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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, 2014

2017 Schedule, Results | 2016 Stats | 2016 Roster | 2016 Coaches

2016 Schedule, Results| 2016 Stats | 2016 Roster | 2016 Coaches

Records, Leaders (Through 2016 Season)

2015 Season | 2015 Stats

2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 

Palomar Football History Comets Currently in NFL, 4-year College Football | View, Download Hugh Cox's Photos

2017 Season ...

Coach Joe Early talks to team at conclusion of Saturday's first practice of the season in full gear. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Returning starting quarterback Matt Romero hands off to Issiah Aguero during 11-on-11 session.

Aguero follows tackle Mike Childress (No. 77). J.D. Fox (No. 47) defends.

PC appears more talented, deeper as week 1 ends

SAN MARCOS (8-12-2017) -- Palomar's first three days of football drills ended Saturday with the first full-contact day in full gear and coach Joe Early sounding cautiously optimistic about the 2017 season.

"We're more athletic than we've been the last couple of years and we're deeper," Early said. "The effort has been good. I like the energy and I like the effort. We've got some schismatic things we need to clean up, and things we need to take care of, and we have to focus all next week to do that, but I saw some real good things."

The Comets will practice daily from Monday througth Saturday leading up to a full-scale intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday which Early will bring in a large crew of officials to work.

Palomar's top two quarterbacks from last season, Matt Romero and Ross Ebert, both are returning and got most of the reps in an 11-on-11 session that ended the practice.

The Comets will scrimmage at Riverside City College a week from Thursday and will kick off the season with a non-conference game at Southwestern College on Sept. 2.

Matt Romero, setting up to pass here vs. Cerritos last fall, will return as Palomar's starting quarterback in 2017. Romero passed for 2,574 yards and 23 touchdowns as a freshman in 2016. Protecting Romero here: Justin Sattelmaier (No. 75), now at Oregon State, and tight end Robert Ursua, now at the University of Texas at San Antonio. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Comets to kick off season 2017 at Southwestern

SAN MARCOS (7-23-2017) -- Palomar will kick off the 2017 season Saturday night, Sept. 2, at Southwestern, will go back on the road to play at Santa Monica on Sept. 9, then will play five of its remaining eight games at home at Wilson Stadium in Escondido.

Highlighting the Comets' season: a 1 p.m. Oct. 28 National Division Southern Conference home game at Wilson Stadium against defending conference, state and JC Grid-Wire national champion Fullerton College.

That will be Palomar's only afternoon game, at least during the regular season. Nine of the Comets' 10 games will kick off at 6 p.m.

Palomar Football Schedule 2017

Thu., Aug. 24 -- Scrimmage at Riverside City College, 4 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 2 -- at Southwestern, 6 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 9 -- at Santa Monica, 6 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 16 -- vs. Cerritos, Wilson Stadium, 6 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 23 -- at Moorpark, 6 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 30 -- vs. Chaffey, Wilson Stadium, 6 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 14 -- at Orange Coast, Southern Conference game, 6 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 21 -- vs. Golden West, Southern Conference game, Wilson Stadium, 6 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 28 -- vs. Fullerton, Southern Conference game, Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m.

Sat., Nov 4 -- at Saddleback, Southern Conference game, 6 p.m.

Sat., Nov. 11 -- vs. Grossmont, Southern Conference Game, Wilson Stadium, 6 p.m.

Off-Season ...

Ex-Comet Dylan Donahue (No. 53) goes through drills in New York Jets rookie camp/mini-camp at Florham, New Jersey. He was drafted by the Jets in the fifth round. -- Courtesy photo

Donahue 'steals the show' in Jets' mini-camp

FLORHAM, New Jersey (5-13-2017) -- Ex-Palomar defensive end Dylan Donahue, a NCAA Division II All-American at the University of West Georgia at the same position during the 2016 season, is immediately turning heads in the New York Jets' rookie camp/minicamp.

Connor Hughes, writing for NJ Advance Media for the NJ.com web site, had this to say about the Jets' 2017 fifth-round draft pick, who has impressed early on at outside linebacker and on special teams:

Nice practice from Dylan Donahue

Linebacker Dylan Donahue, whom the Jets drafted in the fifth round, stole the show Saturday.

Donahue waws facing rookie tackle Amadou Konte, a tryout player from Benedictine.

By my count, Donahue had two sacks. The first he gave an outside look, which caught Konte off balance. Donahue then shot inside for a sack. On the secondk, he ran Konte over with a bull rush. After each play, Donahue got up screaming and flexing. He's an intense guy with a hecuva back story."

CLICK HERE for Dylan Donahue feature on ESPN.com

Former Comet Dylan Donahue, a first-team Division II All-American at the University of West Georgia after barely missing qualifying for NCAA Division I, was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft Saturday by the New York Jets. -- Courtesy photo

Jets draft ex-Comet Donahue in 5th round

PHILADELPHIA (4-29-2017) -- The New York Jets selected former Palomar defensive end Dylan Donahue, an NCAA Division II All-American out of the University of West Georgia, in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday.

Donahue arrives with the Jets with NFL bloodlines. He's the son of Mitch Donahue, who played for four seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos after being drafted in the fourth round in 1991 as a defensive end/linebacker out of the University of Wyoming, where he was two-time WAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Dylan Donahue recorded 44.5 college sacks, 19 in two seasons at Palomar and 25.5 in two seasons at West Georgia. He was 2016 Gulf Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year with 67 tackles, 20 for loss, and 13.5 sacks as a senior.

Donahue is undersized for an NFL defensive lineman at 6-3, 248 pounds but runs a 4.75 in the 40 and has exceptional feet and quickness coming off the edge. He could be moved to outside linebacker.

