a 7-0 lead at the break.
Merced's next touchdown came on another special teams breakdown, blocking a punt to set up a short field, which led to a three-play, 31-yard scoring drive capped by a 27-yard touchdown pass from Frank Cocio to Elijah Macklin.
The Knights defense held the Blue Devils' offense, one of the tops in the state through the first two weeks, to zero points for nearly three quarters. But two big pass plays combined with an offense unable to sustain drives plagued Shasta.
"Our defense continued to keep us in the ballgame – we're going against one of the top offenses in the state the first two weeks," Thompson said. "We couldn't get anything going."
The Knights came away with seven points in four red zone trips with turnovers in two of those possessions. Shasta outgained Merced 350 to 326 yards – the first time Shasta has outgained an opponent in a loss since Sept. 12, 2015, at Cabrillo. The Knights also held the time of possession by 11 minutes (34:20 compared to 23:02).
Darms finished 21 of 43 passing for 226 yards, one touchdowns and one interception, while gaining 24 yards on 14 carries – which included five sacks. Gio Lakmann had a career-high eight catches for 127 yards, and Justin Hellyer ran 18 times for 65 yards and added two catches for 13 yards.
Shasta opens up Pacific 7 League play by hosting Los Medanos Saturday at 5 p.m. With two games already done with, Thompson believes the Knights are ready to mature and start tapping into their potential.
"We're done with the talk of us being young, there will be no more references to that. It's time to grow up and become a better football team," Thompson said. "We expect perfection, that's what this program is about, and now we have to get ourselves there.