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Football

National Champions 1991, 1993, 1998

CALIFORNIA STATE CHAMPIONS 1991, 1993, 1998 | CONFERENCE/DIVISION CHAMPIONS 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 | POST-SEASON APPEARANCES 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011

    2013 Schedule, Results    |    2013 Roster    |    2013 Stats       |     2013 Coaches

2012 Season    |  2011 Season    |   2011 Roster     |     2011 Stats       |     2010 Stats

       |     Individual Records, Leaders (As of beginning of 2013 Season)    |   

 Palomar Football History |  Comets Currently in NFL, 4-year College Football

View, Download Images of Photos by Hugh Cox


Off-Season ...

PC adds ex-Notre Dame, Stanford coordinator

SAN MARCOS (3-03-2014) -- Head coach Joe Early has upgraded Palomar's football coaching staff by bringing in Bill Diedrick as the Comets' quarterbacks coach. Dietrick's hiring is effective immediately, which follows approval of the Palomar College board.

Diedrick has a top-flight Division I background. He was offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach at Washington State (1989-1990), the University of Washington (1994-1997), Stanford (1998-2001) and Notre Dame (2002-2004).

His Stanford offense averaged 30.4 points and 422.4 yards per game in his four seasons there, including 37.1 points and 451.5 yards in 2001 when the Cardinal ranked in the Top 10 nationally in both categories. Stanford broke a 50-year-old school record in 1999 with 409 total points, and broke a second school record with 5,138 yards of total offense.

Dietrick developed such quarterbacks as Brady Quinn, Marques Tuiasosopo, Drew Bledsoe and John Friesz. He's coached 12 quarterbacks who moved on to the NFL.

"When Bill became available, it was an opportunity we just couldn't pass up," Early said. "His resume stands on its own. I'm really looking forward to leaning on his experience, and the same goes for my brother (offensive coordinator Dan Early). This is without even mentioning what having Bill on board brings to the table in terms of developing our players, especially at the quarterback position, and in recruiting and in moving our players on."

Dietrick was a four-sport letter winner at Eastern Washington University, where he was an NAIA All-American quarterback and team MVP, and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant, coaching quarterbacks and receivers at the University of Hawaii.

THE BILL DIETRICK FILE ...

2002-2004 -- UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME, Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks

1998-2001 -- STANFORD UNIVERSITY, Offensive Coordinator-Quarterbacks (1998 -- Led Pac-10 in passing offense; 1999 -- Led Pac-10 in passing offense, total offense and scoring, Pac-10 Champions; Most prolific offense in Stanford history; 2001 -- Led Pac-10 in rushing offense, total offense and scoring

1994-97 -- UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, Offensive Coordinator-Quarterbacks (UW all-time career passing and total offense leader

1989-1990 -- WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY, Offensive Coordinator-Quarterbacks (passing offense ranked No. 1 in Pac-10; scoring offense ranked second in Pac-10 and 15th nationally)

Also ...

2008-2009 -- Indiana State University, Offensive Coordinator-Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers

2007-2008 -- Toronto Argonauts, CFL, Assistant Coach-Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers (2007 Eastern Division Champions)

2005-2006 -- Calgary Stampeders, CFL, Assistant Coach, Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers

1991-1992 -- Edmonton Eskimos, CFL, Offensive Coordinator-Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers and Running Backs (More than 8,000 yards total offense and 671 points scored, Western Division Champions, 1991)

1986-1988 -- University of Idaho, Offensive Coordinator-Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers (nationally Top 3-ranked nationally in passing offense three straight years; All-American quarterback)

1984-1885 -- Montana State University, Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator-Quarterbacks (1984 NCAA I-AA National Champions)

1982-1983 -- Whitworth College, Assistant Head Coach (led nation in passing offense and second in total offense)

1971-1981 -- High School Coach in Spokane, WA

1970-1971 -- University of Hawaii, Graduate Assistant Coach-Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers

Sylvester Hagan returns a fumble recovery 23 yards against Grossmont last Fall. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Guendling, Hagan, Hays sign as list reaches six

SAN MARCOS (3-03-2014) -- Three more 2013 Palomar football players have accepted scholarships to four-year colleges.

Defensive end Brian Guendling (Poway High School) signed with NCAA Division I Football Bowl Series Texas State.

Middle linebacker Sylvester Hagen, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore from New Albany (OH) High School, signed with Division II Missouri Southern State University. Hagen.

And tight end Brett Hays (Towson High School in Towson, MD) signed with Division II Suthwestern Oklahoma State University.

Earlier signees were kicker Jonathan Leiva (Cathedral High School in Los Angeles) with UNLV, quarterback Ryan Lamb (Oceanside High School) with Central Michigan University and middle linebacker Ofisa Kose (Vista High School), who was a sophomore on the 2012 team and sat out 2013, with Western New Mexico University.

Palomar football kicker Jonathan Leiva knocks down a field goal vs. El Camino College in Comets' 31-14 win on Sept. 7, 2013. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

PC kicker Jonathan Leiva signs with UNLV

SAN MARCOS (2-05-2014) -- Palomar football kicker Jonathan Leiva signed with UNLV on National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Leiva, who was recruited by four-year schools to walk on out of Cathedral High School in Los Angeles after his senior year, instead came to Palomar and was the Comets' kickoff specialist during the 2012 season. He was going to walk on at Sacramento State following his freshman season, but decided instead to return to Palomar in hopes of earning a full Division I scholarship.

Mission accomplished. After leading  Palomar in scoring with 43 points as a sophomore last fall, going 7-for-9 on field goals and 22-for-22 on extra points, Leiva received that scholarship on Wednesday.

Jon Halliday, who had handled the field goals and PAT's for the 2012 team, received a scholarship to the University of Utah after his redshirt freshman season, opening the door for Leiva to take over those duties in 2013 and earn his scholarship.

Leiva follows in the footsteps of these ex-Comet kickers:

Kickers: Former NFL field goal record-holder Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers, Buffalo Bills), Matt George (San Diego State,  Pittsburgh Steelers), Randy Johnson (future Major League third baseman who kicked and played baseball for San Jose State), Rick Barrios (Wisconsin), David Napier (Colorado State), Ryan Lux (Temple) and Jon Halliday (Utah)

Punters: Ron Coppess (Florida State), Bill Kushner (Boston College, Buffalo Bills), Dave Bass (Fresno State, CFL), Steve Binns (Cal Poly), Matt Kovacevich (Utah), Ryan Hotchkiss (UTEP), Britton Forrester (Arkansas) and Jake Harry (Missouri)

Palomar QB Lamb signs with Central Michigan

FBMOUNT PLEASANT, MI (2-05-2014) -- Ryan Lamb, Palomar's starting quarterback the last two seasons, signed with Central Michigan University of the MAC on Wednesday, the first NCAA National Signing Day.

Lamb, who played high school football for Oceanside after transferring from La Costa Canyon High School, will have three years of eligibility to play two seasons for the Chippewas.

He passed for 1,443 yards and 10 touchdown as a sophomore for the Comets during the 2013 season.

Central Michigan is coming off a 5-7 season in 2013. The Chippewas defeated New Hampshire, Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan, UMass and Eastern Michigan while losing to Michigan, UNLV, Toledo, North Carolina State, Ohio University, Northern Illinois and Ball State.

The Chippewas will kick off their 2014 schedule against Chattanooga at home on Aug. 28, will  play Purdue at West Layfayette, Indiana on Sept. 6, will host Syracuse on Sept. 13 and will play Kansas at Lawrence, Kansas on Sept. 20 before beginning MAC play.

Lamb plays the same position as his father, Shane Lamb, the starting quarterback for the University of Illinois to the 1984 Rose Bowl game vs. UCLA.