The Bleacher Report web site on Donahue: "He has the build of an NFL outside linebacker with a great motor and awesome production at West Georgia. Donahue posted 37.5 TFLs and 25.5 sacks in two seasons coming off the left side of the defense. With impressive quickness off the snap, Donahue is able to compete with athletic offensive tackes. He's a natural in space and uses his quickness and balance to keep blockers guessing while bending with enough juice to accelerate out of his turn. He has enough upper-body power to press blockers off his frame if they get inside his arms. Donahue is a developmental guy, and he has enough tools to work with early on. He's the type of worker who will excel on special teams while learning the game."

Former Comets who previously were regular-season players for the Jets were receiver Kevin Swayne and DB/kick returner Saalim Hakim.

Tight end Sam Browning is pictured when he played at Palomar and heading upfield for Eastern Michigan with one of his six receptions against LSU in his junior season of 2015 in a game in Baton Rouge, Lousiana. Browning played his final college game on Friday for Eastern Michigan against Old Dominion in the Popeye Bahamas Bowl. -- Photo by Melinda Finn (left); File Photo (right)

Browning goes out in style in last D-I game

NAUSSAU, Bahamas (12-23-2016) -- Palomar's Sam Browning finished his college football career in style on Friday with a big catch in Eastern Michigan's game with Old Dominion in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl at Thomas Robinson Stadium.

The 6-foot-5, 234-pound senior tight end caught a 24-yard Brogan Roback pass for a first down at  the Old Dominion 29-yard line, setting up the Eagles' first touchdown in a tight game the Monarchs finally won 24-20.

Browning had two solid seasons for Eastern Michigan, with 35 receptions for 425 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 27 yards on three carries.

His biggest game for Eastern Michigan came during his junior season a year ago when he hauled in six passes for 87 yards in a 44-22 loss to LSU before 102,341 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

As a sophomore at Palomar during the 2013 season, the Escondido High School product caught 21 passes in his last four games, including six receptions for 51 yards against Fullerton and eight receptions for 101 yards vs. Saddleback. Browning finished the season with 29 receptions for 340 yards and two touchdowns.

Browning was offered by Colorado after his sophomore year but had to stay at Palomar, burning his redshirt year, in order to complete academic requirements to accept an NCAA Division I FBS scholarship.

Another ex-Comet, punter Codey Wuthrich, will finish his junior season for Indiana University when the Hoosiers play Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl at the San Francisco 49ers' Levis Stadium in Santa Clara this upcoming Tuesday.


Offensive tackle Justin Sattelmaier (No. 75), shown recovering a fumble against state and J.C. Grid-Wire national champion Fullerton on Oct. 29, defensive end end Roger Mann (directly above, left) and tight end Robert Ursua (directly above, right) are headed to NCAA Division I FBS universities at the semester on full scholarships. Mann is shown tackling Grossmont's quarterback for a safety on Nov. 12. Ursua is pictured catching a 2-point conversion pass against Saddleback on Nov. 5. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Sattelmaier (Oregon St.), Mann, Ursua to D-I

SAN MARCOS (12-14-2016) (2-16-2016) -- First-team All-National Southern Conference offensive tackle Justin Sattelmaier, second-team defensive end Roger Mann and second-team tight end Robert Ursua will transfer to four-year universities at the semester on NCAA Division I FBS scholarships.

Sattelmaier, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound freshman out of Temecula Valley High School, is Pac-12 bound. He'll transfer to Oregon State. Mann, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound sophomore from Rancho Bernardo High, will transfer to UNLV of the Mountain West. Ursua, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore who came to Palomar out of the U.S. Navy, is headed to the University of Texas at San Antonio, a member of Conference USA.

Also, sophomore linebacker Kyle Ashby (Torrey Pines High School) has accepted a scholarship to NCAA Division II Adams State.

Sattelmaier improved his recruiting stock considerably by transferring to Palomar out of Division II Western Oregon, where he spent the 2015 season as a red-shirt coming out of high school.

Mann recorded 40 tackles during his sophomore season, with 12.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries (one he returned for a touchdown), an interception and a safety. He also was Palomar's grade-point average leader with a 3.5 as a business major.

Ursua caught 62 passes for 648 yards and 6 touchdowns in two seasons for the Comets. During the 2016 season, he had 40 receptions for 463 yards and 5 TDs.

UTSA, which plays its home games at the 65,000-seat Alamodome, has only been playing football since 2011. The Roadrunners were 6-6 during the regular season, nearly upsetting Arizona State before eventually losing 32-28 on Sept. 16 at home, and giving Texas A&M a scare before finally losing 23-10 on Nov. 19 at College Station, Texas. UTSA will play New Mexico on Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuqurque.

Adams State-bound Ashby is a third-generation Comet. His grandfather, Jack Ashby, was a receiver for Palomar and for the University of Arizona. His father, Scott Ashby, played safety for Palomar and Western Oregon.

All 33 NFL teams have first-team All-American defensive end and ex-Comet Dylan Donahue of the University of West Georgia on their radar prior to the April 27-29 draft. -- Courtesy photo

Donahue All-American; Browning/Wuthrich to bowls

SAN MARCOS (12-07-2016) -- Three former Palomar players are in the news as college football heads into the bowl season and, for one of the three, conjecture leading up to the 2017 NFL draft.

West Georgia University defensive end Dylan Donahue, the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore for the Comets in 2015, has been selected to the American Football Coaches Association Division II All-American first team following his senior season for West Georgia University.

Meanwhile, two other former Comets are headed to bowl games. Tight end Sam Browning and Eastern Michigan University (7-5) are on their way to the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl vs. Old Dominion on Dec. 23 at Nassau, Bahamas, while punter Codey Wuthrich and Indiana University are headed to the Foster Farms Bowl vs. Utah on Dec. 28 at the San Francisco 49ers' Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Both of the bowl games will be aired on ESPN.

