Every time the host Eagles scored, the Gladiators had an answer, and it usually involved running back Jayde Rowe, who ran for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns Nov. 23, 2013 at Herschel Meredith Stadium.
College of the Siskiyous won three football championships the past two years, but the Eagles' chance for a fourth title was trampled by a powerful Chabot College running game Saturday in Weed.
The Eagles lost the Central Division Bowl, 36-23, in a rematch of the game they won a year earlier on the same field.
A crowd of over 800 on a sunny and cool early afternoon at Herschel Meredith Stadium saw the home team lead 7-0 and 10-7. The Eagles trailed at half time, then tied it 16-16 on the first series of the third quarter.
But every time the Eagles upped their total on the scoreboard, the East Bay Area team had an answer, and it usually involved running back Jayde Rowe and quarterback Zach Lujan.
Rowe, named the game's most valuable player, rushed for 244 yards on 37 carries and scored 3 touchdowns.
Lujan, the game's offensive MVP, completed 12 of 18 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 56 yards on 17 carries and a score.
Both operated behind a bunch of big offensive linemen who were working against an Eagle defensive line that was missing three starters and a reserve.
The final statistics show Chabot with 439 yards of total offense and Siskiyous with 429.
The Eagles only turned the ball over one time, but it was costly. After Lujan completed a 27 yard touchdown pass to give Chabot a 16-10 lead with 1:02 to play in the first half, Siskiyous moved quickly from its own 27 to the Chabot 10 yard line, helped by a couple penalties. Then they lost the ball on a fumble.
The Gladiators also turned the ball over just once, on a fumble, but they were already ahead by 13 points and driving toward another score with two minutes left in the game. An ensuing 12-play 42-yard Eagle drive used up all but a few seconds of the remaining time and resulted in no points.
Siskiyous finished the season with an 8-3 record and a second consecutive Mid Empire Conference championship.
"Our guys played their butts off," said Eagles head coach Charlie Roche, whose teams have made school history the past two seasons for most wins in a season (10 in 2012), most wins in two consecutive seasons (18), first back-to-back conference championships, and first back-to-back postseason appearances.
Talking to his disappointed players on the field after the game, Roche already was looking toward next year. He told the freshmen to "be ready for 10 days of hell in January."
The Bowl loss, he told a reporter later, "gives us something to work for next year."
Many of Saturday's starters are sophomores who played their final game as Eagles Saturday.
Sophomore quarterback Levi Cox got the Eagles on the scoreboard first with an 11 yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Cale Backinger.
Chabot came right back to tie it on a three yard touchdown run by Lujan.
The Eagles' next drive stalled at Chabot's 8 yard line, and Donovan Marshall's 39 yard field goal late in the first half made it 10-7.
Chabot quickly matched that with a 31 yard field goal early in the second quarter.
A 40 yard field goal attempt by Marshall was blocked late in the second quarter, and the Chabot drive that followed included two tackles for loss by sophomore cornerback Michael Everett. The second one was a crowd-rousing smash that forced a fourth-down punt from deep in Gladiator territory.
The Eagles then turned the ball over on downs, and Chabot went 62 yards on 3 plays and a face mask penalty to take their half time lead.
Sophomore Demetrius Brown had the hometown fans roaring when he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 77 yards, by far the longest play of the game.
Brown ran along the sideline in front of his teammates and coaches, broke tackles, and had to get around his own blocker who was pushed into his path. He made a spin move and cut toward the center of the field to avoid a tackle. He gave one opponent a stiff arm while five others approached. Brown was still upright and moving forward as two of four Gladiators who were sprawled on the turf clutched his legs to bring him down at the 23 yard line.
A pair of runs by sophomore Edwin McKinney set up a 12-yard game-tying touchdown pass from Cox to sophomore receiver Sam Williams. Cox was hit as he threw; Williams went straight up in front of a defender to catch the ball with his arms stretched above his head, then held on as the defender pulled him down by the shoulders.
A long kickoff return and face mask penalty got Chabot's next drive started at the COS 27. Rowe eventually scored from three yards out, and Lujan threw for the two-point conversion and a 24-16 lead early in the third quarter – a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
It grew to 30-16 later in the quarter on Rowe's 16 yard touchdown run.
Freshman quarterback Warren Johnson took over for Cox at the start of the fourth quarter and led an 89 yard scoring drive. The drive featured a slick eight-yard screen pass to sophomore fullback Lenana Meekisho on a fourth-and-four play from the Chabot 13 yard line. It ended with 9:46 to play on Johnson's one yard run and Meekisho's PAT kick.
Chabot ran, ran, ran, Rowe, Rowe, Rowe on its next drive. He had all but 8 of the 79 yards, including a 33 yarder that required a convocation of Eagles to bring him down. He finished it with a 9 yard touchdown run for the game's final score.
Roche said Rowe reminded him of former Eagle Christian Reyes, who rushed for 325 yards and was the MVP of the 2012 Central Division Bowl.
Cox finished his Eagle career by completing 14 of 28 passes for 162 yards and 2 TDs. Johnson was 8 for 13 for 66 yards.
Williams led the running backs with 10 carries for 77 yards. McKinney had 15 carries for 51 yards, sophomore Cameron Abeene 8 for 24, Johnson 11 for 19, Brown 2 for 17, Meekisho 1 for 11.
Sophomore Kirt Terry-Springs led the Eagle receivers with 92 yards on 6 catches. Williams caught 5 for 64 yards, Kendrick Murphy 5 for 30, and Brown 3 for 26.
Brown had 5 kickoff returns for 162 yards.
As he has throughout his two all-conference years at COS, linebacker Alex Henderson of Redding led the Eagle defense with 6 solo tackles and 7 assists.
Freshman defensive back Malachi Knox was in on 11 tackles, freshman linebacker Anthony Ocasio 10, sophomore defensive back Terrence Bailey 8, and freshman defensive lineman Jason Syverson 8.