Jets activate Saalim Hakim from practice roster

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (12-13-2013) -- The New York Jets activated former Palomar receiver Saalim Hakim to the active roster from the practice squad on Friday.

Hakim, who never played football before arriving to Palomar, is one of the fastest players in the National Football League with a 4.28 time in the 40. He's a second-year NFL player who played in two games for the New Orleans Saints late in the 2012 season.

The Jets have three games remaining in the 2013 regular season -- at the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, home to the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 22 and at the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 29.

43 years later, Dempsey's NFL record falls

DENVER (12-08-2013) -- Exactly 43 years and one month after Palomar alumnus Tom Dempsey set an NFL record by kicking a 63-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions on the game's final play, Dempsey's mark finally fell Sunday in the thin air of mile-high Denver.

The Broncos' Matt Prater broke Dempsey's record with a 64-yarder on the final play of the first half in a game against the Tennessee Titans.

Dempsey's kick, which had been tied three times in the ensuing years, came on Nov. 8, 1970 at the old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans and lifted the New Orleans Saints to a 19-17 win over the Lions.

Dempsey (above right), born with a short right arm, a surgically-manufactured claw where his hand and fingers should have been and half of a right foot, never kicked before coming to Palomar and did not attend a four-year college. He played in the NFL from 1969 through 1979 for the Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills.

Dempsey was an inaugural inductee into the Palomar College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.

   
 

20 years ago, Comets rocked state and nation

SAN MARCOS (12-06-2013) -- Twenty years ago Thursday, Palomar's 1993 football squad traveled to the Bay Area and made history when the Comets defeated City College of San Francisco 27-25 before an overflow crowd on the Rams' field in a showdown of the two teams that had been ranked 1-2 in the country all season long.

The Comets came into the San Francisco Community College Bowl with a 10-0 record, the same as the Rams, and had survived a mid-season showdown on the road over El Camino College when quarterback Tom Luginbill hit Chris Baker with a 63-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds to give Palomar a come-from-behind victory.

Luginbill (above left) was the J.C. Grid-Wire's first-team All-American quarterback in 1993, passing for 4,044 yards and 36 touchowns in 11 games to give him 7,380 yards, a national JC record, and 60 TDs in two seasons as he guided Palomar to back-to-back 10-1 and 11-0 records. Luginbill went on to quarterback Georgia Tech, played and coached in the Arena League and is now a football analyst and commentator for ESPN. His opposing quarterback for El Camino was Steve Sarkisian, who was the Grid-Wire's All-American quarterback the following season and was named USC's 16th head coach this past Monday.

There were no state community college playoffs in 1993.

At San Francisco, the Comets jumped in front 17-0, but the Rams came back to take a late lead. Luginbill then guided Palomar on a late drive that culminated with a game-winning 21-yard field goal by Matt George, who would go on to kick for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as time expired.

Luginbill,who was inducted into the Palomar Athletic Hall of Fame in August, passed for 343 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Kevin Swayne, who went on to play three NFL seasons with the New York Jets and is an officer in the U.S. Air Force, had 13 receptions for 129 yards and one of Luginbill's touchowns.

The Grid-Wire immediately named the Comets, who finished 11-0, as Palomar's only unbeaten team in history, as national champions after the game. USA Today followed by naming Palomar its national champion as well. The national title was Palomar's second in three years.

George and safety Craig Person joined Luginbill on the Grid-Wire's All-American team.

Five players from San Francisco's 1993 team were starters in the NFL when the Comets defeated the Rams in the 1998 state championship game and won their third national title.

The head coach of the 1993 Comets was Tom Craft. His assistant coaches were current Palomar head coach Joe Early, Thom Kaumeyer, J.G. Aegerter, Steve White, Mark Eldridge, Tony Lynds, Jim Symington, Paul McGowen and Dave Bass.

Aegerter and White are assistant coaches on Early's current Palomar staff. Kaumeyer, who played an coached in the NFL, is defensive coordinator at the University of Hawaii. Eldridge coached several more seasons and is now Palomar's women's golf coach. Lynds and Symington are retired from coaching. McGowen is head football coach at Temecula Valley High School. Bass lives out of state and is a kicking instructor.

Along with Luginbill, Kaumeyer, Swayne and Lynds all have been inducted into the Palomar Hall of Fame.

Early has been Palomar's head coach since 2002. Craft is head coach at Riverside City College.

Jets add ex-Comet Hakim to practice squad

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ  (12-01-2013) -- The New York Jets have added former Palomar receiver Saalim Hakim to their practice squad.

Hakim, who has run 4.28 in the 40, was with the New Orleans Saints in the pre-season but was released prior to their regular-season opener.

He originally signed with the Dallas Cowboys prior to the 2012 season, was released, was signed by New Orleans to its practice squad, was activated on Dec. 12, 2012 and spent the remainer of the season on the active roster.

Hakim was a soccer player in high school and played organized football for the first time at Palomar. After two seasons with the Comets, he played one season with Tarleton State but has always listed Palomar as his college for the NFL. The Jets list his college as "Palomar".

He's the brother of Az-Sahir Haakim, who was a receiver and punt returner in the NFL for the Detroit Lions, the Saints, the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins.

2013 Season ...

Earvin Simmons returns a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in Palomar's 38-16 victory over Orange Coast on Sept. 28 -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Simmons is All-Southern Conference 1st team

MISSION VIEJO (11-27-2013 / REVISED 12-03-2013) -- Kick returner Earvin Simmons, a sophomore from Murrieta Valley High School, has been voted to the All-Southern Conference first team by conference coaches.

Simmons returned 22 kicksoffs for 709 yards, an average of 32.2 yards per return.

Palomar's second-team selections were receiver Anthony Mount (sophomore, Oceanside High), tight end Sam Browning (sophomore, Escondido High), linebacker Sylvester Hagen (sophomore, New Albany High in New Albany, OH), defensive back Javante O'Roy (freshman, Antelope High in Antelope, CA) and defensive end Dylan Donahue (freshman, Billings West High in Billings, MT).

Honorable mention went to defensive back Stephen Parks (sophomore, Escondido High), linebacker Sylvester Hagen (sophomore, New Albany High in New Albany, OH) and defensive tackle Joe Naotala (freshman, Army-Navy Academy).

TOP PHOTO: Palomar's Michael Taele breaks off a 30-yard run against Grossmont on Saturday night. SECOND FROM TOP: Sam Browning picks up a first down after catching a Ryan Lamb pass while the official at left tumbles to the artificial turf at Wilson Stadium. BELOW: Middle linebacker Sylvester Hagen (50) returns an interception 23 yards for the Comets' first touchdown early in the second period. He outraces the Griffins' Anthony Jackson (15). Hagen's Palmar teammate Morgan Ferguson (43) trails him  on the return. -- Photos by Hugh Cox.  View, Download Images of Photos by Hugh Cox

PC has its moments, finishes with another loss

ESCONDIDO (11-16-2013) -- Palomar had its moments in its final football game of 2013 on Saturday night, but they were too few and far between as visiting Grossmont had its way with the Comets 48-14 at Wilson Stadium.

The bottom line: Palomar lost its last six games and finished 2-8 overall, the Comets' worst season in 31 years, and 1-5 in the Southern Conference. Grossmont, which took full advantage of Palomar's numerous mistakes as William Abt passed for 331 yards, ends the regular season 5-5 (3-3 in conference) and is bowl eligible.

The big bright spot for the Comets was tight end Sam Browning, who had eight receptions for 101 yards, including a 39-yard completion, to finish with 27 catches for 280 yards in his last six games.

