By Peter Gibbs
They almost gave the game away, and then they took it back.
Despite early offensive turnovers, the Riverside City College Tigers beat Ventura College in a rematch of last year’s California Community College Athletic Association first round playoff game.
“We fumbled the ball three times and gave the ball away twice on offense,” head coach Tom Craft said. “This late in the year it’s not customary to what we normally do.”
RCC opened the game strong with a touchdown drive but missed the extra point and then the defense forced Ventura to punt.
Tigers quarterback Jake Retzlaff quickly fumbled which led to a Pirates touchdown, putting Ventura up by one point.
The Tigers offense responded in the first quarter with two more scores and went into the second quarter with a six point lead.
Momentum appeared to flip when the Pirates blocked a punt and drove down into red zone.
The defense held as safety Demarco Moorer intercepted Ventura in the end zone. Moorer now is one interception away from tying the single season RCC record of 10.
The second quarter was dominated by RCC.
The defense kept Ventura to a field goal while the offense focused on the running game through freshman Bryce Strong.
“I didn’t want to lose first round and be home,” Strong said. “That was really my motivation.”
Strong led the Tigers in rushing with 150 yards on 20 carries.
RCC finished out the first half with a 16 point lead.
They then gave up a touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter from Ventura to have the lead cut in half.
On the ensuing possession, Retzlaff found receiver Roshawn Lacy for a touchdown. Lacy caught three touchdowns on the day.
However, Ventura responded and scored toward the end of the quarter to pull within eight points.
After a failed drive by the Tigers, Ventura drove down the field and was in scoring position before a forced fumble by the RCC defense killed all the momentum for the Pirates.
From there, the offensive line dominated Ventura which opened up the rushing attack from Bryce Strong.
“We lined up as a team and did our jobs,” starting center Ed Riley said. “There’s no I in team.”
The offensive line played well in both the running and passing game, allowing zero sacks.
“We dominated the line of scrimmage with our front five,” Retzlaff said. “That’s the way we set the tone.”
RCC added one final score as the clock ran down.
Defensively, an injury to Pirates quarterback Samuel Marquez made it easy for RCC to keep Ventura off the board.
With the momentum on the Tigers side, RCC cruised the rest of the game and ended with a 15 point win.
Despite the outcome, RCC knows it can play better.
“It was not a winning effort,” Craft said. “We have to work on our fundamentals.”
RCC will advance to the next round of the CCCAA playoffs and its next game will be against the Fullerton College Hornets on Dec. 3.
“We think we can win it all and we’re going to work like it,” Strong said.