Donahue, who came to Palomar from West Billings, Montana, has drawn every NFL team to Carrollton, Georgia during his senior season. The Gulf South Conference Defensive Player of the year who was fourth in nationwide ballotig for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year award, recorded 13.5 sacks during the 2016 season and 25.5 for his West Georgia career.

In four college seasons, two at Palomar and two at West Georgia, Donahue has totaled 44.5 sacks. At Palomar, he had 67 tackles and 8.5 sacks as a freshman in 2013 and 64 tackles and 10.5 sacks the following season as a sophomore. He was a solid Division I FBS recruit out of Palomar but fell one unit short of qualifying.

Browning, originally from Escondido High School, has caught 35 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns over two seasons at Eastern Michigan. His top games resulted in six receptions for 87 yards as a junior in a 44-22 loss to LSU at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and four catches for 43 yards in a 48-41 win over Ball State as a sophomore. He drew a scholarship offer out of Colorado after his sophomore season with the Comets but didn't qualify and had to spend an extra year at Palomar.

Wuthridge, from La Costa Canyon High, was the backup punter for Indiana (6-6) in the Big Ten Conference this season as a junior but is considered a candidate for the Hoosiers' starting punter job for 2017 after head coach Kevin Wilson abruptly resigned at the end of the regular season and associate head coach Tom Allen was named permanent head coach on Dec. 1.

It was Allen who brought Wuthridge in as a preferred walk-on during the summer with an opportunity to win the starting job and a scholarship. And this time Woodrich, who views the coaching change as a positive for his chances of becoming the starting punter. In addition, this time he will have spring practice under his belt when the Hoosiers report to fall camp.

2016 Season ...

TOP PHOTO: Palomar's Roger Mann tackles Grossmont quarterback Brad Cagle in the end zone for a fourth-quarter safety that gave the Comets a late eight-point lead on Saturday. MIDDLE PHOTO: Johnny Arzola (No. 11) catches a 52-yard pass from Matt Romero in traffic for the game's first touchdown. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Dominique Love breaks up and nearly intercepts this pass just in front of the goal line. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Comets' big plays lead to win over G-House

EL CAJON (11-12-2016) -- Johnny Arzola caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Matt Romero, tacked on two field goals and four extra points, and Issiah Aguero rushed for 151 yards on 30 carries and scored on a 1-yard run on Saturday as Palomar closed an often frustrating football season with a 36-28 victory over host Grossmont.

Aguero and Arzola had plenty of company on a crowed Comets' list of heros against the Griffins.

Romero passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns, including two TD strikes to Terrell Arnold for 48 and 19 yards. For his part, Arnold also recovered a fumbled punt at the Grossmont 9 to set up Arzola's second field goal, a 27-yarder in the third quarter.

Roger Mann recovered a fumble at the Grossmont to set up Arzola's 1-yard TD run. He also intercepted a pass and tackled Griffins' quarterback Brad Cagle in the end zone for a fourth-quarter safety that put the Comets' out of reach with the final 8-point lead.

Moments earlier, punter Sam Tapia put the Griffins' with their backs to the wall when he boomed a 46-yarder that was downed at the 1-yard line. For the day, Tapia kicked the punt that the Grossmont receiver fumbled as he tried to fair catch the ball at the 9, the one that Arnold recovered. For the game, Tapia deposited 5 punts inside the 20, including 4 inside the 10.

Zach Gallina intercepted a pass in the end zone shortly after the safety and returned it 38 yards to ice the victory. He also had 6 solo tackles, made a huge hit to break up a pass and forced a fumble.

Thehe Comets forced five turnovers, intercepting Cagle three times (Mann, Dominique Love and Gallina), plus the fumble recoveries by Mann and Arnold.

"We came in short-handed with all our injuries, and lost some morel guys during the game," Coach Joe Early said. "We were missing six starters. We overcame quite a few obsticals. The defense did a great job with the five turnovers, gave a real shot in the arm to the offense. We're already starting to build for next season. We've already started recruiting for that.

"I'm real proud of the way our team, both the kids we're losing and the ones who are coming back, hung in there through everything that happened to us."

The Comets finished the season 4-6, 2-3 in the Narional Southern Conference, arguably the best and deepest in the country. The Griffins fell to 5-5, 1-4.

Safety Zach Gallina (No. 15), shown on a solo tackle against nationally No. 3-ranked Saddleback last week, will play his final game at Palomar when the Comets visit rival Grossmont on Saturday afternoon. Gallina is the Comets' leading tackler. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Comets close 2016 on road vs. G-House

ELCAJON (11-11-2016) -- Palomar, Palomar, which has played well on-and-off this season but never consistently, will close out its 2016 football schedule on Saturday when the Comets travel to Grossmont College's Mashin-Roth Field to take on the rival Griffins.

The Comets, who have never been able to put four good quarters together all year long, will be trying to close out the season on a positive note after losing to two of the best teams in the country the last two weeks, 63-31 to Fullerton two weeks ago on the road in a game in which Palomar trailedl by four points at halftime and 39-27 to Grossmont last Saturday at Wilson Stadium in Escondido.

Saddleback has moved up to the No. 3 spot in the nation this week by the J.C. Grid-Wire, while Fullerton is sitting at No. 7.

Grossmont lost to the same two teams in recent weeks, 79-18 to Fullerton and 57-55 to Saddleback.

The Griffins are already bowl eligible and are trying to finish the regular season 6-4. The Comets are trying to close out the season with a 4-6 record.

The game will match two talented redshirt freshman quarterbacks, Brad Cagle (El Capitan) of the Griffins vs. the Comets' Matt Romero (Oceanside High).

This week's J.C. Grid-Wire national top 10: 1. East Mississippi (9-1), 2. Arizona Western (10-0), 3. Saddleback (8-1), 4. Northwest Mississippi (9-1), 5. Trinity Valley (Texas) (9-1), 6. Garden City (Kansas) (9-0), 7. Fullerton (8-1), 8. Riverside City College (8-1), 9. Mt. SAC (7-2), 10. Butte (7-2)


GAME DAY: Palomar (3-6, 1-3) at Grossmont (5-4, 1-3, Southern Conference Game, 1 p.m.