Middle linebacker Sylvester Hagen returned an interception 23 yards and Jermaine Carter caught a 21-yard pass from Ryan Lamb for Palomar's touchdowns.

Carter had four receptions for the game.

Earvin Simmons, returning after being sidelined with an injury, returned four kickoffs for 120 yards.

 Dylan Donahue, Javante O'Roy and Toe Amu each had eight tackles for the Comets. Donahue recorded a sack, while O'Roy broke up two passes. Stephen Parks recorded seven tackles. David Atoe contributed four pass break-ups.

GAME STATS | SEASON STATS

View, Download Images of Photos by Hugh Cox

Drew Madera (52) will start at linebacker on Saturday when the Comets try to slow down Grossmont's high-octane offense. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Palomar tries to go out with win vs. G-House

ESCONDIDO (11-15-2013) -- Palomar will attempt to close its disappointing 2013 football season with a win on Saturday when the Comets host rival Grossmont in a Southern Conference game.

Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Wilson Stadium.

Palomar comes in 2-7, 1-4 in conference and must win to avoid its worst season in 32 years. Grossmont also has had a fair share of frustrations and comes in 4-5, 2-3. The Griffins need a victory for a .500 season.

Grossmont is led by quarterback William Apt, who has put up some prolific passing numbers. He's averaging  361.1 yards per game, throwing for 3,280 yards in nine games with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

But the Griffins, who are averaging 45.2 points per game, have had progressively more trouble trying to stop opponents as the weeks have gone on.

Grossmont has lost four straight games by scores of 34-31, 43-34, 79-44 to nationally No. 2-ranked Fullerton and 53-42 last week to Saddleback.

Palomar has a five-game losing streak.

It will be the final community college game for 12 PC sophomore starters -- quarterback Ryan Lamb, running back / kick returner Jermaine Carter, receivers Anthony Mount and Josh Harris, tight ends Ryan Ena and Sam Browning, offensive tackle Michael Headrick, guard Larry McKenzie, middle linebacker Sylvester Hagen, safeties Stephen Parks and David Atoe and kick returner Aaron Mossbarger.

View, Download Images of Photos by Hugh Cox

PALOMAR GAME DAY
The Match-Up: Grossmont (4-5 season, 2-3 Southern Confesrence) at Palomar (2-7 season, 1-4 Southern Conference)
Day, Date, Time: Saturday, Nov. 15, 6 p.m.
Site: Chick Embrey Field  at Wilson Stadium, Escondido High School
Last Meeting: Palomar won 33-28 in 2012
Probable Palomar Starters
OFFENSE
PLAYER HT / WT YR HIGH SCHOOL/PREVIOUS COLLEGE
QUARTERBACK
Ryan Lamb 6-4   220 So Oceanside
RUNNING BACK
Jermaine Carter 5-7  183 So San Diego
RECEIVERS
Anthony Mount 5-6   155 So Oceanside
Josh Harris 5-6   155 So Chaparral (Temecula) / Riverside CC
TIGHT ENDS
Ryan Ena 6-6   272 So El Camino
Sam Browning 6-5   230 So Escondido
LEFT TACKLE
Michael Headrick 6-4  270 So Escondido
LEFT GARD
Larry McKenzie 6-4  315 So El Camino
CENTER
Ricky Grajeda 6-2  297 Fr Escondido
RIGHT GUARD
Eddie Grajeda 6-1  290 Fr Escondido
RIGHT TACKLE
David Zumwalt 6-6  260 Fr Mission Hills
DEFENSE
PLAYER HT / WT YR HIGH SCHOOL/PREVIOUS COLLEGE
ENDS
Dominic Darby 6-4  235 Fr Mission Hills
Ian Kelly 6-4  230 Fr Chaparral (Temecula)
TACKLES
Joe Naotala 6-2  255 Fr Army-Navy Academy
Casey Palid 6-3  250 Fr Cathedral Catholic
MIDDLE LINEBACKER
Sylvester Hagen 6-1  230 So New Albany (New Albany, Ohio)
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
Drew Madera 6-1  215 Fr Chaparral (Temecula)
Toeafua Amu 5-11 255 Fr El Camino
CORNERS
Bryan Jones 5-10 170 Fr Greak Oak (Temecula) / W New Mex.
Javante O'Roy 6-1  190 Fr Antelope (Antelope) / Sacramento CC
SAFETIES
Stephen Parks 6-0  200 So Escondido
David Atoe 6-0  195 So Rancho Bernardo / San Diego Mesa CC
SPECIAL TEAMS
PLAYER HT/WT YR HIGH SCHOOL/PREVIOUS COLLEGE
FIELD GOALS, EXTRA POINTS, KICKOFFS
Jonathan Leiva 6-0 185 So Cathedral (Los Angeles)
PUNTS
Codey Wuthrich 6-0  205 Fr La Costa Canyon
HOLDER
Aaron Mossbarger 5-10 186 So Chaparral (Escondido)
LONG SNAPPER (PAT, FIELD GOALS, PUNTS)
Jared Sargent 6-2  225 Fr Temecula Valley / University of Arizona
KICKOFF RETURNERS
Jermaine Carter 5-7  183 So San Diego
Aaron Mossbarger 5-10 186 So Chaparral (Escondido)
PUNT RETURNER
Damon Nolan 5-6  145 Fr Murrieta Valley

TOP PHOTO: The third of Anthony Mount's nine receptions against Santa Ana on Saturday was this 22-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Travis Stevens in the second quarter. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Tight end Sam Browning runs for a first down to the Dons' 16 on a 19-yard pass play from Stevens. The series ended when the Comets eventually missed a field goal. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW LEFT:  Stevens. BELOW RIGHT: Ryan Lamb, who completed 17 passes for 156 yards - View, Download Images of Photos by Hugh Cox

Mount comes up big but Comets self-destruct

SANTA ANA (11-09-2013) -- Sophomore wide receiver Anthony Mount out of Oceanside High School caught nine passes for 95 yards and Palomar's only touchdown Saturday.

But the visiting Comets self-destructed, losing a Southern Conference game 28-7 to Santa Ana, and must win their season finale next week against Grossmont to avoid their worst season in 32 years.

Travis Stevens, a true freshman from Ramona who saw his high school career blown up by a fractured leg, made his collegiate career a memorable one when he entered the game for injured starter Ryan Lamb in the second quarter.

On the first play after Lamb left the game, Stevens threw a 22-yard touchdown strike to Mount with 3 minutes, 37 seconds remaining before halftime, getting the Comets on the scoreboard after they had fallen behind 21-0. He connected on five straight completions the remainder of the half as Palomar got the ball back but was unable to score again, then started the second half.

Lamb recovered and re-entered the game on Palomar's second reception of the third quarter and played some of his best football as the Comets took the ball down to the Santa Ana 1-yard line. But they fumbled it away.

Lamb wound up completing 17-of-30 attempts for 156 yards and Stevens tacked on 64 yards. Lamb also had three first-down runs of between 7 and 12 yards when it appeared he was about to be sacked or tackled for  losses.

And Mount made exceptional plays on  a number of his nine catches, Tight end Sam Browning caught four balls  for 50 yards and those two plus Jermaine Carter, Damon Nolan, Markus Meredith, Ryan Ena and Aaron Mossbarger  all were effective picking up chunks of yardage after catches.

Middle linebacker Sylvester Hagen, Dominic Darby, Dylan Donahue and Joe Naotala led a defensive effort that allowed the Dons to originate only one scoring drive from their side of the 50.

But the Comets, who were  outgained by only 2 yards in total offense, continually shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, misplayed punts returns, short punts and penalties, leading to all four of the Dons' touchdowns.

