After losing 25-0 to Mt. San Antonio College in the regular season finale, RCC missed out on the Southern California Football playoffs, settling for a rematch with the LA Harbor Seahawks in the Golden State Bowl at Riverside’s Wheelock Stadium on Nov. 17.
RCC battled against LA Harbor in a 34-23 comeback victory to win its third straight bowl game and improved their record to 30-3 overall in three years under coach Tom Craft.
“It was a difficult situation to go to practice this week after being letdown and shunned by the playoffs,” Craft said.
RCC defeated Harbor in week four, 31-7 with quarterback Zach Adkins coming in for Tyler Shreve in the second half to lead the Tigers to a victory.
In the most recent game, the Tigers were trailing in the first half 20-17, RCC opened the second half with an interception thrown by Nick Gathrite and returned it 51 yards for the touchdown as the Tigers regained the lead at 24-20.
Adkins finished atop the National Central Conference in passing and had 221 yards on 18-of-27 passing and two touchdowns adding to his totals. Adkins, a man who shrugs off personal achievements, was named MVP for his performance.
“I didn’t even think I would get that, but it is great to be considered the MVP of our team,” Adkins said.
RCC’s rushing attack continued to shine as the offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and opened up gaping holes that even a big rig truck could pass through.
Finishing the season as the National Central Conference’s leading rusher, Schexnayder had 24 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.
For the first time all season, the Tigers allowed 100 yards or more to a single running back. Dewaun Wesley eluded would be tacklers on 18 rushing attempts for 111 yards and a touchdown.
In the second quarter, Wesley exploded to the outside for a 42-yard run in the red zone, but the Tigers’ stingy defense held their ground and Harbor settled for a 33-yard field goal.
“These guys battled and I’m real proud of them,” Craft said. “We had a bend, don’t break mentality on defense and it was great today.”
Harbor was much improved from the previous match up where they had 310 yards of offense and quarterback Brandon Edwards had two costly interceptions.
For the Seahawks, receiver Ryan Hyman caught seven passes for 138 yards and set up two scores with his ability to stretch the field and get behind the secondary. RCC was out gained 429-401 in yardage offensively for the second straight game, but capitalized off of four Harbor turnovers.
The Seahawks utilized a duo quarterback attack, switching between Max Baiz and Edwards on each drive to keep the Tigers’ defense on their heels. Baiz however, threw three interceptions on 10-of-22 completions for 169 yards.
An interception by RCC safety Chris Gonzalez with just a minute remaining that allowed the Tigers to line up in the victory formation one last time, taking a knee to run out the final seconds remaining on the clock.
“We got the turnovers and it slammed the door for us,” Craft said. “The turnovers were the difference in the game.”
With their friends and family gathered in the home crowd at Wheelock Stadium, the players gathered afterwards for pictures, capturing a victorious moment.
“It feels really good because last week everyone was really down about not getting into the playoffs,” Adkins said. “It was great to finish on a high note and get the win.”