It was a battle of top-ranked teams on Saturday night in the threatening compounds of Wheelock Stadium as the top-ranked Riverside City College football team played host to the No. 11 Southwestern College Jaguars. On a night that featured two of the most imposing defensive units in the state, it was the Tigers who dominated all facets of the contest as the set every unit to cruise control en route to a commanding 36-6 victory.
It was a slow start for Riverside as the opening five drives ended in either a punt or a turnover. Despite sluggish beginnings, the Riverside defense provided the spark with just two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Following a 46-yard coffin corner punt by sophomore John Garibay that pinned the Jaguars on the three-yard line, freshman linebacker Kobey Fitzgerald took matters into his own hands on the third play of Southwestern's drive. He broke through the Jaguar's offensive line and forced a fumble in the end zone leading to a safety, thus handing the Tigers a two-point advantage.
Riverside immediately molded their defensive prowess into offensive momentum early in the fourth quarter. It can be coined the Stone Smartt drive as the sophomore quarterback took control and began the drive with a trio of rushes that equaled 14 yards. He capped the drive with a 56-yard touchdown bomb to freshman wide receiver Jammal Houston who broke away from the defense and planted himself in the end zone for six points.
The Smartt-Houston connections continued to flow as they linked up for another lengthy touchdown pass on their second possession of the game – this time for 33-yards – leading to a 16-0 benefit.
After the Tiger defense forced another three-and-out from Southwestern, Smartt continued to push the pigskin down the field with help from sizable rushes compliments of sophomore running back Quincy Wimbish and freshman running back Dunmar Fisher. Smartt polished off the drive with a seven-yard scramble to the house as he leaped to the near-side pylon for the score. Sophomore red zone quarterback Vic Virmontes joined in on the action as he forced his way into the end zone leading to a 30-0 advantage at halftime.
The Tigers let up on the offensive front in the second half by relying on their special teams play. Garibay came in clutch on two separate occasions as seen in a season-long and career-long field goal going for 47 yards. He followed his career best conversion with a 43-yard boot thus leading to a 36-6 win.
The Riverside defense held the Jaguars, who put up at least 20 points in the last three games, to a mere six points. Additionally, they held Southwestern's state-pacing rusher to a measly 79 yards on the ground. In total, Riverside halted the Jaguars to just 145 yards of offense.
Freshman safety Christian Swint paced the defensive brigade with 4.5 tackles. Freshman Jalen Bowens recorded three tackles all for a loss, while freshman defensive lineman Mitchell Agude, sophomore defensive lineman Nickolas Figueroa, and K. Fitzgerald each recorded a sack.
Riverside was electric on offense by putting up 36 points and a total of 440 yards on offense. It is the seventh time this season that the Tigers have scored 30+ points.
Smartt finished 15-for-26 through the air leading to 269 yards and a pair of passing touchdowns. Additionally, he carted the rock 16 times for 50 yards and a score.
Houston was Smartt's go-to weapon through the air as he hauled in eight grabs for 162 yards and a pair of lengthy touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Tyrone Marshall backed him with four grabs for 60 yards.
Sophomore running back Malik Walker led all tail backs with 15 carries for 63 hard-earned yards. Wimbish followed with 33 yards off eight carries.
Garibay had a career day in the kicking game highlighted by a 47-yard field goal. Furthermore, he reared back for eight punts going for 358 yards. He was clutch with his positioning as four of his punts landed inside on the 20-yard line.
Riverside (7-1, 3-0 NSL) will hit the road for a conference showdown against the Orange Coast College Pirates on Saturday, November 3 at 6 p.m.