Palomar also had its first field goal miss of the season, following a 19-yard Stevens-to-Browning pass play. Jonatha Leiva was barely right on  a 48-yard attempt.

The Comets fell to 2-7 on the season, 1-4 in conference, with their fifth straight loss. Santa Ana is 2-3.

GAME STATS | SEASON STATS

ABOVE: Palomar tight end Sam Browning hauls in the football on the first of his two touchdown catches on Saturday night at Saddleback. The play from quarterback Ryan Lamb went for 27 yards in the second quarter. Browning also had a 9-yard TD catch of a pass from Lamb in the fourth quarter and has nine receptions in the last two games. BELOW: Dominick Darby (97) and D.lan Donahue (49) combined to sack Saddleback quarterback Tim Belman -- Photo by Hugh Cox - View, Download Images of Photos by Hugh Cox

Browning's 2 TD catches 1 of few bright spots

MISSION VIEJO (11-02-2013) -- Palomar played its way out of any chance of bowl eligibility on Saturday night, losing at Saddleback 45-17, and will play its last two games for pride.

The brightest spot for the Comets on a forgettable evening was provided by tight end Sam Browning, who caught touchdown passes of 27 yards and 9 yards from quarterback Ryan Lamb. Browning had three catches on the night for 44 yards and has nine receptions in the last two games.

Palomar's other five points came courtesy of Jonathan Leiva, who kicked a 21-yard field goal and two extra points. Leiva remains perfect on the season on both PATs (19-for-19) and field goals (7-for-7).

Already playing without their dangerous kick returner and all purpose yardage leader Earvin Simmons due to an injury, the Comets lost their leading season rusher, Justin Harris, to a shoulder injury on his second touch of the game. And things got worse from there. He was shortly followed to the sideline by their second leading rusher, Michael Taele and other assorted teammates.

Back on the field, things weren't going much better as the Gauchos jumped in front 21-0 before Browning's first touchdown catch, led 21-10 at halftime, missing two opportunities to score in the red zone, and then tacked on 17 unanswered points in another nightmare third quarter.

One week ago, the Comets trailed nationally No. 2-ranked Fullerton by only 17-13 at halftime but were outscored 21-0 in the third quarter and lost to the Hornets 45-20. Fullerton turned around and rolled to a 79-44 rout over Grossmont on Saturday night.

But Saddleback, which was 3-4 entering Saturday's game, is definitely not Fullerton.

Jermaine Carter stepped in for injured players and ran the ball for 64 yards on 11 attempts, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and returned three kickoffs for 111 yards. That included a 55-yarder to the Saddleback 25 that set up Lamb's first touchdown pass to Browning. Aaron Mossbarger filled in with 11 tough carries and had two kickoff returns for 59 yards.

Lamb passed for 136 yards and two TDs and ran for an additional 48 positive yards to overcome 15 yards in sacks. Josh Harris caught four passes, Anthony Mount three and Ryan Ena two. Joe Kanahele made a spectacular 9-yard reception when he held onto the ball despite an vicious illegal hit. But he also exited with an injury.

Palomar took the ball from its own 17 to the Saddleback 1-yard line on a 17-play drive just before halftime but had to settle for Leiva's field goal. And Codey Wuthrich, who two punts inside the 20-yard line, pinned the Gauchos at their own 3-yard line with a 39-yarder, but the Comets were unable to take advantage of great field position.

On the defensive side of the ball, Lernando Zapante intercepted a pass and Javante O'Roy recovered a fumbled kickoff return. Dylan Donahue had 11 tackles, two for losses, and had a half-sack. Sylvester Hagan also had 11 tackles, one for a loss. And Stephen Parks had 10 tackles.

Yet Saddleback quarterback Tim Belman, who came into the game averaging 408 yards passing, was 33-for-46 for 372 yards and five touchdowns, with his receivers giving him most of those yards as he threw primarily into the flats and delivered the ball on short routes. Along the way, he broke the national community college career record for attempts.

The loss guarantees that Palomar (2-6, 1-3 in the Southern Conference) will wind up with its first losing season since 2005 and only its third losing season in 26 years. The Comets will try to regain some lost pride and attempt to finish 4-6 and 3-3 in conference by beating Santa Ana next Saturday afternoon on the road and Grossmont to finish the season on Saturday night, Nov. 9 in Escondido.

GAME STATS

 

ABOVE: Palomar tight end Sam Browning heads for a first down on a 14-yard pass play from Ryan Lamb. Browning, who had six receptions, accelerated past Fullerton's Jordan Kessen (41) on the play. BELOW LEFT: Palomar's Damon Nolan returns a punt 62 yards from his own 18-yard line to the Fullerton 20 in the fourth quarter. The return led to a 4-yard touchdown by Aaron Mossbarger. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW RIGHT: Safety Stephen Parks, who had 11 tackles for the Comets - View, Download Images of Photos by Hugh Cox

PC hangs with National No. 3 Hornets for a half

ESCONDIDO (10-26-2013) -- Palomar's hopes of upsetting the J.C. Grid-Wire's nationally No. 3-ranked team, Fullerton College, lasted for a little over two quarters on Saturday afternoon.

Fullerton (7-0, 3-0 in the Southern Conference), leading 17-13 at the half, took advantage of a blocked punt early in the the third quarter to stretch its lead to 11 points. The Hornets then blew the game open with a 21-0 run in the quarter and went on to down the Comets 45-20 at Wilson Stadium.

The Comets received the kickoff to start the second half but after a short first-down pass and three quick incomplete passes, were forced to punt just 90 seconds into the third quarter.

The kick was partially blocked by Alejandro Morenco, who went crashing into Palomar punter Juan Soto, knocking him out of the game. The punt went 9 yards and Lavorrie Johnson, a sophomore from Tallahassee, FL, rambled 40 yards up the middle for a touchdown, which ignited the Hornets' third-quarter run.

Fullerton led 10-0 after one quarter but the Comets came back to score 13 points in the second period and closed the gap to four points at halftime.

Quarterback Ryan Lamb completed four passes for 45 yards, two of them to tight end Sam Browning, as Palomar drove 73 yards to get on the board midway through the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Justin Harris. Jonathan Leiva's first of two extra-point kicks narrowed the Fullerton lead to 10-7.

The Hornets went back up by 10 points, at 17-10, 2 1/2 minutes later before leiva's 21-yard and 32-yard field goals enabled Palolmar (2-5,1-2) to close to 17-13 at the half. That was as close as the Comets could get.

Aaron Mossbarger tallied the Comets' second touchdown from 4 yards out with 5:28 left in the game.

Some additional positives for Palomar included Lamb's 179 yards passing; six receptions by Browning; a 90-yard kickoff return by Earvin Simmons to the Fullerton 5-yard line, when the Comets had to settle for a Leiva field goal; a diving catch by Anthony Mount for a first down; three punt returns for 89 yards by Damon Nolan, includiing a 62-yarder from his own 18-yard line to the Hornets' 20 to set up Mossbarger's TD; and, on defense, 11 tackles by Stephen Parks, nine tackles by Javante O'Roy and sacks by Bryan Jones, Brian Guendling returning from the injury list, Ian Kelly and Joe Nautala.

The Comets turned the ball over on two interceptions fourth-quarter interceptions, one on an attempted pass to a wide-open Browning in the right corner of the end zone and the other which was returned for a 32-yard touchdown, and a lost fumble that led to another Fullerton TD.

Palomar also came up short on a fake punt on a fourth-and-1 situation from its own 34-yard line that led to yet another tourchdown by the Hornets.