Masin-Roth Field, Grossmont College, El Cajon, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016

Palomar Offense

No. Name





High School / Previous College

2-Matt Romero






20-Josh Bernard






46-Chase Porter





Mission Hills

6-Terrell Arnold


6-2 205



7-LaMont Chaney





Knightdale (NC) / Hampton University

11-Johnny Arzola





Oceanside / Dixie State

80-Robert Ursua TE 6-3 230 So Liberty (Bakersfield) / U.S. Navy

76-Michael Childress






77-Khris Alvarez


6-4 320 So San Marcos

61-Joshua Pichette





Tri-City Christian

71-Carlos Patino RG 6-2 250 Fr Temecula Rancho Christian

65-Prab Gill


6-5 290 Fr Great Oak

Palomar Defense

56-Roger Mann





Rancho Bernardo

93-Antonio Davidson


6-3 220 Fr Decatur Central (Indianapolis, IN)

98-Nick Zimmerman

T 6-0 285



97-Anthony Zuniga


6-0 260 Fr San Marcos

34-Devonte Woods


5-8 180 Fr Father Lopez (Daytona Beach, FL)
33-Zac Lofting LB 6-3 205 Fr Vista, Cal Poly

32-Hunter Turner

LB 5-8 185 Fr Matanzas (Palm Coast, FL)

27-Dominique Love





Bishop’s / New Mexico State, Cal Poly

9-Michael Moore






14-Malavai Taylor






15-Zach Gallina





Rancho Buena Vista

Palomar Special Teams

1-Sam Tapia





Cathedral Catholic

11-Johnny Arzola





Del Norte

1-Sam Tapia





Cathedral Catholic

1-Sam Tapia





Cathedral Catholic

3-Issiah Aguera






7-LaMont Chaney





Knightdale (NC) / Hampton University

11-Johnny Arzola





Oceanside / Dixie State

54-Mark Ziobro





Temecula Chaparral

TOP PHOTO: LaMont Chaney returns a kickoff from the 1-yard line to the 24 after Saddleback's first touchdown on Saturday night at Wilson Stadium. No. 24 blocking for him is Christian Prince. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Robert Ursua catches a 2-point conversion pass from Matt Romero. The Gauchos, ranked No. 5 in the nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire, held off the Comets 39-27. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Comets' comeback gets short-circuited

ESCONDIDO (11-05-2016) -- Palomar fell behind nationally No. 5-ranked Saddleback early in the teams' Southwest Conference game on Saturday night at Wilson Stadium's Chick Embrey Field, then battled back,

 But a blocked punt out of the end zone that resulted in a touchdown and a dropped reception by a wide-open receiver in the end zone short-circuited the Comets' hopes for a gigantic upset. And the Gauchos went on to win the game 39-27.

Trailing 22-7 after one quarter, Palomar plugged away and pulled to within 4 points at 25-21  with 7:42 to play in the third period on Terrell Arnold's 4-yard touchdown run on a reverse and Matt Romero's 2-point conversion pass to tight end Robert Ursua.

But that was as close as the Comets would get as Saddleback (8-1, 3-1 in the Southern Conference) answered with a 63-yard, 11-play drive to stretch its lead, and the blocked punt and TD, which followed a bad snap, and eventually the dropped pass in the end zone, followed.

Palomar had plenty of things go right on a chilly night, including a 26-for-49, 3-touchdown, 0-interceptions, 256-yard passing performance by Romero, 6 receptions for 85 yards for Ursua, 11 tackles (9 solo) and a pass break-up by Zach Gallina and 3 punts by Sam Tapia that pinned the Gauchos at the 10-, 8- and 1-yard line.

The punt that pinned Saddleback at the 1 was a 44-yarder.

The other Palomar touchdowns came on a 19-yard pass from Romero to LaMont Chaney, a 15-yard pass from Romero to Ursua and a 4-yard pass from Romero to Johnny Arzola.

Issiah Augero caught 7 passes for 37 yards, Johnny Arzola 5 for 36 yards and Chaney 4 for 28 yards.

Semai Wren returned three kickoffs for Palomar for 111 yards. Augero had a 43-yard kickoff return.

Christian Prince, coming off an injury, had 7 solo tackles, 1 for a loss, and Hunter Turner had 7 tackles (5 solo), 1 for a loss. Michael Moore intercepted a pass.

TOP PHOTO: Matt Romero passes under heavy pressure from Roy Oto (No. 51) and connects with Johnny Arzola from 13 yards out for Palomar's second touchdown. MIDDLE PHOTO: Offensive tackle Justin Sattelmaier alertly recovers a Palomar fumble. DIRECTLY ABOVE: The Comets' Antonio Davidson dumps Fullerton's Gerald Hulet for a 5-yard loss in the first quarter. -- PhotoS by Hugh Cox

452 YDS, 4 TDs for Romero in shootout loss

YORBA LINDA (10-29-2016) -- Palomar quarterback Matt Romero, in his best community college game, was 34-for-67 passing for 452 yards and four touchdowns against Fullerton College on Saturday at Nathan Shapell Memorial Stadium.

Romero ignited a first-half surge that saw the Comets trail the heavily-favored and J.C. Grid-Wire No. 8 nationally-ranked Hornets by only 35-31 after two quarters. But Palomar ran out of gas in a second half which saw Fullerton go on to win big 63-31 in the teams' Southern Conference match-up.

Oceanside High product Romero connected on scoring passes of 69 yards to Terrell Arnold and 13 yards to Johnny Arzola in the first quarter, then added on touchdowns for 16 yards to Josh Bernard and 52 yards to Lamont Chaney in the second quarter.

