By Cameron Winston
After turning in one of the most successful seasons in Riverside City College history in 2016, the Tigers football team looks primed to continue upon their dominance after a 3-0 start to the 2017 season.
Their first seasonal matchup saw them go up against Victor Valley College where the Tigers offense put on a showcase, emerging victorious with a dominating 52-9 score. The successful debut game highlighted the confidence the Tigers have returned with after suffering a 45-29 loss to Fullerton College in the Southern California Regional Championship game last year.
Sophomore quarterback Travis Jonsen got the start and came out with a huge performance in the passing game throwing 17 for 26 with 176 yards, and three touchdowns. His go-to target was 6 foot 6 inch sophomore wide receiver Cam Sutton who contributed with six receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshmen quarterback Vic Viramontes also contributed to a big night for the Tigers leading the running game rushing for 89 yards and scoring two of RCC’s seven touchdowns. He also made an impact in the passing game throwing 3 of 4 for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Coming off a satisfying debut week, the Tigers would then face a more competitive game against Golden West College.
From the start of the game against the Golden West Rustler Sams, the Tigers could not get any offensive flow going. Travis Jonsen, got the second consecutive start for the Tigers but did not flash the dynamic air threat he showed against VVC. He did, however, finish the game showcasing his ability to use his legs to make plays gaining 55 yards on the ground.
With Jonsen’s night short-lived, sophomore quarterback Matt Struck checked into the game in the second quarter in hopes of bringing some sort of spark into the offense. Unfortunately, Struck’s attempt to get something going for the offense failed as as well. The offense would finally find progress after the insertion of Viramontes who, after halftime, led three straight scoring drives that were pivotal.
“I think Vic Viramontes gave us a big lift tonight with his running ability,” head coach Tom Craft said. “He still has to develop in his passing game, but you can see how he can put a team on his back.”
Viramontes only played those three drives in the third quarter as he came down feeling ill and was replaced by Struck to finish the game. Viramontes ended his night going 1-2 for 38 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown.
The offense struggled throughout the night in all areas of the field. One of the biggest concerns regarding the quarterback situation was the offensive line. They negated some momentous drives in the first quarter by getting some penalties against them to move the team back. The Tigers’ struggles in the first half restricted them from not being able to move into the opposing team’s territory at all.
The offensive line’s poor blocking was not a benefit for either quarterback throughout the game, and also affected the running game as well. This a unit that is still trying to find some chemistry with one another and find the right people to place in that starting role.
“I’m not happy with what’s going on up front yet,” Coach Craft said. “We’re juggling guys in and out of that lineup so it’s probably going to take a week or two until we start to get it defined.”
For the defense, they held it together throughout the game. Their run defense was somewhat of a high note but with precaution. They held the running backs from breaking off any big runs, but struggled to contain Golden West mobile quarterback, Joe Pyle. Pyle torched the defense with an impressive 127 yards and two touchdowns on back-to-back drives. Every time RCC thought they had him contained in the pocket to get a sack, he would slip past them to pick up a good chunk of yardage.
The biggest play of the game for the defense, however, had to be the last drive of the game. With RCC up by only six points, Golden West had the ball with six minutes left in the game. As the Rustler Sams marched down the field, it seemed like they were destined to find the end zone and potenentially win.
Golden West entered the red zone territory expecting to score, but two big stops caused a third and goal for Golden West. On that third and goal, Tigers sophomore Terrill Gillete and a Golden West receiver looked like they had both secured the ball. When the two players landed, it was a mystery as to who held possession of the ball. Initially, the referees signaled a touchdown until it was further discussed and overturned the initial ruling to an interception to seal the victory for the Tigers, 20-14.
Securing this victory moved their record to 2-0 as they headed into week three. The Tigers were victorious against a tough Bakersfield College team that saw them leave Bakersfield with a closely contested 28-26 win and advanced their record to 3-0.
A late fourth quarter surge by Bakersfield was not enough as the Tigers held sole possession of the game since the first quarter, while RCC added a touchdown in each quarter. Viramontes would start and played throughout the entirety of the game.
The development needed in his passing game that coach Craft addressed was evident as he finished the night throwing 13 for 23 for 119 yards and two interceptions. His running ability showed high promise though after rushing for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
The ground game seemed to be the focal point and the most lethal weapon of the day for the Tigers as they rushed for 449 total yards. The three main rushers were Viramontes, freshman Malik Walker (148 yards and a TD) and sophomore Clifford Simms (99 yards).
The defense caused a lot of mayhem when getting to the quarterback ending the night with five sacks. This defensive force was led by freshman linebacker Devin Charles, who filled up the stat sheet with nine total tackles, 0.5 sack and 0.5 tackles for loss.
RCC’s football program has long been a stable of succes, and the 2017 season looks to continue tradition. With only mild concerns left to address, the Tigers look forward to what is sure to be another triumphant season that has the potential to bring home a coveted CCCAA state championship.