GAME STATS | SEASON STATS

ABOVE: Mike Headrick (69), pass blocking here for quarterback Ryan Lamb (13) against Cerritos two weeks ago, will be at left tackle Saturday afternoon when Palomar hosts nationally No. 3-ranked Fullerton at Wilson Stadium in Escondido. Running back Michael Taele (32) is at right. BELOW: Middle linebacker Sylvester Hagen

PC hosts nation's No. 3 team Saturday at 1 p.m.

ESCONDIDO (10-25-2013) -- It was 1967, just eight months after the Packers had defeated the Chiefs in Super Bowl I at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was still 24 years before Palomar would win its first of three national championships and the Comets lined up to play Arizona Western in what was up until that time the biggest game in the college's history.

The Matadores came in ranked No. 2 in the nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire. "We have an opportunity to do something great," Palomar coach Mack Wiebe said.

 No one gave the Comets any kind of chance. But Palomar stunned the JC football world with an astounding 7-6 upset victory.

On Saturday, 46 years later, the Comets find themselves in the same situation as they prepare to host Fullerton at Escondido's Wilson Stadium in a rare day game at 1 p.m.

The Hornets come in in 6-0 and ranked No. 3 nationally by the Grid-Wire, and are fresh from victories over then No. 2-ranked Riverside City College two weeks ago and Saddleback last week. Identical to the Arizona Western game of nearly a half-century ago, no one gives Palomar, which is 2-4, any kind of chance. In Wiebe's words from far back in the day, the Comets "have an opportunity to do something great."

Fullerton is chasing three titles -- the Southern Conference championship, the Southern California title, the state title and the mythical national championship. In the national title chase, the Hornets are looking up at No. 1-ranked East Mississippi, which is 9-0 and has snuffed those nine opponents by an average score of 65-4, and a Georgia Military team that also is 9-0 and is basically considered a farm club for the University of Georgia. Butte College from Oroville in Northern California, the alma mater of Aaron Rogers, sits right behind the Hornets at No. 4 in the nation.

 It is likely the Hornets consider the Comets, who have self-destructed for most of the season, nothing more than a bump in the road. Or, more likely, roadkill.

Yet, with an upset win Palomar would be 2-1 in the Southern Conference and, depending on what nationally No. 16-ranked Golden West does in its last three regular-season games against Santa Ana, rival Orange Coast and No. 20 Saddleback, the Comets could wind up in charge of their own destiny in the conference.

That's with a win. With a loss Saturday, Palomar would be 2-5 on the season and, basically, toast.

Fullerton is led by quarterback Jose Escobar, reigning Southern Conference Offenstve Co-Player of the Week, receiver Eli Pleasant, the other conference Offensive Co-Player of the Week, and corner Antoine Turner, the conference Defensive Player of the Week.

Escobar has led the Hornets to their back-to-back, late fourth-quarter wins over Riverside 38-36 and Saddleback 48-44 the last two weeks. Escobar beat the Gauchos last week by passing for 447 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner to Pleasant on a 92-yard play with 1:47 remaining. Turner's interception sealed the victory with 1:16 to play.

This came after Escobar threw for 389 yards and the game-winner, an 18-yarder to Ryan Longoria, with 26 seconds left to beat Riverside the previous week.

Palomar safety Stephen Parks leads the Southern Conference in tackles with 8.5 per game.

Catching Fullerton's attention as the Hornets try to jump East Mississippi and Georgia Military in the national rankings: East Mississippi has beaten the opponents who make up a less-than-stellar schedule 49-6, 59-0, 69-0, 70-0, 90-7, 55-0, 59-0, 79-7 and 59-13 on Thursday night. The Georgia Military Academy Bulldogs' victims include the Atlanta Sports Academy 51-7 and the Georgia Prep Sports Academy 67-16 last week -- a commentary on the diference between California community college football and what the NJCAA (made up of non-California schools) has become.

ABOVE: Palomar's Ryan Lamb sets up a 36-yard field goal by Jonathan Leiva with 8 seconds left in the first half with this 30-yard quarterback keeper down to the Cerritos 9-yard line. BELOW LEFT: With the help of Michael Taele (32) and Drew Madera (52), Earvin Simmons jump-starts what eventually turned out to be an unsuccesful Palomar drive with a 35-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW RIGHT: Codey Wuthrich, who continually pinned the Falcons deep in their own territory with his punting.

Palomar is unable to lift this 245-pound Penny

NORWALK (10-12-2013) -- On a night the defense was outstanding before tiring in the second half, the offense re-discovered its passing game and freshman Codey Wuthridge put on a punting clinic, Cerritos' 6-foot-2, 245-pound running back Elijhaa Penny was too big of a load for Palomar to handle Saturday.

Penny rushed for 262 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Falcons to a 23-10 non-conference victory over the Comets.

Penny, a transfer from College of the Sequoias who was recruited by schools throughout the then-Pac-10 Conference out of Norwalk High School, scored on a 1-yard run to give Cerritos a 7-3 halftime lead, then added TDs of 31 and 2 yards in the second half.

The Comets stayed within range of the bigger, more physical Falcons thanks to their defensive play, Wuthrich's punting, Jonathan Leiva's 36-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining in the first half and a third-quarter drive that resulted in Justin Harris' 8-yard touchdown run.

And they were still in the game when Aaron Williams picked off a deflected Ryan Lamb pass at the Cerritos 21 -yard line with 3:12 remaining in the game. The ball deflected off another of players' hands before Lamb, attempting to prevent the interception, jumped up and tried to knock it to the ground with a volleyball spike.

Instead of landing harmlessly on the turf, the ball settled in the hands of Williams, who was diving on the turf, handing him the interception. That basically finished off the Comets.

Lamb completed four passes to Anthony Mount for 42 yards, four passes to Ryan Ena, three passes to Sam Browning and three to Earvin Simmons as the Comets moved the ball through the air with increasing frequency following a defensive struggle back and forth for almost the entire first half.

Wuthrich, who came to Palomar from La Costa Canyon High School, had a long punt of 51 yards and pinned Cerritos inside its own 20 four times, within the 15-yard line three times. Earvin Simmons also continually gave the Comets good field position by returning kickoffs 28, 27, 27 and 35 yards.

Corner Bryan Jones (11 tackles, 8 solo, 2 pass break-ups), safety David Atoe (10 tackles, 8 solo) and ends Dominic Darby (10 tackles) and Dylan Donahue (9 tackles, 2  sacks, 3 tackles for losses) led a strong effort by the defense as the Comets continued to battle down to the wire. Linebacker Sylvester Hagen also recorded 9 tackles.

"I was really happy to see how we battled them that team throughout the game," coach Joe Early said.

Cerritos, which has lost only to the nation's sixth- and seventh-ranked teams advanced to 3-2, while Palomar is now 2-4 against one of the nation's most difficult schedules.

After a bye next week, the Comets will return to Southern Conference action in two weeks against red-hot Fullerton on Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. at Escondido High School's Wilson Stadium. The Hornets, the nation's seventh-ranked community college team, advanced to 6-0 by upsetting nationally No. 2-ranked Riverside City College 38-36 on Saturday.

Palomar will try to go 2-1 in conference with an upset win.

GAME STATS | SEASON STATS

ABOVE: Jonathan Leiva splits the uprights on a 48-yard field goal last week vs. Golden West. The distance was adjusted from 47 yards to 48 yards after review of the game video. Leiva is perfect for the season both on field goals and extra points as the Comets prepare to play Cerritos on the road on Saturday night. -- Photo by Stephen Davis. BELOW: David Atoe, who will return to the Palomar lineup at safety after missing last week's game due to illness

PC tries to play back to El Camino performance

NORWALK (10-11-2013) -- Palomar has traditionally played well against Cerritos College on the road, which is a good thing as the Comets try to even their season record at 3-3 on Saturday at Falcon Stadium. Kickoff for the SCFA National Division cross-division game will be at 7 p.m.