The Comets also scored on a field goal from 23 yards out by Arzola and four Arzola PAT kicks.

Palomar rolled up 515 yards in total offense, again mostly in the first half, as the two teams combined for 1,182 offensive yards (667 courtesy of the Hornets, who are 7-1 on the season and were ranked No. 4 in the nation last week and are currently No. 12 after last week's 30-27 upset loss at Saddleback.

Fullerton entered the game with something to prove after last week. The Comets battled the Hornets toe-to-toe throughout the back-and-fourth first two periods but were unable to sustain any sort of what had been considerable momentum coming out after intermission.

Arnold caught seven passes for 138 yards for the game. Channey had five catches for 69 yards, Robert Ursua five catches, Khan Pham and Syaaiq Lachica four receptions apiece, Bernard three receptions for 59 yards, and Arzola and Isiah Augero three catches each.

Defensively, linebacker Hunter Turner recorded 14 tackles, high for both teams, eight of the tackles solo. Zach Gallina had seven tackles, six total, including an open-field stop at the 4-yard line which delayed a Fullerton touchdown. Gallina also intercepted a pass at the 1-yard line.

Nako Te'i contributed six tackles, one for a loss. Antonio Davidson had five tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss. And Michael Moore broke up two passses.

Fullerton quarterback Jordan Hoy, a freshman from Rockwell, Texas, accumulated 507 yards in total offense. He had 358 yards and three touchdowns passing, and rushed for 149 yards and two more touchdowns, including an 80-yard run.

Josh Bernard shown picking up a first down last week vs. Golden West, will play a key role running the ball on Saturday when Palomar plays Fullerton at Loma Linda High School's Nathan Shappel Memorial Stadium. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Banged up Comets draw angry Hornets

YORBA LINDA (10-28-2016)  -- A banged up Palomar team draws an angry hive of Hornets on Saturday as the 2016 community college heads into the home stretch.

The Comets will visit Fullerton, 6-1 after an upset loss to Saddleback last week, at Yorba Linda High School's Nathan Shappel Memorial Stadium. Kickoff will be at noon.

The Hornets are hardly in a very good mood after dropping from being ranked No. 4 in the nation to No. 12 after the Gauchos scored with 38 seconds left in the game to notch a 30-27 upset victory last Saturday in Mission Viejo.

For the Comets, multiple players are injured, including standout linebackers Christian Prince, who is sidelined for at least this game, and Brad Dozier, gone for the season. Both were hurt last week in a loss to Golden West.

Harry Sio, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound converted rugby player, returns from the injury list and will start at defensive tackle for Palomar.

The Comets will try to even their overall record at 4-4 and go to 2-1 in the Southern Conference.

TOP PHOTO: With just over 8 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, defensive end Roger Mann knocked the ball loose from Golden West quarterback Adam Vance's hand as he tried to pass, caught the fumble in mid-air and returned it 35 yards for a Palomar touchdown. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Semaj Wren returns a Golden West kickoff. He had two returns, for 50 and 34 yards. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Too little, too late for Comets at Golden West

HUNTINGTON BEACH (10-22-2016) -- A late surge by visiting Palomar fell short on Saturday afternoon as Golden West, playing its first-ever football game on campus on its 50th anniversary, held off the Comets 35-23 in a National Southern Conference game.

Palomar, outplayed and outscored for much of the afternoon, couldn't get into the Golden West end zone from the 1-yard line on the final play of the third quarter at the end of a 11-play, 64-yard drive.

The Comets then scored twice in a 1-minute, 23-second span in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard fumble return by defensive end Roger Mann and, after Scott Ashby's fumble recovery, a 7-yard touchdown pass from Matt Romero to Terrell Arnold.

Palomar, which had trailed by 25 points, found itself back in the game, down by only 12 with 6:38 to play. The Comets, using their last two timeouts, forced a punt and got the ball back with 4:55 remaining at their own 15-yard line. If they could score and recover an onside kick, they would be in a position for an unlikely come-from-behind win.

Romero quickly took the Comets down to the Golden West 12, thanks to a 40-yard Romero-to-Arnold completion. But on the next play, the Rustlers' Kory Garcia intercepted a pass intended for LaMont Chaney at the goal line with 2:29 left. The Rustlers took over and ran out the clock.

Palomar also scored in the game on Johnny Arzola's 37-yard field goal with 2:41 left in the first half, and a 40-yard pass play from Romero to Sariq Lachica and an Arzola PAT with 7:17 to play in the third quarter. The Comets also missed a field goal when they trailed 7-0.

Romero was 22-for-46 passing for 289 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice. He had multiple catches dropped. Arnold had four receptions for 101 yards, tight end Robert Ursua nine catches for 92 yards and Lachica three catches for 48 yards.

Semaj Wren returned two kickoffs for 84 yards with a long of 50 yards.

Sam Tapia, with another outstanding punting performance, pinned the Rustlers at the 14- and 2-yard lines and had a punt that rolled dead at the 18 called back, breaking Palomar's season record for punts inside the 20 in the process.

Zach Gallina led the Comets defensively with 10 tackles, two for losses, and forced two fumbles. Nick Zimmerman (9 tackles), Christian Prince, Brad Dozier, Wes Finoti, Mann and Harry Sio combined for 28 tackles, 3 sacks for 18 yards and 7 tackles for loss for 25 yards.

Palomar (3-4, 1-1 in conference) now goes on the road to play nationally No. 4-ranked Fullerton next Saturday at noon at Yorba Linda High School.

Palomar's Terrell Arnold cross the goal line on a 20-yard pass play from Matt Romero with 17 seconds to play on Saturday night at Escondido's Wilson Stadium. -- Photo by Philip Farry. BELOW: Sam Tapia, who kicked the winning PAT after Arnold's TD. Tapia also pinned the Pirates at the 3-yard line with a 40-yard punt and at the 8-yard line with a 44-yarder as he averaged 42 yards for his only two punts.

