SAN FRANCISCO -- The reigning 2011 City College National Champions from San Francisco began their 2012 title defense facing the Diablo Valley College Vikings, and after a wild second half, the Rams were able to extend their unbeaten streak to 13 games with a thrilling 48-41 overtime victory at home Saturday.
The CCSF Rams were 12-0 last year, and their only loss in an 11-1 2010 campaign came in their final game of the season -- the National Championship game.
Their undefeated 2012 season, however, was in jeopardy in their opener. Trailing DVC 41-27 in the second half, and frustrated with poor execution and an excess of penalties, CCSF began their comeback.
In the fourth quarter, San Francisco starting quarterback and Berkeley native Andrew Spivey rolled left, just as he had the play prior. But this time, he stopped, rotated and threw across his body, barely getting the long throw to receiver J.J. Hudson in the front corner of the end zone. Place kicker Matthew Vultaggio's extra point made it 41-34.
The defense, led by linebacker and team captain Tyrone Ward, quickly put a stop to the subsequent Vikings drive. Punting from their own end, DVC made a critical mistake, hiking the ball high over the punter and all the way back to the three-yard line, where Spivey punched it in for the game-tying touchdown.
Spivey finished 29-for-52 for 465 yards, six touchdowns through the air and the one game-tying touchdown on the ground.
"In his debut as a starter, Spivey was very impressive," CCSF quarterbacks coach and Marin County native Jim Collins said, "He threw the ball well and made good decisions. The more pressure-packed the situation, the more he thrived. And he showed tremendous leadership qualities on the field and on the sideline."
DVC got the ball late with a chance to march down the field and take the lead, but the Rams defense came up big.
Ward put a loud hit on Vikings quarterback Quinn Kaehler. And a few plays later on second and fifteen, Kaehler, who finished the game with over 450 yards through the air, rolled out to his right with time. Maybe he was feeling the affects of Ward's hit, because his ball down the right sideline fluttered and hung up in the air for safety Broughan Jantz to pull down for the interception.
The athletic play put his offense on their own 12-yard line with 1:46 left in a 41-41 tie game.
It was time for one of San Francisco's premier prospects -- wide receiver Kyani Harris -- to take over.
"Kyani is a tremendous physical talent with an exceptional understanding of offensive football," Collins said. "Most of his plays required him to make a choice after the ball was snapped, and he made the right decisions and executed them for us each time."
Spivey hooked up with Harris four times for 55 yards during the final regulation drive, and downed the ball at the 11-yard line with seven seconds remaining.
They were seven long seconds.
Placekicker Matthew Vultaggio, who had a field goal blocked before dangerously clanging an extra point off the post and in earlier in the game, had a chance to give the Rams the regulation victory.
The snap is down. The kick is up. ... The Rams are offsides.
The ball sailed through the uprights as the referees marched the line of scrimmage back to the 16-yard line.
The snap is down. The kick is up. ... The Vikings call timeout.
The ball once more sailed harmlessly through the goalposts and the teams lined up again.
This time, the kick would count. And this time, Vultaggio pulled the 34-yard, game-winning field goal attempt wide right as time expired, forcing overtime in the season opener.
Overtime rules give each team a possession starting at the 25-yard line. The Rams didn't waste any downs, converting a 25-yard touchdown from Spivey to Dezmon Epps on their first play and handing an opportunity to seal the win to their defense.
The Vikings looked to have matched the Rams' score on third down when the referee put his arms in the air after an acrobatic catch on the right edge of the end zone, but the far-side referee came streaking across the field to overrule the call, indicating the pass hit the ground for an incompletion.
CCSF batted down the fourth-down pass attempt to make the comeback official and move to 1-0 on the young season.
"The offense executed well down the stretch," Collins said, "But the defense kept us in the game the entire second half."
The Rams are back in action Friday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. in Oakland against Laney College.