The Comets have been unable to play back to the performance they delivered in a season-opening 31-14 victory over El Camino, the only game the Warriors have lost this season.

But Palomar had better be able to do exactly that Saturday night. The Falcons come in 2-2, but have lost only to Fullerton, ranked No. 7 in the nation by both the JCGridwire / JCFootball.com of Seattle and JCGridiron.com of Lake Forest, CA., and Mt. SAC, which is ranked No. 6 nationally. In its other two games, Cerritos routed Los Angeles Harbor 50-19 in its opener and Pasadena City College 30-5 last week to open its Northern Conference season.

Throw out a 38-16 win over struggling Orange Coast two weeks ago, and Palomar's opponents so far have a combined record of 17-3 -- El Camino (4-1), Riverside City College (5-0), Southwestern (4-1) and Golden West (4-1). Coming up in two weeks, after a bye next week: a home game vs. Fullerton (5-0).

Riverside remains ranked No. 2 in the nation by the JCGridwire and JCGridiron.com but will have trouble catching No. 1 East Mississippi, at least until, and if, the Lions play some tougher opponents. The Lions are 6-0 with wins by scores of 49-6, 59-0, 69-0, 70-0, 90-7 and 55-0.

Rankings and East Mississippi's somewhat questionable schedule aside though, the Comets have their own situation to worry about as they try to turn their season back around against another tough opponent.

If Saturday's game is close, Palomar has a very large weapon in a small package. Sophomore Jonathan Leiva out of Cathedral High School in Los Angeles not only has a live leg but is among the Comets' most consistent kickers ever. He split the uprights on a 48-yard field goal last week vs. Golden West (adjusted from 47 yards after a video review) and is perfect on the season on both field goals (3-for-3) and extra points (14-for-14).

The Comets will get a boost Saturday evening with the return to the starting line-up of David Atoe at safety. He missed the Golden West game due to illness.

But Palomar can't seem to catch a break in the injury and illness department. The Comets get a player (in this case Atoe) back but lose another starter at the same time. Starting tackle David Zumwalt left the Golden West game with an leg injury and will miss Saturday's game.

Zumwalt will be replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Tyler Wagoner.

ABOVE: Garrett Fiehler runs past Golden West's Freddie Mora on Saturday night. Fiehler, a freshman from Valley Center High School, scored the Comets' lone touchdown. -- Photo by Stephen Davis. BELOW:  Bryan Jones, who intercepted a Golden West pass in the third quarter and returned it 21 yards to put Palomar in scoring position at the Rustlers' 37-yard line. The Comets took the ball down to the Golden West 7 but the drive ended with an interception at the 1.

PC takes a step backwards vs. No. 24 Rustlers

COSTA MESA (10-05-2013) -- Palomar, which took a step forward one week earlier when it kicked off Southern Conference play with a victory over Orange Coast, turned around and took a step back on Saturday night.

The Comets never were in the game as they suffered a rare loss to Golden West 42-10 at Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium. The Rustlers, ranked No. 24 in the nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire / JCFootball.com of Seattle and No.  25 by JCGridiron.com of Lake Forest, CA, jumped on Palomar early as they advanced to 4-1 on the season, 1-1 in the conference.

Golden West's only loss came last week by a touchdown to nationally eighth-ranked Fullerton after the Rustlers jumped on top 17-0 in a battle of unbeaten teams and still led with under four minutes left in the game.

Quarterback Chris d'Entremont came up big for Golden West vs. the Comets as he passed for four touchdowns and ran for one TD.

The Rustlers led 28-0 in the second quarter when sophomore kicker Jonathan Leiva got the Comets on the scoreboard with a 47-yard field goal with 7:14 showing on the scoreboard clock. Freshman running back Garrett Fiehler ran 16 yards to score the Palomar touchdown with 2:49 to play in the fourth quarter. Leiva's PAT after Fiehler's TD kept him perfect on the season through the first five games.

Fiehler rushed for 31 yards, Earvin Simmons for 25 yards and Michael Taele for 14 yards as the Comets drove 71 yards on 15 plays to score the TD. Quarterack Ryan Lamb completed two passes during the drive, to Brett Hays for 4 yards and Jalah Patten for 7 yards. Palomar unsuccessfully went for an on-side kick after the touchdown.

The Comets, who had 20 first downs to Golden West's 22 and ran off 77 offensive plays to the Rustlers' 58 plays, threw away scoring opportunities all evening long in a game that played out much closer than the score would indicated save five Palomar turnovers and additional missed opportunities deep in Golden West territory.

In the third quarter, the Comets threatened after Bryan Jones intercepted a d'Entremont pass and returned it 21 yards to Golden West's 37. But the Rustlers' Nate Simon in turn intercepted the ball at the 1-yard line as Lamb attempted to hit tight end Ryan Ena just inside the goal line in the right front corner of the end zone.

Lamb completed 15 passes, including four to wide receiver Anthony Mount for 61 yards, three to tight end Sam Browning, three to Ena and two to Taele.

Simmons had 123 all-purpose yards, 102 of them on three kickoff returns. Taele added 72 all-purpose yards, 50 of them on two kickoff returns.

Along with his interception, Jones led Palomar with nine tackles (six solo). He also broke up two passes. Joe Naotala and Anthony Lira recovered Golden West fumbles, after forced fumbles by Lira and Drew amadera. Dominic Darby contributed the only sack of d'Entremont.

The Rustlers continually passed the football to the opposite side of where safety Stephen Parks was lined up.

Things won't get any easier for the Comets next week when they travel to Cerritos, a 30-5 winner Saturday night over Pasadena City College, for a 7 p.m. game.

How the Comets and Falcons match up may just depend on which Palomar team shows up.

The Comets are 2-3 on the season and 1-1 in conference.

GAME STATS | SEASON STATS

Donahue, Simmons named Players of the Week

LONG BEACH (10-01-2013) -- Palomar's Dylan Donahue and Earvin Simmons have been honored as Defensive Player of the Week and All Purpose/Special Teams Player of the Week, respectively, by the Southern Conference.

Donahue (left), a 6-foot-3, 235-pound freshman defensive end from Billings West High School in Billings, Montana, recorded 8 tackles (all solo), 4 sacks for 23 yards, 5 tackles for losses for 28 yards and 2 quarterback hurries in the Comets' 38-16 win over Orange Coast on Saturday night.

Simmons (right), a 5-foot-7, 170 pound sophomore running back from Murrieta Valley High School, returned three kickoffs for 156 yards against the Pirates, including a 95-yard touchdown return that blew the game open in the fourth quarter. It was the fourth-longest kickoff return in Palomar history.

The Offensive Player of the Week was Grossmont running back Treyous Jarrells from Lake Mary High School in Seminole County, Florida. Jarrells rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in a 39-35 win over Santa Ana.

ABOVE: Earvin Simmons returns a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown for the Comets in the fourth quarter Saturday night. It was the fourth longest kickoff return in Palomar history. Only Nakoa McElrath (100 yards vs. Fullerton in 1997), Chris Cash (99 yards vs. Pasadena City College in 1999) and current head coach Joe Early (98 yards vs. Orange Coast in 1979) have longer returns on the books. BELOW: Javante O'Roy prevents a possible OCC touchdown in the closing seconds, knocking down a fourth-down pass intended for D.J. McFadden on a play from the Palomar 20 with 35 seconds left in the game. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Comets jump out fast in Southern Conference

ESCONDIDO (9-28-2013) -- Palomar wasted no time jumping out fast in the Southern Conference on Saturday night at Wilson Stadium, pounding Orange Coast 38-16 to begin the conference season.