PC scores late to win conference opener

ESCONDIDO (10-15-2016) -- Palomar blew a seven-point halftime lead, fell behind by six points in the second half, then struck like lightening with 17 seconds left in the game to beat visiting Orange Coast 28-27 in the teams' Southern Conference opener Saturday night.

With his team trailing by six points late in the fourth quarter at Escondido High's Wilson Stadium, Matt Romero threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Arnold to tie the game. Sam Tapia, coach Joe Early's extrodinary punter who was pressed into duty just before the game to double as the kicker, converted the PAT to bring the Comets (3-3, 1-0 in conference) home a winner.

Palomar led at the half 21-14 after two Josh Bernard TD runs of 1 yard and 4 yards, Michael Moore's 30-yard interception return for a touchdown and Tapia's first three of four extra points.

But the Comets began systematically shooting themselves in the foot in the second half, which allowed Orange Coast to come back to lead 27-21. As the clock wound down, the Comets struck back on a 72-yard play from their own 6 yard line when Romero completed a short off-balance pass to ex-Oceanside High teammate Bernard, who took the ball all the way to the OCC 22.

A fumble on the ensuing play gave the ball back to the Pirates at their own 20 with 2:00 showing on the scoreboard clock. But, using their final timeout along the way, the Comets forced the Pirates to punt and got the ball back with 55 seconds to play at their own 45.

After a roughing-the-passer penalty negated an interception and two more penalties on an over-aggressive OCC defense sandwiched around a 9-yard Romero-to-LaMont Chaney pass play, Romero led Arnold with a perfectly-thrown pass at the 2-yard line and he continued into the end zone for the touchdown.

"We didn't play a very good second half, but our kids believed in each other and played hard for each other and we showed a lot of guts to come back and find a way to win," Early said.

Bernard, the 2015 CIF San Diego Section Offensive Player of the Year, finished his best game of the season with 104 yards rushing on 22 carries, plus 87 yards on two pass receptions from Romero.

Romero was 15-for-22 passing for 231 yards and the touchdown pass to Arnold. Chaney, Arnold and Johnny Augero had 11 catches between them for 126 yards. And the Comets got some big-play defensive performances as Zach Gallina and Christian Prince combined for 15 tackles, Moore had four key tackles to go allong with his pick six, a forced fumgble and a pass breakup, Roger Mann contributed three tackles for loss for 13 yards out of five unassisted tackles and Wes Fonoti had a ssack among his five solo tackles.

And, once again, one of the Comets' biggest standouts was Tapia, who pinned the Pirates at their 3-yard line with a 40-yard punt and at the 8 with a 44-yarder on his only attempts of the night.

The team's regular kicker caused a double-switch for the Palomar special teams when he phoned Tapia as the Comets were preparing for their regular pre-game walk-through prior to boarding the busses for the short trip from Palomar to Escondido High, informing Tapia he had something wrong with his knee and wouldn't be able to kick.

At that point Tapia had to break the news to the coaches, then went out and kicked off and made all four of his PAT attempts. Since Tapia normally is the holder, Romero stepped in for Tapia there and the Comets' kicking game didn't miss a beat.

Now the Comets will prepare for a trip to Golden West next Saturday afternoon for the Rustlers' first on-campus game in history, moving there from their regular home field at Orange Coast's LeBard Stadium for one day for the college's 50th anniversary.

Golden West handed Saddleback, ranked fourth in the nation by both the J.C. Grid-Wire and JCGridiron.com, its first loss of the season on Saturday night 20-17.

PC's Gallina, Tapia are Players of the Week

SAN MARCOS (10-05-2016) -- Palomar's Zach Gallina (left) has been honored as Defensive Player of the Week and Sam Tapia (right) as Special Teams Player of the Week by the Southern California Football Association's Southern Conference.

Gallina, a sophomore safety out of Rancho Buena Vista High School, contributed 13 tackles (9 solo) in the Comets' 34-22 victory at Chaffey in the two teams' first meeting since Palomar won over the host team on the same field in the 2001 Southern California championship game. Gallina also had a fumble recovery at the Panthers' 13-yard line, an interception at the Palomar 7 that he returned to the 20, a forced fumble and back-to-back broken up passes in the end zone that prevented Chaffey touchdowns.

Tapia, the Comets' sophomore punter from Cathedral Catholic High School, took controle of the game by depositing 5 punts inside the 20-yard line (giving him 19 through 5 games). He placed 3 punts inside the 10, at the 7-, 6- and 3-yard lines. Punting from inside the 35-yard line on multiple occasioms, still averaged just under 40 yards for 9 attempts, including a 56 yarder that knocked a backpedaling Chaffey return man to the turf on his back when he finally caught the  ball backing up at his own 19-yard line.

TOP PHOTO: LaMont Chaney scores from 32 yards out on an end-around play early in the fourth quarter of Comets' 34-22 victory on Saturday night at Chaffey. MIDDLE PHOTO: Tight end Robert Ursua looks the ball into his hands on 10-yard touchdown catch of pass thrown by quarterback Matt Romero with 12:40 left in the second quarter. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Terrell Arnold heads toward the end zone on 71-yard scoring bomb from Romero 57 seconds before Ursua's touchdown. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW LEFT: Sam Tapia, who put on a punting clinic. BELOW RIGHT: Zach Gallina, who had a huge impact on the game with big defensive plays

Palomar rocks with complete all-around game

RANCHO CUCAMONGA (10-01-2016) -- The Comets are back in gear. After frustrating losses in three of four close games to open the season, Palomar hit host Chaffey with everything it had on the way to a 34-22 nonconference victory on Saturday night at Grigsby Field.

