Butte football aims to avoid mistakes, lean on defense Saturday in Weed

BUTTE VALLEY — A win or loss for the Butte football team in its fall 2021 season has often come down to one score, in many times one play. In last week’s loss to American River, the Roadrunners made one of their most costly mistakes of the season, one that was easily avoidable. Butte, who ranks No. 2 in the NorCal Conference, nearly defeated American River (5-3, 3-0 NCC) who is in first place in the conference.

With 48 seconds on the clock and Butte trailing 17-10, the Beavers lined up for a punt with the Roadrunners’ offense preparing for one final drive in an attempt to tie the game. Butte received the punt, but a flag was thrown for 12 men on the field. Butte coach Robby Snelling took off his headset and put it down in disbelief, as the Roadrunners lost their first NorCal conference game of the season and their record moved to 4-4 and 2-1 in the NCC.

“We have to get better and we can’t beat ourselves,” Snelling said after the game.

Butte will look to keep its playoff chances alive, needing a road win against College of the Siskiyous (1-5, 0-1 NCC) Saturday in its second to last regular season game of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Weed.

College of the Siskiyous has had an extended break. The Eagles’ game on Oct. 30 against Santa Rosa College was postponed due to COVID-19. The last game the Eagles played was Oct. 23, a 31-6 loss to Shasta College. Before that it played Oct. 2, a 31-7 win against West Hills Coalinga.

In the latest California Community College Sports Information Association poll released Nov. 1, Butte dropped three spots and is now tied with Grossmont for 17th. In the Junior College Athletic Bureau Coaches poll rankings released Nov. 1, Butte dropped three spots to No. 15. Butte was projected to be ranked No. 10 in the 2021 preseason JC Athletic Coaches Bureau Poll.

College of the Siskiyous does not appear on either of the top 25 rankings.

Entering the second to last regular season game, the Roadrunners’ rushing attack is fifth in the NCC with 676 yards and tied for sixth in attempts with 129, led by running back Johnny Williams and quarterback Brian Harper. The Roadrunners are tied are tied for eighth with seven rushing touchdowns. Williams has 763 yards on the ground and five touchdowns on 160 attempts through eight games and QB Harper has 289 rushing yards and four rushing scores on 71 attempts. In week eight Williams had 20 rushes for 117 yards and a touchdown. Harper ran 18 times for 61 yards.

Recently freshman Caleb Ramseur has seen an increase in touches as well, as he has 156 yards rushing on 40 attempts. In Ramseur’s last two games he has 71 rushing yards on 16 attempts.

In red zone opportunities Butte is 9-of-9, converting seven touchdowns and a pair of field goals.

A pair of former Pleasant Valley High kickers have helped anchor the Butte kicking game. Gabe Estabrook is 9-of-9 on PAT’s, which ties him for a conference lead, and Butte’s punter Dante Jackson leads the NCC in punt average at 45.5 yards. Jackson has 11 punts for 500 yards.

The Butte defense has been strong all year. It has allowed an average of 17 points per game, which is 11th lowest in the NCC, and its 233.7 yards per game is sixth best. The Roadrunner defense has allowed just 81.3 rushing yards per game and 152.3 passing yards. Though Butte’s secondary unit has just one interception, its pass rushers have nine sacks in eight games. In week eight Butte’s defense limited American River to 144 yards of total offense, but the Beavers scored on a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown and a 3-yard run late in the fourth quarter. It held the American River offense to just 48 yards passing and 96 yards rushing.

One thing that has hurt Butte all year is penalties. Among 65 teams eligible, the Roadrunners have given up the 10th most penalties with 30 and 16th most penalty yards with 273. Butte had eight penalties in week eight, and American River had just two. In an Oct. 2 home loss to Fresno City College, Butte racked up a season-high 14 penalties.

Snelling has insisted all year this would be taken care of at the start of practice each week, but also noted some penalties are OK when players are being aggressive. After the whistle, unsportsmanlike conduct and “unnecessary penalties” are ones that must be avoided.

After Butte’s game Saturday, the Roadrunners will finish their regular season schedule at home Nov. 13 against Shasta College.

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