Justin Harris rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown, Mike Taele rushed for 96 yards and two TDs and Earvin Simmons returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown as the Comets (2-2, 1-0 in conference) had their way with the Pirates.

The Palomar defensive unit also dominated the visitors, limiting them to one touchdown and three field goals by Griff Amies.

Linebacker Toe Amu (12 tackles, 6 solo, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 broken-up pass, 1 quarterback hurry) and end Dylan Donahue (8 tackles, 8 solo, 4 sacks, 5 tackles for losses, 2 quarterback hurries) made the evening long and miserable for quarterbacks Jon Newsom and Jack Foster and their Orange Coast offensive teammates.

The Comets sacked Newsom and Foster 14 times for 54 yards in losses, while Palomar's young offensive line kept quarterback Ryan Lamb from being sacked all night.

Safety Stephen Parks (8 tackles, 6 solo, one-half sack, 1.5 tackles for losses), cornerback Javante O'Roy (8 tackles, 4 solo, 1 broken up pass, one-half tackle for loss), Domic Darby, Casey Palid and Austin Wolff also had their hand in the onslaught of sacks and 12.5 tackles for losses.

Palomar jumped on top right at the beginning of the game, scoring twice in the first eight minutes on a 1-yard run by Harris, a 27-yard run by Taele and the first two of five extra points by Jonathan Leiva. Harris carried the ball seven straight times on the opening drive and 25 times on the night.

Orange Coast scored with five minutes remaining in the first quarter, but the Comets answered back on a 21-yard Lamb-to-Anthony Mount touchdown pass early in the second period.

After a series of three field goals by Coast's Amies and a 33-yarder by Leiva made it Comets 24, Pirates 16 with 5:06 left in the game, Palomar answered with two late touchdowns to turn the contest into a blowout.

Simmons returned the kickoff following Amies' third and final field goal 85 yards for the Comets' fourth touchdown of the evening with 4:53 remaining and, after back-to-back sacks by Donahue and Palid forced Coast to punt for the seventh time, Taele tacked on the final score of the night on a 38-yard run.

Simmons' return was the fourth longest in Palomar history.

Nakoa McElrath, who later played for Washington State and the Seattle Seahawks, set the Comets' record with a 100-yard return against Fullerton in 1997.

Chris Cash, who later played for USC and in the NFL for the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, had a 99-yard return vs. Pasadena City College in 1999.

And current Comet coach Joe Early, who went on to Long Beach State, had a 98-yard return against Orange Coast in 1979.

GAME STATS

ABOVE: Palomar corner Javante O'Roy looks the ball into his hands as he intercepts a pass at Comets' 13-yard line against Southwestern on Saturday night. O'Roy returned it 87 yards for a second-quarter touchdown. Teammate Stephen Parks (47) comes in on the play from the left of the picture. The Jaguars' Blake Wilson is on the ground. BELOW: Tight end Ryan Ena jumps up to catch an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Lamb with 11 seconds to play in the first half. David Clark (5) futally tries to prevent the TD by grabbing Ena's jersey. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Comets lose to Jaguars for first time since 1988

CHULA VISTA (9-22-2013) -- For the first time since 1988, when current offensive coordinator Dan Early was a star freshman linebacker for the Comets,  Palomar lost to neighboring Southwestern on Saturday evening.

The Jaguars, trailing by four points, scored the winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to hold off the Comets 31-28 in a non-conference game that was played at Olympian High School as Southwestern's stadium undergoes renovation.

Palomar had taken a 28-24 lead on Michael Taele's 3-yard run for his second touchdown of the night with 10:23 to play.

Southwestern dominated the game statistically, running off 106 plays from scrimmage for 574 yards in total offense compared with 68 plays for Palomar. But the Comets turned the momentum in the game around after falling behind 21-7 late in the first half.

 Tight end Ryan Ena leaped in the air in the corner of the end zone to catch an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Lamb with 11 seconds left in the half to cut the Jaguars' lead to 21-14. Then, midway through the third quarter, Taele ran 5 yards for his first TD of the night to tie the game at 21-21.

After a 25-yard field goal by Southwestern's Van Saben put the Jaguars back on top 24-21, the Comets lauched another drive behind the running of Justin Harris and Taele to go back in front by 4 points early in the final period on Taele's second touchdown.

At that point, Southwestern navagated down the field to tally what turned out to be the winning TD on a 10-yard keeper by freshman quarterback Frank Foster with 8:42 showing on the scoreboard clock. Foster was the difference in the game, also passing 328 yards and three touchdowns.

Palomar threatened twice after Foster's run, but an interception by the Jaguars' Marcus Harris, his second of the game, short-circuited the first drive, and a sack and incomplete pass in the final seconds sealed the Comets' fate after the they hurried down the field to the Southwestern 36-yard line.

Cornerback Javante O'Roy, who had a 101-yard interception return to help beat El Camino two weeks ago, had another pick-six to get the Comets on the scoreboard 1 minute, 18 seconds into the second quarter, when Southwestern led 14-0. O'Roy returned this interception 87 yards.

While transfer running back Cedrick Agyeman rushed for 120 yards for the Jaguars, Harris had almost as good a night for the Comets, battling for 101 hard-earned positive yards and 96 net yards, including a 27-yard run to help set up a touchdown.

Taele added 51 yards and his two TDs on nine carries, and Jonathan Leiva split the uprights on Palomar's four extra-point attempts.

The Comets utilized their tight ends more. Along with Ena's touchdown catch, Sam Browning made two first-half catches for 13 and 21 yards which helped keep Palomar in the game.

Stephen Parks (15 tackles, 11 solo), Dylan Donahue (11 tackles) and Toeafua Amu (10 tackles) all were in double figures for the Comets' defensive unit. Brian Guendling violently forced a fumble, which Donahue recovered.

The Comets, who are pretty well banged up physically, will have no time to feel sorry for themselves as they try to go 2-2 on the season when the they host Orange Coast in their Southern Conference opener next Saturday night at Wilson Stadium in Escondido.

GAME STATS

Palomar freshman Damon Nolan breaks into the open on this 36-yard punt return in the fourth quarter against Riverside City College on Saturday night at Escondido's Wilson Stadium. He was finally brought down on a touchdown-saving tackle. It was one of the few bright spots for the Comets.-- Photo by Hugh Cox

Nationally No. 2-ranked RCC has way with PC

ESCONDIDO (9-14-2013) -- Riverside City College, ranked No. 2 in the nation by JCGridiron.com of Lake Forest, CA and No. 4 in the nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire / JCFootball.com of Seattle, rolled into town Saturday night and handed Palomar a rare shutout 41-0.

It was difficult to tell how much of the rout was due to the strength of the Tigers and how much was made possible by a lackluster showing by the Comets, who were unable to ever get untracked on either side of the ball.

 But the bottom line is that Riverside, under former PC coach Tom Craft, is now 2-0 while Palomar is 1-1 going into their first road game of 2013 next Saturday evening against Southwestern at Olympian High School.

Continually going for first downs on fourth-down plays, the Tigers took a little under 9 minutes to get on the scoreboard, on a 1-yard run by Anthony Knight, but then continued to methodically add on to their point toal on a 2-yard run by Knight, a 3-yard pass from Scyler Howard to Harold Mobley, Devon Blackmon's 98-yard kickoff return to open the second half, a 20-yard Howard-to-Blackmon pass and two field goals and five extra points by Luke Voss.

Palomar, meanwhile, never seriously threatened, although it took an open-field tackle to stop Damon Nolan from returning a fourth-quarter punt for a touchdown. He was brought down by the only player between him and the goal line at the end of a 36-yard return.

