Tigers shutdown surging Comets

By Matt Dziak / RCC football beat writer

By Matt Dziak / RCC football beat writer

For two years Zach Atkins found himself second on the depth chart as the backup quarterback, a position where few rarely get the opportunity to display their ability.

Atkins finally got his chance to start at quarterback against the Palomar College Comets and proved he is worthy of being the tigers leader going forward.

The stellar play of Atkins, who was starting in place of the suspended Tyler Shreve, led the No. 14 Riverside City College football team to a 47-7 onslaught over the No. 10 Palomar Comets.

“Hopefully coach (Craft) plays it in my favor,” Atkins said. “I worked hard all week and we will have to wait and see what happens.”

This marked the first time RCC coach Tom Craft faced off against Palomar, a team he used to be the head coach of from 1997-2001. It was the Tigers first victory of the season after the 28-27 heartbreaking defeat against the No. 13 Ventura College Pirates.

“We came together as a team in practice to get better and it showed tonight,” Atkins said.

Atkins orchestrated a no huddle offense completing 25 passes on 33 attempts for 268 yards and four touchdowns leading the Tigers as if he had been the starter for a year.

“It felt great to have everyone behind me,” he said. “I played hard for them and they played hard for me.”

On the Comets opening drive, safety Chris Gonzalez recovered a Palomar fumble, setting up running back E.J. Schexnayder for a bruising touchdown run giving the Tigers a 7-0 opening lead.

The Tigers continued to build off of their lead when wide receiver Chris Tabron caught a 12-yard touchdown reception from Atkins extending the lead to 14-0 in the first quarter.

Tigers cornerback Nick Gathrite had an impressive second quarter, intercepting Ryan Lamb’s pass in the end zone preventing a Comet score. Gathrite also recovered wide receiver Mike Hodges fumble that was forced by a pack of tiger defenders.

The Comets lone score came on Ryan Lamb’s 53-yard touchdown pass to the 5’6″ wide receiver Anthony Mount. Despite the Palomar touchdown, the Tigers still led at halftime 20-7.

RCC extended their lead with three third quarter passing touchdowns by Atkins and outscored the Comets 27-0 in the second half.

“We made a lot of halftime adjustments,” Atkins said. “We executed and were able to make the big plays.”

The first was a 38-yard screen pass that was reeled in by Schexnayder for his second touchdown on the night.

“Glory to God,” Schexnayder said. “I worked hard all offseason to impress the coaches and took advantage when my number was called.”

Atkins also connected with his tight end Gus Penning for a touchdown, increasing the lead to 34-7 over the struggling Comet defense.

“Gus made a good move off of the ball and I was able to connect with him for the touchdown,” Atkins said.

Schexnayder carried the ground game for the Tigers, leading all rushers with 150 yards on 25 rushing attempts and three touchdowns.

“This was all about preparation,” Schexnayder said. “We worked hard in practice to fix the mistakes we made in the first game and made plays tonight.”