Coach Joe Early's squad jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead by scoring on a 2-yard run by Josh Bernard, a 71-yard pass play from quarterback Matt Romero to Terrell Arnold and a 10-yard Romero-to-Robert Ursua pass.

After the Panthers answered with a third-quarter touchdown to pull to within seven points, the Comets counterpunched with two more touchdowns in a 20-second span early in the the fourth quarter to go back up by 20 points. LaMont Chaney's 32-yard run on an end-around play and an interception and 8-yard TD return by Malavai Taylor put Palomar in front 34-14 with 10:23 left in the game and made a later Chaffey touchdown basically irrelevant.

The Comets mixed the above with a punting clinic by Sam Tapia, who took over the game by controlling the teams' field position, and a spectacular defensive performance by safety Zach Gallina (13 tackles, 9 solo, a fumble recovery at the Chaffey 13 after Roger Mann knocked the ball loose, an interception at the Palomar 7 and 13-yard return, a forced fumble and back-to-back pass break-ups in the end zone).

Tapia deposited five more punts inside the 20-yard line, including chip shots that pinned the Panthers at the 7-, 6- and 3-yard lines. He boomed four 40-yard-plus punts, including a 56-yarder that knocked down the Panthers' Tarmas Stewart who backpedaled, backpedaled some more, then crashed backwards to the turf at his own 19-yard line when he finally caught the ball.

"This guy gave us field position time after time all night," Early said, pointing to Tapia. "That wins games."

The Comets' defense intercepted Chaffey quarterback Vincent Bowes four times, sacked him three times and broke up six passes. Besides Gallina's and Taylor's picks, Xzavier Crawford intercepted Bowes at the Palomar 1-yard line and Dominique Love provided the other interception at the Comets' 13. He returned the ball out to the 20.

The sacks were provided by Mann (for 10 yards), Nako Te'i (for 6 yards) and Christian Prince (for 6 yards). Prince also had two of the pass break-ups (the others came courtesy of Gallina, Michael Moore, Crawford and Nate Johnson). And, late in the game, Prince separated the ball from a Chaffey receiver, who had just caught a pass and was starting to head up the Palomar sideline, with a violent hit. The ball shot into the air and out-of-bounds, followed by the Chaffey receiver.

Hunter Turner, Mann, Te'i, Mickey Sega, Austin Alualu and Prince combined for seven tackles for loss for 52 yards. Mann had 1.5 tackles for loss for 19 yards and Turner contributed 2 for 10 yards.

Issiah Augero contributed two kickoff returns of 35 and 34 yards. Romero was 12-for-24 passing for 167 yards, included five completions to Ursua. And Patrick Koch, who kicked a 51-yard field goal last week, sent his first three kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks. Koch did miss an extra point for the first time this season, going 4-for-5. Tapia, the holder, took the blame for the miss.

Palomar gets a bye next week and will open Southern Conference play the following Saturday night, Oct. 15, at home at Wilson Stadium in Escondido against Orange Coast.



PC kickers Tapia, Koch men's AOTW picks

SAN DIEGO (9-27-2016) -- The Pacific Coast Athletic Conference has honored two Palomar College football players, punter Sam Tapia (left) and kicker Patrick Koch (right), as its Men’s Athletes of the Week.

Tapia, a sophomore from Cathedral Catholic High School, punted eight times for a 43.1-yard average in a 31-26 loss to Moorpark.

Tapia’s punts included a 56-yarder that was downed at the Raiders’ 9-yard line, a 48-yarder, a 46-yarder and a 43-yarder to the 8. In the game, he had three punts inside the 20-yard line, giving him 14 on the season in four games, and pinned Moorpark twice inside its 10-yard line.

Koch, a sophomore out of Del Norte High School, kicked a 51-yard field goal, moving him into the top five on Palomar’s all-time list. He also booted a 23-yard field goal and added two PAT kicks to remain perfect on the season.

The Comets play football in the SCFA Southern Conference but the PCAC is Palomar's home conference.

 Robert Ursua catches touchdown a pass from Matt Romero late in the fourth quarter. -- Photo by Charlie Neuman


Comets lose by 5 despite 51-yd. Koch FG  

ESCONDIDO (9-24-2016) -- Palomar had plenty of positives Saturday night at Chick Embrey Field at Wilson Stadium, including a 51-yard field goal by Patrick Koch, a distance that moves him to a tie for fifth on the Comets' all-time list.

But the Comets got off to another slow start before waking up, which resulted in another close loss, this one by a 31-26 margin to visiting Moorpark.

On a night Isiah Johnson rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries for the visiting Raiders, the Comets had numerous players contribute along with Koch, who added another field goal of 23 yards and tacked on two PATs.

Dominique Love scooped up a Moorpark fumble and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to get Palomar on the board after the Raiders had taken a 10-0 lead.

Quarterback Matt Romero found his range from the second quarter on and passed for 245 yards on the night, including touchdown aerials of 3 yards to Johnny Arzola and 9 yards to Robert Ursua late in the fourth quarter. LaMont Chaney had seven receptions for 62 yards. Arzola and ZIssiah Augero each caught four passes, Terrell Arnold had two catches for 74 yards and Ursua contributed two catches for 47 yards.

Josh Bernard chipped in 79 yards rushing on 19 carries.

Defensively, Brandon Price (11 tackles, 5 of them solo) and Christian Prince (10 tackles, 6 solo including 1.5 tackles for loss), Hunter Turner (9 tackles, 2 for losses), Malavai Taylor (8 tackles, 6 solo, 1 tackle for loss and 2 pass break-ups), Nako Tei (5 tackles), Love (5 tackles to go with his fumble return) and Roger Mann (1 tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hurries) had strong performances.

And Sam Tapia averaged 43.1 yards for 8 punts, including a 56-yarder to the Moorpark 9-yard line, a 51-yarder, a 48-yarder, a 46-yarder and a 43-yarder to the 8. He deposited a total of three punts inside the 20-yard line, two of them inside the 10.