Receiver Anthony Mount made a spectacular diving catch on a 46-yard pass play from quarterback Ryan Lamb which appeared to get the Comets untracked midway through the first half. But Palomar couldn't build on the play to achieve any kind of momentum.

The Comets' other highlights, which were few and far between, included kickoff returns of 31 and 26 yards by Justin Harris, two 28-yard kickoff returns by Jermaine Carter and a series of big-time hits by Morgan Ferguson, Stephen Parks and Junior Tau.

Palomar came into the game ranked 23rd nationally by the Grid-Wire and 26th in the nation by JCGridiron.com.

GAME STATS

Palomar's Jonathan Leiva, the Southern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week, splits the uprights out of Aaron Mossbarger's hold on the field goal that brought the final score in Saturday's game to Palomar 31, El Camino 14. Blocking at the right side of the photo are Sam Browning (81) and Ryan Ena (85, almost entirely hidden). -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Leiva conference Special Teams Player of Week

LONG BEACH (9-10-2013) -- Palomar kicker Jonathan Leiva has been named Southern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week by the Southern California Football Association.

Leiva, a sophomore out of Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, opened the season in style in the Comets' 31-14 victory over El Camino College on Saturday. He was 4-for-4 on PATs, kicked a 23-yard field goal in the fourth quarter in his only attempt of the night and averaged 64.0 yards on five kickoffs, with two touchbacks.

The conference's Offensive Player of the Week was Grossmont quarterback William Apt, who threw seven touchdown passes, all in the first half, as the Griffins had their way in a 65-14 victory over College of the Desert. The Defensive Player of the week was Saddleback cornerback Laq Middleton, who intercepted three passes in the Gauchos' 44-20 win over Mt. SAC.

ABOVE: Javante O'Roy intercepts a pass in the end zone and returns it 101 yards for a touchdown Saturday night as Palomar opens its football season with a 31-14 win over visiting El Camino College. BELOW LEFT: Anthony Mount looks the ball into his hands on a 26-yard yard touchdown pass from Ryan Lamb. --  Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW RIGHT: Justin Harris, who made his community college debut by rushing for 105 yards on 22 yards.

Harris debuts with 105 yds; Parks comes up big

ESCONDIDO (9-07-2013) -- Palomar kicked off its 2013 football season with a 31-14 non-conference victory over long-time rival El Camino College on Friday behind some huge performances by Justin Harris and Stephen Parks and a record interception return by transfer Javante O'Roy.

Harris, who rushed for 1,544 yards and 19 touchdowns for Temecula Chaparral High School last season, made his community college debut a memorable one, pounding the Warriors' defense for 105 yards on 22 carries.

Parks, the Comets' returning all-conference safety, was all over the field with 12 tackles (10 solo), a tackle for loss, two pass break-ups and an interception in the end zone on the final play of the first half playing on his old high school field at Escondido High's Wilson Stadium.

And O'Roy, a transfer from Sacramento City College, electrified the stadium when he intercepted a pass thrown by El Camino's Cole Webb and returned it 101 yards for the touchdown that broke the game open at 28-14 with 9:42 remaining in the third quarter.

O'Roy's return broke Tevin McCaskill's Palomar record of 98 yards that sealed an upset 31-17 victory at Cerritos in a playoff game in 2009, when the Comets reached the Southern California championship game. In addition, O'Roy's return also bumped Bill Jaroncyk, whose 93-yard pick-6 back in 1965 sparked Palomar to a 27-0 victory over previously unbeaten San Diego Mesa, to third on the Comets' all-time list. Jaroncyk, who was inducted into the Palomar Athletic Hall of Fame just two weeks ago, helped lead USC to the 1967 national championship.

Back on the field Saturday night,  sophomore tight end Ryan Ena made one of the most spectacular catches in Palomar history on the receiving end of Ryan Lamb's 23-yard pass -- and Lamb opened his sophomore season by connecting on 17 of 34 pass attempts, with only one interception, for 253 yards and three touchdowns.

Lamb hooked up with running back Jermaine Carter on a 42-yard pass play just 2 minutes, 18 seconds into the game for the Comets' first points of the season. After El Camino tied the game 7-7, Just 1 minute, 59 seconds later, Lamb then connected with Anthony Mount, Palomar's 2012 Offensive Player of the Year, on a 26-yard touchdown play that put the Comets back in front 14-7 with just over 5 minutes left in the first quarter.

El Camino tied the game again early in the second period, but Lamb again put Palomar in the lead 21-14 on an 18-yard pass to tight end Brett Hays in the south end zone. That's the way it stood until O'Roy's 101-yard return to begin the second half made it 28-14 and broke the Warriors' backs.

Jonathan Leiva, who also was 4-for-4 on extra points and averaged 64 yards on five kickoffs, added a 23-yard chip-shot field goal with 23 seconds left in the game and ended the evening's scoring. This, as the Comets' defensive unit shut out the Warriors over the game's final 35 1/2 minutes.

Leiva's kickoffs produced two touchbacks and he reached the goal line on all but one of his kickoffs.

Carter contributed 123 all-purpose yards, Mount had five catches for 76 yards, and Ena and Josh Harris each had three receptions. Punters Juan Soto and Codey Wuthrich pinned El Camino inside its 20-yard line four times between them. And Bryan Jones, David Atoe and Dylan Donahue combined for 17 tackles. Brian Guendling had the only sack of Webb, the Warriors' elusive quarterback.

However the victory did not come without an immense price. Justin Garcia suffered a fractured tibia and fibula with 13:54 remaining in the fourth quarter when he and two El Camino defenders landed on a play at the Warriors' 20-yard line. After a lengthy delay on the field, Garcia was transported by ambulance to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido.

The game ended the season for Garcia, one of four top tight end prospects for the Comets, who already was playing in the game with a fractured wrist. It also may have ended his football career

Next up for the Comets: one-time Palomar coach Tom Craft's Riverside City College Tigers, a come-from-behind 59-41 winner over Ventura on Saturday night, next Saturday evening back at Wilson Stadium.

GAME STATS

Off-Season News

Comets' 2012 center Villanueva to Sac State

SACRAMENTO (8-20-2013) -- David Villanuva, the starting center for Palomar's 2012 football team, has transferred to Sacramento State and is playing for the Hornets.

Villanueva, a 6-foot-2, 310-pound junior who came to Palomar from Escondido High School, and his Sacramento State teammates have a little over a week before kicking off the season at San Jose State a week from Thursday, on Aug. 29. The following Thursday, on Sept. 5, the Hornets play on the road against Arizona State.

Also, offensive tackle Nate Devan de-committed from Fresno State and is at NCAA Division II Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

FOOTBALL (14) -- K Jon Halliday (Brighton HS, Brighton, UT) -- University of Utah / OG Doug Saeks (Westview, Portland, OR) -- UNLV / OT Nate Devan (Temecula Chaparral) -- Midwestern State (TX) / C David Villanueva (Escondido) -- Sacramento State -- OT Kolby Drew (Rancho Buena Vista) -- Fresno State / OG A.J. Kaplan (Faith Lutheran, Las Vegas) -- Georgia State / CB Josh Jacko (Cathedral Catholic) -- University of San Diego / OLB Shonta Chaloux (Valley Center) -- Angelo State University /  DT C.J. Spratt (Tafuna, Pago Pago, American Samoa) -- Eastern New Mexico / DE Brandon Blinn (Cascade, Everett, WA) -- Chaldron State / S Chris Lee (El Camino) -- Henderson State / DT Shayne Tupua (Banning, Wilmington) -- Bethel College (KS) / K Cameron Mercado (Kahuku, Kahuku, HI) from 2011  Palomar team -- Bethune-Cookman University / S Eric Paopao (El Camino) from 2011 Palomar team -- Humboldt State


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