The No. 4 seed RedHawks had their chances on Saturday night, but couldn’t capitalize in their rematch against No. 1 seed Durham in the Northern Section Division IV semi-finals.
The RedHawks fell to the Trojans in Durham 18-7, eight days after the two teams were initially scheduled to play. The long layoff was a result of unhealthy air quality from the Camp Fire burning in Butte County. The long layoff didn’t appear to have much of an effect on Durham sophomore Jace Buck, who snagged three interceptions on defense and racked up 61 total yards and a receiving touchdown on offense to lead the Trojans over the RedHawks.
With Saturday’s win, Durham (11-1) advances to the NSCIF D-IV Championship against No. 3 seed East Nicolaus (12-0), a program seeking its third straight section title.
Early in Saturday’s game, it was all Durham. The Trojans jumped out to a 12-0 lead on a pair of touchdown passes from Adin Dubose – one in the first quarter to Colby Del Carlo and the other to Jace Buck in the second. It wasn’t until late into the second quarter that Colusa finally looked poised to light up their side of the scoreboard.
The RedHawks’ offense – which saw two of it’s four previous first-half drives ended by a Buck interception – started with good field position after Conner Saso returned a Durham kickoff to midfield, with just over a minute left in the half. Colusa marched to Durham’s 21-yard line, helped along by a 20-yard Saso scramble and a nine-yard completion to Leo Guzman, before the Trojans’ defense stiffened. With less than a yard to gain on fourth down, Colusa head coach Matt Jessee put Christian Lyss in at quarterback. Lyss took the snap out of the shotgun, scrambled out of the pocket to buy himself some time, and looked downfield to see Saso open in the corner of the end zone. Lyss threw the ball to Saso – who was in at wide receiver – while running to his right, but his throw sailed just wide, leading Saso out of bounds. The RedHawks turned the ball over on downs, and Durham took the 12-0 lead into the intermission.
The RedHawks received the ball to open the third quarter and drove deep into Trojan territory, converting on a crucial fourth-and-1 to arrive at Durham’s 30-yard line. But once again, Colusa was unable to come away with points, going just five yards in four plays from there before turning the ball over on downs. Colusa’s defense would halt Durham’s ensuing drive, but not before the Trojans had run the majority of the time remaining in the third quarter.
The RedHawks opened the fourth quarter facing a third down at their own 31-yard line, needing just two yards to keep their drive alive. Durham’s defense stuffed Saso on back-to-back running plays, setting the Trojans’ offense up with a short field. Six plays later, Durham’s Jacob Christensen plunged in for a two-yard rushing touchdown on fourth-and-goal, putting the Trojans up 18-0.
Now down three scores and with less than a quarter remaining in the game, the RedHawks needed a touchdown – and quickly – to keep their section title hopes alive. On the kickoff that followed Durham’s third touchdown, they appeared to get just that. Sophomore Yassine Lamsiah, who was pulled up to the varsity team for the playoffs, fielded the kick and appeared to return it 78 yards for a score – but a yellow flag lying on Colusa’s 41-yard line put a damper on the celebration on the visitors’ sideline. The RedHawks were called for clipping on the return, and the touchdown was called back. Despite the setback, the RedHawks leaned heavily on the scrambling ability of Saso and engineered a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Saso to Guzman.
After converting on the point after attempt, making the score 18-7, Colusa recovered their onside kick at their own 49. Saso scrambled for seven yards on first down, and completed two passes – one each to Riley Stice and Guzman – both of which lost one yard. Facing a fourth-and-5, Saso scrambled for an eight-yard gain, giving the RedHawks a first-and-10 at Durham’s 38-yard line. On the next play, Durham’s Jace Buck snagged his third interception of the game, effectively sealing the victory for the Trojans.
Saso was Colusa’s most effective offensive weapon in the loss, accounting for nearly 82 percent of Colusa’s total yardage. The RedHawks ran for 166 yards on 34 carries as a team; Saso accounted for 125 of those yards on 16 carries. He added 59 yards through the air, completing 12-of-19 passes, and threw one touchdown to three interceptions.
Guzman hauled in five passes for 37 yards and a score, adding an interception on defense – Colusa’s lone takeaway.
For Durham, Adin Dubose completed 9-of-16 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns to one interception. Colby Del Carlo finished with three catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, while Jace Buck had five catches for 53 yards and a score. Jacob Christensen led the Trojans’ rushing attack with 10 carries for 38 yards and one touchdown.
Colusa finished their season with an 8-4 record. ■