By Kevin Niendorf
STOCKTON – The Delta Mustangs were unable to keep up with the visiting Fresno City Rams and opened its NorCal National-Valley Conference scchedule with a loss Saturday afternoon at De Ricco Field.
The Rams snapped a third-quarter tie with four second-half touchdowns to defeat the Mustangs 33-20. Delta coach Gary Barlow said his players were eager to get back on the field after having their two-game winning streak snapped last weekend with an overtime loss.
"As far as their effort, and the way they're playing the game, I'm really proud of them," Barlow said. "I think there are some small little details that if we can get those cleaned up, we're going to be tough to deal with."
That was true in the opening quarter as the Rams (4-2, 1-0 Valley Conference) failed to convert on fourth down during their first two possessions. The first gave
Delta the ball at its own 26-yard line, and the second ended Fresno City's drive at the Delta 2-yard line.
"I think our defense played really hard and gave us opportunities by keeping Fresno from getting into the end zone for most of the game," Barlow said. "Offensively, we let some opportunities go by. We had a game plan that ended up working out the way we thought it would, but we didn't always execute."
Fresno City opened the scoring on a 4-yard rush by quarterback Jonah Johnson, a 7-0 lead that held up through halftime. Delta had a 40-yard field goal blocked just before halftime, and upon getting the ball back soon afterward, drove to the Fresno City 7-yard line with 20 seconds remaining.
However, it was the Rams' turn to deny the Mustangs (2-4, 0-1) the end zone as Terry Holmes was stopped for no gain on fourth down.
"I think ultimately when you get down in the scoring zone you have to come away with points," Barlow said. "We got in there a few times, but it didn't work out that way."
to cap an 11-play, 69-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter.
However, the Rams built a 26-7 by scoring on their next three possessions. Delta's Alvin Howard cut the deficit to 26-14 with two minutes left in the third quarter with an explosive 68-yard pass from De Mello (15 of 34 for 212 yards and one interception).
"Coach got us in a good play call that I thought would work," said Howard, who had four receptions for 86 yards. "I took it up my rout and was right behind the defense and (De Mello) gave me a ball that I could handle."
Jaylyn Sessions led Delta in rushing with 96 yards on 22 carries, earning a 1-yard touchdown score on his last rush of the game to end the scoring.
The Rams outgained the Mustangs in total yards, 454-324.
Fresno City coach Tony Caviglia said his Rams were not sharp after having a two-week break, and that playing at Delta is always a challenge.
"They're a very well coached team, and we're fortunate with the late scores there to come out on top," Caviglia said. "Nothing was easy. Whenever you play Delta it's always going to be a four-quarter game. We knew it was going to be a tough win for us to pull out. Delta played really good on defense all game."