By Matt Dziak / Asst. Sports Editor
By Matt Dziak / Asst. Sports Editor
The Riverside City College football team, ranked No. 6 in the nation, ended its heavy weight match against Mount San Antonio College, ranked No. 2 in the nation, with a 29-26 victory at the Wheelock Stadium on Sept. 24.
The Tigers seemed to be edgy to begin the game after they started with a three-and-out on the opening drive and followed it by surrendering a lucky bounce on a field goal attempt.
The way RCC was starting the game, made its fans feel like the game was going to be something other than a close competitive game.
Mt. San Antonio College, who is the two-time defending national champion, entered the game with a 26-game win streak and it seemed confident and determined to extend their streak.
Yet the Tigers were relaxed with their full of pent up energy in pregame warm-ups and ready to unleash on the favored Mounties.
On the Tigers second drive, Dalton Livingston was intercepted by Richard Thorpe and returned the ball to the RCC’s three yard line.
Following the play the Mounties were able to run in for a touchdown to lead 9-0.
Riverside’s offense continued to struggle when it was stopped on a fourth-and-one run attempt from the Tigers’ own 39- yard line, which led to another Mounties’ field goal.
In the second quarter the Tigers managed to find a way back into the game.
The team capped off an impressive 12 play, 83-yard touchdown drive, which was finished when Livingston connected on an 18-yard pass over the top of Mt. Sac’s secondary, finding Sadale Foster in the back of the end zone.
Livingston finished the game with 16 completions on 36 attempts for 248-yards and two touchdowns.
With the touchdown, RCC decreased the score to 12-7, which stood into halftime.
Coming out of halftime, the Tigers offense operated with a balance of spread offense and quick passes, while still punishing the defense with a physical run game which led to Jamil Austin’s one-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers their first lead at 14-12.
“Our plan was to use open spread sets and utilize the passing game alongside with the heavy package to run the football effectively when it was not earlier in the game,” said coach Tom Craft. “When you do that they cannot zero-in on one aspect.”
Just as the Tigers seemed to gain momentum, the Mounties scored on a 60-yard touchdown from Alonzo Agwuenu, who caught a quick slant pass and beat the defense and sprinted for a touchdown giving the Mounties a 19-14 lead.
“We have not been in this situation before, but I think that this group that has won 10 games last year had a lot at stake and they knew it,” Craft said.
The marching band tuned up the fight song and the “jungle” section of the Tigers’ fans erupted after Livingston connected with Foster for a 90-yard touchdown that gave RCC a 22-19 lead and swung the momentum back to the home team’s favor in the fourth quarter.
Foster, who now has seven touchdown receptions in the first three games, has been the Tigers best weapon when in need of a big play.
He finished with four receptions for 137-yards and two touchdowns.
On the ensuing Mounties drive, defensive back Bruce Jones intercepted Cameron Deen’s pass and returned the ball back to the Mounties eight-yard line, giving the RCC’s offense excellent field position.
E.J. Schexnayder, who had 60-yards on 16 carries, scored on a five-yard touchdown run giving the Tigers the lead at 29-19.
Jones was not done yet because as he jumped a quick slant route, he intercepted Deen’s pass again.
He finished with six pass break-ups and was the one to create the plays that proved to be a game changer for the Riverside defense.
With 3:36 left to play, the Mounties answered quickly with a nine play that made a 74-yard touchdown drive after Deen found his running back Matthew Botello on a 32-yard pass taking only 2:17 off the clock.
Trailing 29-26, the Mounties attempted an onside kick, but failed to recover and the Tigers were able to line up in the victory formation, taking a knee to run out the clock and solidify the win.
“We had a couple of shots that we converted and they were the difference in the game,” Craft said.
After this heroic comeback win, the Tigers wait to see the new rankings as only the top four teams move on to the state championship following the season.
It is still early in the season until the postseason arrives but looking ahead, the Tigers will host Chaffey College on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m.