BY ANDREW RICH Special to The Californian
FRESNO -- When Garces High needs a big play, there is no doubt who the ball is going to.
Star junior running back Sheldon Croney carried the ball 32 times for 173 yards, including his game-winning run from five yards out with 48 seconds left to play to lift the Rams (2-2) to a 20-14 win over San Joaquin Memorial (3-1) in the Holy Bowl.
It's the second-straight year that the Holy Bowl trophy will reside in Bakersfield following last year's 41-7 pummeling of Memorial.
Garces' winning drive came on the heels of George Borba's block of Blake Billingsley's 29-yard field goal with 3:30 left in the game that could've given the Panthers the lead. Memorial had driven 68 yards in 14 plays and killed over seven minutes off the clock before being denied points by the Rams special teams unit.
The final drive started with 3:21 to play at the Rams 16-yard line. It took Garces just seven plays -- and five Croney runs, including a huge 54-yarder to put the ball inside the Panther 10 -- to grab the lead.
After going into the half tied 7-7, the Rams came out with a big adjustment that paid off. Quarterback Jake Pavletich handed the ball to Croney repeatedly on zone-read plays in the first half, but on the first zone-read play of the second half, he kept it on the read and raced 78 yards for a touchdown to put Garces up 14-7.
Memorial answered with a long zone-read play of their own. Backup quarterback Michael Germano kept the ball and raced 71 yards for a score to tie the game at 14 with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
In the end, it was the strong Ram's running game that proved to be too tough to stop. Garces finished with 267 rushing yards on 39 rushes.