REDDING, Calif. – Daniel Lewis didn't think he'd ever see the field again as a player. Especially since he was sitting in the booth as a student-coach for the entire season.
But the Shasta College sophomore was called upon to get in the game against No. 4 Butte College after the Knights only two quarterbacks suffered injuries early in the third quarter.
Lewis threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Barry Bolden to make it a five-point game but never got the chance for a game-winning drive as No. 4 Butte College won 33-21 Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Lewis didn't only lead Shasta back into the game but nearly gave them a shot at winning it. He drove it down inside Butte's 25-yard line in three of his four drives and did it without the Knights' leading receiver Patrick Blake, who was out in the second half with a shoulder injury. After Lewis' scoring toss on a slant to Bolden made it 26-21 with 5:45 left, Butte nearly lost a fumble in its own territory before completing a 61-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and 6 to put the game out of reach.
"I was just kind of winging it," said Lewis, who had to jog down from the press box in the third quarter and pad up to get into the game. "At one time I made an adjustment and I was thinking 'I could get fired here in a second as a coach and as a player. But it worked out so I'm thankful."
Butte (5-0 NorCal Conference, 9-1) secured the outright conference championship and a state playoff berth with the win. It started out in the Roadrunners' favor, returning the opening kickoff 84 yards for a score. But Shasta answered with an opening-drive touchdown with Blake hauling in a toe-tapping touchdown in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard score to lead 7-6.
But the first quarter belonged to Butte as Deonta McMahon ran 17 yards untouched for a touchdown and Joseph Kurung's pick-6 of Wickard gave the Roadrunners a 20-7 advantage at the end of the opening quarter.
Shasta marched on a 12-play drive the ensuing possession with Blake hauling in a 15-yard touchdown while taking a big hit to make it a one-score game.
"We came out thinking we have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain from this game," said Blake, who caught five passes for 57 yards and two scores. "We played fearless. Our biggest thing was we didn't want them to out-physical us in the game and we tried our best to not let that happen. They're a good squad, it was a hard-fought game."
Butte answered with a 6-yard touchdown run from Dalton Gee to go up 26-14. The PAT was blocked and returned for a Shasta score but it was negated from a block in the back penalty. Shasta's Junior Gonzalez missed a 36-yard field goal before half that would have made it a one-score game. Those missed points would come back to haunt the Knights in the end.
Wickard injured his AC Joint in on the first play of the second half and backup Kody Karpinski played the rest of the series with a bruised upper rib cage suffered from the previous game, which long enough for Lewis to warm up. He guided the Knights to six first downs before connecting with Bolden for a touchdown to make it 26-21 with 5:45 remaining.
Shasta's defense held Butte scoreless for 27 minutes in the second half, forcing two punts and a turnover on downs. The Knights nearly jumped on a McMahon fumble that would have set them up in Butte territory but the Roadrunners scored on the next play. Butte quarterback Brandt Hughes rolled right, threw back left to tight end Juan Rodriguez, who broke a couple of tackles down the left sideline for a 61-yard back-breaking touchdown.
"We came out physical, hard-hitting play after play and that's all we have to do," said Shasta linebacker Hunter Margain. "We're best at run defense and they're a powerhouse but once we had them stopped they had to go over the top and it's little mistakes like usual."
Lewis got Shasta down to the Butte 24 but his fourth down pass fell incomplete, allowing Butte to kneel in victory formation.
"This group stood up to every challenge and never gave up," Shasta College head coach Craig Thompson said. "They continued to battle and fight every second they were on the field. Yes, we came up short but the competitive spirit never diminished.
Shasta ends the year 2-8. Lewis completed 12 of 20 passes for 142 yards while Wickard was 19 of 26 for 177 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Sophomore Cavin Gillispie was the Knights leading rusher with 10 carries for 54 yards while sophomore receiver Karnell Collier had his fourth straight game of over 100 yards receiving, catching nine passes for 106 yards. Sophomore Peter St. Fleur caught five passes for 46 yards.
Team NorCal, Overall
#4 Butte 5-0, 9-1
American River 4-1, 6-4
Sierra 3-2, 6-4
Siskiyous 2-3, 3-7
Shasta 1-4, 2-8
Feather River 0-5, 2-8