Comets hold own with national power RCC in scrimmage

Alii Suiaunoa (32) and Kameron Camp (45) tackle RCC quarterback. -- Photo by Hugh Cox
Alii Suiaunoa (32) and Kameron Camp (45) tackle RCC quarterback. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

RIVERSIDE (8-24-2017) -- After his team held its own for much of Saturday's controlled scrimmage with Tom Craft's national power Riverside City College squad, Palomar coach Joe Early was encouraged with a lot of what he saw. The scrimmage also pinpointed where the Comets need some significant improvement before next Saturday's season football opener at Southwestern.

Especially encouraging for Early: Palomar's performance through most of a 15-minute game-style quarter to begin the afternoon, where the two teams battled to a scoreless standoff until RCC, stopped in its tracks until the quarter's final two minutes, went over the top for the quarter's only touchdown on a 90-yard pass play with 1:52 showing on the Wheelock Stadium clock.

"We had field position on them almost the entire quarter. We were able to move the ball on them but had missed opportunities on errant passes and on drops," Early said.

The Comets took command right from the start in the quarter as kicker Tyler Vargas deposited the opening kickoff through the end zone for a touchback and, on the first play from scrimmage, Maxwell Scott dumped RCC's running back for a 9-yard loss back to the 16-yard line. That was followed on the ensuing play by another tackle for loss by four Comets; punter Tyson Dyer's pinning RCC back at the 10-yard line with a high 58-yard kick after Palomar had forced a quick Riverside punt; a physical pass break-up by Brandon Price; two quick pass completions by quarterback Matt Romero, one to deep in RCC territory; Maiua Tautala's 4-yard tackle for loss; a sack by Arnold Yoder; and Dyer again pinning the Tigers at the 10-yard line, this time with a perfectly-placed 38-yard punt from the Riverside 48. Then came the long pass play.

After the quarter, the teams split up with back-to-back traditional regular scrimmage match-ups, with Palomar's offense going toward the scoreboard end against RCC's defense, and Riverside's offense going toward the opposite end vs. Palomar's defense.

The Comets continued to move the ball, scoring touchdowns on a Romero to Nate Johnson pass, a 4-yard run by Zach Goodkin, and two Ross Ebert touchdown passes, to Jalael Shabazz-Blue for 11 yards and to Blake Adamson for 6 yards. Vargas split the uprights on a 45-yard PAT after a series of penalties that followed Goodkin's TD run.

But at the other end of the field, RCC demonstrated why its explosive passing offense is the biggest reason the Tigers are considered a serious contender for both state and national championships, as their deep, talented group of receivers had their way with one touchdown after another against Palomar's tiring secondary.

"We've got to have a big sense of urgency in practice this week," Early said. "The good things we saw aside, we have some serious things we have to work on."