College of the Redwoods

Corsairs edge the Owls in double-OT instant classic at the Redwood Bowl

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – Tight end Kaleb Price breaks free down the middle of the field on his way to scoring on a 32-yard TD reception during Saturday’s game.

By Ray Hamill — College football is back on the North Coast this fall and it has not disappointed.

On Saturday afternoon, College of the Redwoods won for the third straight weekend, barely outlasting a previously undefeated Foothill College team in a game as entertaining as any you’ll see at any level this year.

It took several lead changes throughout the game and two overtime periods to finally separate two teams who each refused to die, but in the end it was the Corsairs who walked off the field with a thrilling 44-42 victory when cornerback Preston Reid came away with a game-clinching interception on Foothill’s final two-point attempt.

“That was a crazy game,” CR head coach Jason White said afterwards, and few people in attendance at the Redwood Bowl would dare disagree.

The game featured an abundance of standout performances and a plethora of big-time plays, with the Corsairs overcoming an early two-touchdown deficit with 22 unanswered points, only for the visitors to answer with 17 unanswered points to regain the lead.

The back and forth was just getting started, and Redwoods would answer again and score two touchdowns to re-take the lead with just 93 seconds remaining, only for the Owls to quickly march to the end zone and then miss what would have been the game-winning PAT in the final minute.

And the drama didn’t end there.

The CR defense, which did an outstanding job against a high-scoring Owls offense that came into the game averaging a state-best 58.3 points, stepped up again in the first overtime period with a Mason Priddy interception,

CR would miss a short field goal attempt on the ensuing drive, but immediately followed that with a Kaleb Price TD catch and a Nathan Lopez two-point reception to open up a 44-36 lead.

The Owls responded with a TD of their own, but were unable to convert on the game-tying two-point attempt thanks to Reid’s late heroics.

This was a statement win over the No. 20 team in the state for a young CR roster that features just one sophomore, and it’s a Corsairs team that has competed in all five games, two of which they have won in overtime and all of which have been decided by just one score.

It’s a team that also features a nice blend of local and out-of-area players, with the likes of defensive tackle Julian Garcia from Clovis playing at an MVP level and complementing a trio of hugely influential Del Norte players —  tight end Price, running back Levi Cox-Cooley and linebacker Tanner Forkner.

No one, however, had a bigger impact on Saturday than Fortuna’s Max Hough, who got his first collegiate start at quarterback and had a career day that he won’t forget anytime soon.

The 2021 Fortuna graduate accounted for five of his team’s six TDs, passing for three and running in for two, including a four-yard scoring run to give the Corsairs the lead with 1:40 remaining in regulation.

A shaky start for CR on both sides of the ball saw the visitors put up 13 unanswered points in the opening quarter and you got the feeling it was going to be business as usual for the state’s most prolific offense.

But the Corsairs showed tremendous composure and grit, as they have for much of the season, and they gradually grew into the game.

“This team is resilient. They fight,” White said of his players. “We’re going to come out and we’re going to battle all the way to the end. That’s kind of been our identity.”

Check out Jaydan Burns’ 35-yard TD reception from Max Hough below …

The O-line helped set the tone, and the head coach believes that unit played a pivotal tole in the win, with the Corsairs able to piece together lengthy drives for much of the afternoon.

“These guys just keep plugging along and making things work,” he said of the line.

Cox-Cooley also continued to have a substantial impact running the ball, while fellow running back Emmanuel Igbonagwam from Gresham, Oregon, had a breakout game and scored a TD on a one-yard run to cap a very impressive 14-play, 72-yard drive to begin the second half.

“He brings a little different style of running,” White said of 5-foot-9, 200-pound Igbonagwam. “He’s just a load, he’s strong.”

Hough opened the scoring for the Corsairs on a two-yard TD five minutes into the second quarter.

The touchdown was set up by a 38-yard Hough scramble down the sideline, a play that would kickstart the CR offense after a pair of early three-and-outs.

Two plays later, Ferndale’s Lane Branstetter came away with an interception in Foothill territory, a takeaway that would set up a 32-yard TD pass down the middle from Hough to Price.

Both of CR’s first-half touchdowns came on fourth-down plays, and the Corsairs successfully converted two-point tries on each, one on a run by Igbonagwam and one on a pass to receiver Jaydan Burns.

Foothill drove deep into CR territory on the ensuing drive, but the home defense stepped up to end the possession on downs right before halftime.

“They made plays when they had to make plays,” White said of his defense. “It’s kind of been the story of our season.

“And offensively, we settled down. We were able to out-maneuver them and make plays.”

The CR players carried the momentum into the second half with a long drive that ended in Igbonagwam’s TD run, but after forcing a quick three-and-out on Foothill’s next possession, they quickly handed the momentum back on a pick-six.

The defensive score seemed to inspire the Foothill offense, and the Owls would take a 23-22 lead on a field goal early in the fourth and stretch the advantage to eight on a TD with 6:24 remaining.

The Corsairs, however, have been a good fourth-quarter team this season and that continued on Saturday.

They moved within two points of the Owls when Burns pulled in a 35-yard TD reception just two minutes later and then took the lead again on Hough’s four-yard TD run, which was followed by a two-point run by Damario Watson.

Hough’s second TD run was set up by a big defensive stand after the Owls opted to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory.

The visitors would force overtime with their late TD, but missed the opportunity to win the game with the missed PAT.

Price’s late TD was his second in overtime this season and his fifth on the year.

The consistent tight end has been one of the team’s most dangerous weapons in the red zone and has scored in four of CR’s five games.

“He makes a lot of key catches at crucial points of the game,” White said.

Watson, Burns and Donte Hurt have also become key weapons at receiver, no matter who’s throwing the ball to them.

“Jaydan Burns makes play every week,” the head coach said. “And Donte Hurt had some big catches which helped us keep drives alive.”

An experienced staff of assistant coaches have also played a key role for the team this year and has done a good job quickly developing a young roster as the players adapt to the collegiate level.

The Corsairs will go for a fourth straight win when they travel to play at Los Medanos next weekend.

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