By Izaiah Cerratos
The Riverside City College Football team narrowly defeated the Palomar College Comets in a comeback victory to become 4-0 and kept the team’s undefeated streak alive.
RCC made an explosive start to the game, swiftly advancing the ball into Palomar territory within the three opening minutes of play. The Tigers’ offense experienced a setback, concluding their initial drive with a 31-yard field goal courtesy of kicker Gabe Panikowski.
The Comets would be the first team to score a touchdown in the game with less than two minutes left in the first quarter. After, De’Marcus Carr, running back for the Comets, broke free for the 68-yard touchdown run and put Palomar up on the scoreboard, 6-3
The offenses from both teams exploded in the 2nd quarter. The Riverside City College offense capitalized on a targeting penalty against the Comets with a two-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Bryce Strong.
“Our offense is efficient and explosive,” Strong said. “As an offense when we enter the red zone of the field our offense is going to score six points.”
The Palomar offense struck back quickly and regained the lead as Comets quarterback Clay Omohundro linked up with wide receiver Kyri Shoels for a 77-yard passing touchdown.
The Tigers answered with an impressive drive that gave them another two-yard touchdown run regaining the lead 17-12, courtesy of sophomore running back Ayinde Bankole.
The defensive struggles continued on both sides. Palomar took the lead once again after a scrambling 10-yard touchdown run by Omohundro. The Comets now lead 19-17 with three minutes left in the first half.
The Tigers’ defense executed a flawless defensive drive, providing the necessary momentum for the Tigers’ offense to reclaim the lead with just 27 seconds remaining in the half.
Jordan Barton dropped back from the 9-yard line to deliver a touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Demarion Young. The Tigers held the lead 24-19 going into halftime.
The Comets’ offense came out of halftime fired up. On the second play in the 2nd half, the Comets scored on a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown by wide receiver Amari Derby, giving the Comets the lead of 26-24 with less than a minute into the third quarter.
Palomar extended its 2nd half lead to 33-24 after a 24-yard touchdown pass to Derby for his second touchdown of the game.
A lackluster week of practices showed signs during the game. Simple mental errors made by both RCC players and coaches created opportunities for the Comets.
“We didn’t have the greatest week of practice and it showed early,” RCC head coach Tom Craft said. “We’re a young team but we’re getting better every week.”
The RCC offense answered back quickly, closing the lead to 33-31 after a 53-yard catch and run touchdown by sophomore wide receiver Jacqueze Modica.
The Comet offense returned the favor with a long sturdy drive of its own, which ended in a 9-yard touchdown run by Omarion Ireland followed by a 2-point conversion to push the lead to ten for the Comets late in the 3rd quarter.
A crucial interception by the Palomar defense stole a scoring opportunity from the Tigers, holding the score at 41-31 with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. The Comets offense would go on to turn the interception into three points extending their lead to 44-31.
The Tigers offense responded with a touchdown drive as the time ran down in the fourth quarter. Barton would break away from the Palomar defensive linemen to escape the pocket and cash in a 15-yard touchdown run closing the lead to six points with 8 minutes remaining in the game.
“This was a wake-up call for us, this game will make us a better team,” Barton said. “We showed that we were a strong team mentally with the late comeback.”
On the next drive, the Tigers’ defense answered the call and created a huge turnover deep in Palomar territory. The Tigers capitalized off the turnover with a touchdown as they retook the lead for the first time in the second half 45-44. The RCC defense closed out the game with a Palomar Comets turnover on downs.
The Tigers rallied late in the fourth quarter to keep their unbeaten streak alive.
The RCC football team looks to keep their streak alive against The Mt. San Jacinto College Eagles at the Stadium of Menifee on Sept. 30.