Chico High defense hold Shasta to one score in final regular season game

CHICO — The Chico High Panther football team rode the back of its defense Friday night, as it held Shasta to just six points despite turning the ball over four times on offense. Quarterback Gage James threw three interceptions and running back Saxon Farkas fumbled once, but Shasta’s offense was unable to keep up with the Panther offense as Farkas found the end zone on two separate occasions.

Chico’s offense scored on its opening drive, led 14-6 at halftime and didn’t allow a point in the second half as the Panthers defeated the Wolfpack 24-6 on senior night Friday at Panther Stadium.

James, the quarterback and captain of the offense went 3-of-4 passing on the opening drive and handed the ball off to Farkas for a 9-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Sam Ruffino, the captain of the offensive and defensive line for the Panthers, helped stop the Shasta on three straight plays to start the game and then blocked for Farkas on his first of two touchdowns on the night.

“We came in hard on defense, we came in ready to play. I feel like that set the tone for our offense to come in and set the tone for our offense to come in and punch them in the mouth,” Ruffino said. “It might have took their will out after that three and out a little bit.”

Farkas scored for a second time on a 2-yard run just before halftime.

“He’s a really good back when he steps up and plays hard,” Ruffino said. “I feel like he took a step in the right direction today.”

On Shasta’s second possession, the Wolves’ offense got to the Chico 15 yard line but the Panthers stopped them on fourth down and 4 yards to go.

The Panthers got the ball across midfield on their second possession, but at the start of the second quarter, James threw a ball that was intercepted by Shasta’s Zach Schuette. The Wolves drove down the field but fell short when kicker Blake Helwig missed a 33-yard field goal.

Farkas fumbled the ball at midfield on Chico’s next possession with just under six minutes to play in the first half.

After the fumble, Farkas nearly got beat on defense. Shasta quarterback Zach Wilkes threw a 36-yard pass to Parker Campbell who walked into the end zone, but the play was called back due to a defensive holding call. Wilkes responded with a 29-yard pass on the next play, and then Trey Guillory ran it in for a touchdown with 2:03 left in the half. Chico held onto its lead at 7-6 on the play when the Shasta long snapper snapped the ball high and the Chico defense collapsed.

With under 2 minutes until halftime, Anthony Hernandez ran the ball to the 39-yard line for Chico on the kickoff, and Farkas used his legs to get Chico into the red zone and then into the end zone. With the ball at the Shasta 26 yard line, Farkas ran 17 yards to the nine-yard line, then to the two-yard line, and finally into the end zone from 2 yards away with 20 seconds until halftime.

After the Farkas touchdown, Chico High was not done. Kicker Cesar Moreno kicked the ball into the ground on an onside kick and freshman Jaden Neugerbauer recovered it. Neugerbauer was called up to the varsity team following the Almond Bowl on Oct. 22 to help replace Dion Coleman on defense.

Chico’s offense got the ball to start the second half, and after James’ interception and another stop by the Panther defense, with 1:39 left in the third quarter, Moreno made a 37-yard field goal to increase Chico’s lead to 17-6.

With 8:23 left in the fourth quarter, Shasta drove the ball just outside of the Chico High 20 yard line. Senior Chace Wood intercepted a pass but defensive holding was called. The Wolves had one final chance on 4th down and three yards to go, but the Chico High defense held up one final time.

Chico High coach Jason Alvistur said his defensive line played well, but he credited senior Seth Cook with impressive on-field communication helping his fellow defenders out.

“Our defense was stout tonight,” Alvistur said. “(Cook) was all over the field tonight. That was a stellar performance by Seth.”

With 8 minutes left in the final quarter, the Panthers scored once more on a five-yard run by Dylan O’Hair that increased their lead to 24-6.

Chico High (7-3, 3-2 Eastern Athletic League) now prepares for the Northern Section playoffs which begin next week, which it is guaranteed a spot in with the official standings. The official seeding meeting is Saturday and the Enterprise-Record will have a story with playoff matchups in Sunday’s paper.

The score

Chico High 24, Shasta 6

Up next: Chico High at Northern Section Playoffs: TBD

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