Riverside City College football finishes season on top following playoffs

by Nick Peralta

The 2018 California Community College Athletic Association regular football season has ended and the Tigers are your National Southern Division champions.

On Nov. 10 the second ranked Tigers took on No. 12 ranked Saddleback College in a contest that determined the newly-formed National Southern Division champions. RCC would seemingly accomplish the perfect campaign as they would win, 28-7, in the regular seasons final game.

Coming into the game, the Tigers were sporting an undefeated 9-0 record due to some controversy ignited by Fullerton College.

On Nov. 3, the night that RCC would blow out Orange Coast College 58-0, Fullerton College lost an appeal of sanctions placed upon its football program by the Southern California Football Association. The appeal was in response to Fullerton violating a CCCAA bylaw that bans “subsidizing, inducements and special privileges” for a CCCAA student-athlete.

Fullerton would forfeit, not only their 2017 state and conference championships, but also their nine 2018 victories.

That includes Fullerton’s 34-33 victory over RCC on Sept. 8, which, until Saturday, was the Tigers’ only blemish this season.

The 1-0 forfeit would move RCC to 9-0 and placed the Tigers at second in the most recent California Community College Sports Information Poll. This just behind the only other undefeated team in the state, College of the Canyons.

Now boasting an undefeated record and vying for the top seed in the southern region, the Tigers fashioned a game plan that halted the Gauchos to a mere seven points which delivered Riverside their eighth conference crown in the past 10 years under head coach Tom Craft.

In holding the Gauchos to a mere seven points, RCC marked the sixth time this season that they have held their opponent scoreless or below a double-digit total.

The Tigers would start off slow in the early stages of the first quarter, not scoring on their first two drives.

RCC would eventually strike first with a one yard rushing touchdown by sophomore running back Quincy Wimbush before the end of the first quarter.

From the second quarter to halftime, sophomore wide receiver Tyrone Marshall would play as the Tigers offensive exclusive offensive weapon as he would score two receiving touchdowns. The first being a 49 yard bomb from starting quarterback Stone Smartt connecting on this as well as a 14 yard drop.  Saddleback would try to mount some semblance of a comeback before the end of the first half of play. They would somewhat succeed as they would score on a 16 yard touchdown pass leaving the score 21-7 going into the third quarter.

The Tigers defense would halt any chance of a comeback rally from Sattleback however as sophomore defensive linebacker Eric Wilson would snag two interceptions in the third quarter. This would enable RCC to capture another highlight reel touchdown as Smartt would launch a 68 yard pass to freshman wide receiver Tyler Kennedy for what would ultimately become the final score of the game.

“Going into the postseason with our record is a good start,” sophomore lineback Vic Viramontes said. “We’re on a roll right now, we’re staying hot. We just got to keep working on getting better each and every practice, in the film room and in the weight room. If we keep doing all three of those things then, I feel like this is going to do something great.”

Now undefeated at 10-0, the Tigers look ahead to the CCCAA Southern California Regional Championships and the team seems poised with momentum to earn themselves a title in the postseason as well.

“I‘m just glad to get this regular season over with,” freshman wide receiver Jaden Hodges said. “To get to the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, I am just ready to go into it.”

RCC still holds that former loss to Fullerton to heart however. Although, after a season that saw their only snag come against the winners of last years state title, official or not, speaks volumes.

The So-Cal Regional Playoffs will take place at the Wheelock Stadium as RCC takes on third ranked El Camino College on Nov. 17.

“I feel like this season’s team has been one of the best teams this school has had in awhile,” Hodges said. “Our bond brings us so close. It makes us a better team. They say that we’re 10-0 out there but we still got the thought of Fullerton (College) in the back of our heads. We just want to show everybody that we can be the real champs.”