Football Wins Southern Regional Championships, Advances to State Championship Contest

Photo by Bobby R. Hester
Photo by Bobby R. Hester

After reaching the Southern Regional Championship for the fourth-consecutive season, the Tigers hoisted the trophy when the clock struck zero. For the first time under the direction of Head Coach Tom Craft, the top-seeded and undefeated Riverside City College football team has won the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) Regional Championship following a dominant victory over the third-seeded College of the Canyons Cougars by the final score of 68-21.  

(video edited by Dustin Le, RCC Athletics Video Production)

Carting a mark of 12-0, which is the strongest overall record in Craft's 10-year career, Riverside has reached the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship contest and will look to haul in its first state title since 1989 – exactly 30 years since the Tiger's last state championship.

Riverside (12-0) has punched its ticket to the big dance and will face off against the College of San Mateo Bulldogs (12-0). It is a goliath versus goliath battle as the two juggernauts will face off on Saturday, December 14 at Bakersfield College. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m., but is subject to change. Stay tuned to www.rccathletics.com for updates.

Riverside accomplished this by earning an even 600 yards of offense leading to the second-largest offensive output of the season. The Tigers owned an even split through the air and on the ground highlighted by a 30-point first half. Defensively, the Tigers were stout – especially when it came to shielding the run. They held the Cougars to a season-low negative six yards on the ground leading to an average of -0.2 yards-per-carry.

Freshman quarterback Jacob Barlage was one of the many catalysts to the potent offensive attack. In his fourth start under center, he finished with 309 total yards and four touchdowns on an 18-for-27 night. The majority of his damage came in the first quarter as he tossed three of his four touchdown passes in the opening 15 minutes.

Freshman wide receiver Isaiah Leeth was his go-to weapon of choice. They began by connecting for a 61-yard touchdown on the second play of the game. The duo linked up once more for a 71-yard touchdown with just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter. Leeth's second touchdown grab was the most impressive of the two as he juked a handful of Cougar defenders and shimmied his way up the near sideline for the score.

Leeth was named the RCC Player of the Game after finishing with four catches for 152 yards and a pair of scores. Freshman tight end Anthony Rodriguez's lone snag landed him in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown, while sophomore Giovanni Sanders was responsible for the fourth receiving touchdown. His score came early in the second quarter on a 35-yard connection with Barlage.

An authoritative running game was on display as seen in three different players locating the end zone. Freshman Jalen Young got the running game established with a six-yard score in the first quarter, while freshman Cameron Bausley powered his way past the goal line for a one-yard score. However, freshman quarterback Tyler Thomas was grim reaper of rushing by holding the Cougars at bay in the second half. He carried the ball 17 times for 94 yards and a late two-yard rushing touchdown.

While the offense seemed to run the show, it was the defense who landed on the thrown. For the 12th-consectuive contest, the Tigers recorded at least one turnover. Tonight, the stout unit produced two interceptions and forced two fumbles.

Two of the turnovers lead to touchdowns. The first was, to put it simply, a beast of a play. Sophomore Kobey Fitzgerald powered through the Cougar's offensive line and recorded a strip sack fumble and recovered it in the end zone for the score. The second was the final nail in the coffin as sophomore linebacker Jalen Bowens brought a 98-yard interception to the house early in the fourth quarter.

Bowen's heroics earned him the game's Most Valuable Player award. He finished with the 98-yard interception touchdown return, five tackles, two break ups and one quarterback hurry.