It was a battle of top-ranked squads on Saturday night as the No. 2 Riverside City College football team played hosted to the No. 12 Saddleback College Gauchos in a contest that determined the National Southern Division champion. While boasting an undefeated record and vying for the top seed in the southern region, the Tigers fashioned a game plan that halted the Gauchos to a mere seven points which delivered Riverside their eighth conference crown in the past 10 years under Head Coach Tom Craft.
The Tigers held the Gauchos to a mere seven points marking the sixth time this season that they have held their opponent scoreless or below a double-digit total.
Riverside got off to a slow start in the early stages of the first quarter, but they quickly rallied after Saddleback handed them the ball on downs with a hair over six minutes remaining. The Tigers utilized a deadly rushing attack that began with two consecutive rushing attempts from sophomore Malik Walker that totaled 19 yards. Sophomore Quincy Wimbish handled the remainder of the carries once the Tigers broke into the red zone and capped the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown to put the Tigers up by one score leading into the second quarter.
The Riverside defense stepped up in a big way leading into the second quarter which successfully set up the Tiger offense. Sophomore cornerback Eric Wilson highlighted the efforts by recording his first sack of the season on a corner blitz forcing a Gauchos' three-and-out.
Riverside harnessed the defensive momentum and struck again early in the second quarter through the air. Sophomore quarterback Stone Smartt linked up with sophomore wide receiver Tyrone Marshall for a 49-yard touchdown to push the Tiger's lead to 14-0.
The Smartt-Marshall tandem remained in sync later in the second quarter as they connected once more in the red zone. Smartt hit Marshall on a quick route on the near sideline and let Marshall do what he does best – make people miss.
The shifty wide out went to work on his defender by juking him with ease while making two other potential tacklers miss in the process. He then casually waltzed into the end zone to push the Riverside advantage to 21-0.
Riverside fed off the defensive prowess of Wilson once again in the third quarter as rose to the occasion yet again and intercepted a pass. This pay led to Smartt connecting with freshman wide receiver Tyler Kennedy on a 68-yard touchdown reception on the ensuing drive leading to a 28-7 advantage and the victory.
Riverside ran the ball efficiently and effectively which open up the passing game. Walker paced the Tigers on the ground with 118 yards on 22 attempts, while Wimbish carted the pigskin 11 times for 54 yards and planted himself in the end zone once.
Smartt went 8-for-15 leading to 170 yards, three touchdowns and one meaningless interception. His receiving arsenal was smaller than usual, but he favored Marshall who finished with four catches for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kennedy backed him with two snags for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore linebacker Devyn Charles paced the defense with 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks leading to a loss of 16 yards. Sophomore linebacker Vic Viramontes backed him with seven tackles and one half of a sack, while Wilson was a quarterback's nightmare with two picks, a sack and six tackles.
Freshman safety Christian Swint contributed to the defensive dominance with an interception that he returned for 63 yards and a fumble recovery.
Riverside (10-0, 5-0 NSL) finishes the regular season on a flawless note and will await its playoff fate. They will receive one of the top seeds in the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California Regionals and will host the first round at home on Saturday, November 17 at 6 p.m. The opponent will be announced Sunday morning. Stay tuned to www.rccathletics.com for further information.