By Matthew Dziak / Asst. Sports Editor
By Matthew Dziak / Asst. Sports Editor
Capping off a perfect (11-0) season, the Riverside City College football team defeated the Saddleback College Gauchos in the Golden State Bowl, 31-14.
The Tigers jumped out to an early first quarter lead after an E.J. Schexnayder 30-yard touchdown run, which was set up by a Bruce Jones interception that was returned 55 yards.
Sadale Foster, who finished with six receptions for 51 yards, added a 22-yard touchdown reception from Dalton Livingston to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
The Gauchos (8-3) responded when Rodney Woodland caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Gomez cutting the lead to 14-7.
With 20 seconds left in the first half, Jameel Erving stepped in-front of a Gaucho receiver and intercepted Gomez’s pass. Following the interception, Livingston was able to scramble for 15 yards, setting up Wesley Feer for a 39-yard field goal connection as time expired giving the Tigers a 17-14 halftime lead.
In the second half, running back Andre Hunt put the team on his back scoring on a 41-yard run to extend the Tiger lead to 24-14. Remarkably, Hunt outgained Livingston’s passing yards (120), earning himself offensive player of the game in his final game at Riverside, finishing with 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“When they called my number I made sure I played my part to play hard and pull out this win,” Hunt said.
The Tiger’s rushed for an astounding 292 yards as Livingston added 74 yards and recorded the longest run of the game on a quarterback draw for 43 yards.
“The defense played man coverage leaving the middle wide open,” Livingston said. “We called design quarterback draws and the offensive line picked up their blocks and the rest was all green from there so I kept running.”
Livingston, a Texas native and captain of the team, was left out of the bowl game awards, but was named Eastern Conference offensive player of the year just days prior to the game finishing the season with 2,623 yards passing and 31 touchdowns.
Enough could not be said about the stingy Tiger defense, which sacked Gomez an astounding nine times, had three interceptions, and also forced four fumbles. The Tigers shut out the Gauchos in the second half, outscoring Saddleback 14-0.
Sophomore linebacker Zaire Anderson, a Philadelphia native, was named Most Valuable Player of the game recording a game high 12 tackles adding three sacks and forcing two fumbles.
Anderson, who is being recruited by the Nebraska Cornhuskers, was also named Eastern Conference defensive player of the year leading the Tigers with 95 tackles on the season.
“I was able to make plays and play my part on this team,” Anderson said. “It felt good to get recognized but it was more important to get this win against a really good team.”
Not to be outdone, linebacker Will Smith, not to be confused with another Philadelphia native and “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” racked up eight tackles and recovered both of Anderson’s forced fumbles, earning himself defensive player of the game.
The Gauchos attempt at a comeback was stifled by the Tigers who forced fumbles on each of the final three possessions for the Gauchos, sealing the victory and extending the Tigers nation high win streak to 19 games.
“This is back-to -back bowl victories for us,” Foster said. “I want to thank my teammates for everything they have done, believing in me and this team.”
In two years under coach Tom Craft, the sophomore players finished 21-1 and had only one loss on the road against two-time defending state champion Mt. San Antonio College, which they were able to avenge this year in a 29-26 win back in September.
Craft earned himself Eastern Conference coach of the year for the second consecutive season as well.
The only remaining news for the Tigers is the anticipation of which players will receive division one NCAA scholarship offers and where they will continue their football careers.
It is only the second time in school history that the Tigers football team finished a season undefeated and the 11-0 record for the 2011 Riverside City College football team will be a legacy left behind for eternity.