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Riverside City College’s road to redemption

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Riverside City College head coach Tom Craft gives his thoughts on the game in a postgame huddle on Oct. 22, 2022 at Ramona High School. (Peter Gibbs | Viewpoint)
By Dalila Romero

The Riverside City College football team was on pace to end the 2022 season 13-0, but the season ended on a sour note. RCC lost 55-0 in the CCCAA Football State Championship Game against the San Mateo College Bulldogs, ending the bid for a perfect year.

The loss was a surprise to most. The Tigers were accustomed to being the team to deliver the blow outs.

RCC is looking to return during the 2023 season and not just reach the State Championship again but win it too.

“The goal is to get back where we were last year,” wide receiver Norion Espadron said. “The only difference is to finish.”

The road to glory will be different than before because the Tigers will be entering the season without some of the starpower and veterans they had last year.

“We don’t have a lot of returning players that have a lot of experience. So we feel it’s very imperative. It’s like this every year,” RCC head coach Tom Craft said. “We lose a lot and kids go on and get scholarships. A new group comes in and that’s our focus.”

Quarterback Jake Retzlaff transferred over the offseason. He was a big piece for the Tigers, scoring most of the team’s touchdowns by using both his arm and legs.

The only freshman that was on the 2022 roster at the quarterback position was Alex Grado. He would have been next in line for this upcoming season, but instead he transferred to San Mateo over the offseason, creating what could be an unstable quarterback position.

On defense, Riverside will take the field without their interception leader DeMarco Moorer, who totaled nine interceptions in only 11 games played. Moorer transferred to the University of Hawaii.

  “We had to spend a tremendous amount of time and focus our attention to recruit larger numbers than we would normally have to because of our retention,” RCC defensive coordinator James Kuk said. “And our returning class being smaller than normal.”

With a lot of the RCC’s roster transferring to different schools, it has become critical to begin the training now in order to build chemistry and be prepared once the season arrives.

“We had about 30 players returning and about 30 players transferred in during the spring so what we are doing is evaluating what they can do,” Craft said. “And that influences what we are going to do based on their talent level.”

Although the Tigers first game is not until September, the team is beginning practice now to adapt with their new teammates and becoming familiar with plays to hopefully execute perfectly once the season arrives.

“We have seen some struggles so far but that’s what spring is for,” Espadron said. “Get out there early, get the mess ups out of the way to be ready by season.”

Riverside City College has also gained itself a reputation in the athletic department after making it all the way to the CCCAA State Championship in back to back years.

“We must be able to play to the standards we have here,” Kuk said. “Find the right types of players that fit our culture to be able to play at a very high level. It’s a process from spring to summer to fall camp.”

These early team practices are preparing the new players to slowly develop and intertwine with those returning.

“The team is still being built day by day,” running back Bryce Strong said. “We are getting a lot of hungry guys who are ready to play everyday.”

Riverside City College’s football team will get back in action for its first game against the Long Beach City College Vikings on Sept. 10.

“Expect another year of winning from the Tigers.” Strong said.

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