Koch also kicked a 2-yard field goal.

The Comets have played four close games, losing by 6 points, winning by 5, losing by 4 and losing by 5.

Palomar will try to turn that trend around when the Comets visit Chaffey in their final non-conference game next Saturday at 6 p.m., followed by a bye the following week before opening National Conference South play.

Josh Bernard scores Palomar's second touchdown against Cerritos Saturday night on a 12-yard run with 12:45 left in the game.No. 7 is LaMont Chaney. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Palomar's comeback falls four points short

NORWALK (9-17-2016) -- Palomar, trailing by two touchdowns at the half, saw a fourth-quarter comeback fall just short on Saturday night at Falcon Stadium as the Comets dropped a non-conference football game to Cerritos 21-17.

Most of Palomar's success in the opening half came with the Falcons leading 7-0 when Wes Fonoti blocked a Cerritos field goal attempt with 5:39 left in the first quarter and Dominique Love scooped up the ball and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. Patrick Koch kicked the PAT and the teams were tied 7-7.

Cerritos led 21-7 at halftime after a pair of Nick Michell touchdown runs in the second period when the game's momentum changed and the Comets scored twice in the fourth quarter, on Josh Bernard's 12-yard touchdown run and Koch's 45-yard field goal, which came with 3:32 left in the game.

The Comets outscored the Falcons 10-0 over the game's final 30 minutes and 53 seconds and attempted to get the ball back with an onside kick following the field goal for a final attempt to win it. But Cerritos quickly called timeout, negating any surpise, and this time Koch kicked off deep to the 5-yard line, from where Landon Jones returned it 22 yards out to the 27.

Palomar never got the ball back as the Falcons controlled the ball for the game's last 3:27, during which time the Comets used their last two timeouts.

"We did some good things to try to come back, but we have to play four quarters and, until we can do that, we're not gong to be the kind of team we want to be," coach Joe Early said.

Palomar's top offensive effort came from tight end Robert Ursua, who ran over Cerritos defenders twice as he caught four passes from Matt Romero for 43 yards.

Along with the blocked field goal and touchdown return, the Comets got strong defensive efforts from Malavai Taylor who intercepted a pass in the end zone and contributed 6 tackles, Zack Gallina (12 tackles), Christian Prince (9 tackles, 1.5 for a loss) and Brad Dozier, Hunter Turner and Nako Te'i who had 6 tackles each.

Punter Sam Tapia pinned the Falcons inside the 20-yard line three times, at the 6, 19 and 14-yard line. He also had kicks of 47 and 43 yards.


Freshman center Josh Pichette (top photo) and sophomore linebacker Brad Dozier (No. 30, directly above) will play key roles on offense and defense, respectively, when the Comets travel to Cerritos for a 6 p.m. game Saturday. Pichette, a freshman from Tri-City Christian High School, will be making his third straight start. Dozier, a sophomore from San Pasqual, is in his second season as a starter for the Comets. Dozier is shown knocking the ball loose from Santa Monica's Conor McMahan as he breaks up a pass in Palomar's 35-30 win last Saturday. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Comets seek 2nd win in row Saturday

SAN MARCOS (9-16-2016) -- Palomar will seek its second straight football win on Saturday when the Comets travel to Norwalk to face an old rival, Cerritos College. Kickoff for the non-conference matchup is slated for 6 p.m. at Falcon Stadium.

The Comets evened their record at 1-1 last week, turning back Santa Monica College 35-30 at Escondido's Chick Embrey Field at Wilson Stadium in a game that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate. Palomar was inside the Corsairs' 1-yard line as the scoreboard clock wound down and let time run out at the 2 as the game ended.

The Falcons come into the game an uncharacteristic 0-2 after losing to state No. 6-ranked Fullerton last week.

"It's a typical Cerritos team," Palomar coach Joe Early said. "We know they'll be physical, and they'll be playing with a chip on their shoulder with a bad taste in their mouth after starting 0-2."

Early feels the Comets have practiced well this week. "Guys were flying around. If we can play that way for four quarters, we'll have a chance at these guys."

TOP PHOTO: Palomar's Malavai Taylor steps in front of Santa Monica tight end Sam Murphy to intercept a pass thrown by Corsairs quarterback Brock Raggio early in the first quarter Saturday. Taylor returned the pick 29 yards for the game's first touchdown. MIDDLE PHOTO: Linebacker Christian Prince (24) causes a fumble at the end of his 10-yard sack by stripping the ball from Raggio's grasp. Kahlil Miller recovered for Santa Monica. DIRECTLY ABOVE: The Comets' Xzavier Crawford breaks up a pass intended for Santa Monica's Darius Brown in the end zone, preventing a touchdown.  -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Comets rebound to turn back Santa Monica

ESCONDIDO (9-10-2016) -- Palomar, bouncing back from an upset loss the previous week, jumped out to a three-touchdown lead in the game's first 15 minutes and 5 seconds and went on to pin a 30-25 non-conference football loss on visiting Santa Monica on Saturday evening at Chick Embrey Field at Wilson Stadium.

In a game that alternated big plays and mistakes by both sides, the Comets were tough when it counted. The game was more one-sided than the final score and Palomar was inside the Santa Monica 1-yard line as the final seconds ticked down and at the 2-yard line at the final gun.

Malavai Taylor intercepted a pass thrown by Corsairs quarterback Brock Raggio with 9:51 left in the first quarter and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown to give the Comets a lead they would never relinquish. Palomar scored twice more early on, with touchdowns coming on a 51-yard Matt Romero-to-LaMont Chaney pass play and Jordan Morris' 7-yard run. After Patrick Koch's first three PAT kicks, the Comets led 21-0 five seconds into the second period.

Big plays by Palomar's defense dominated much of the action and on offense the Comets added two more touchdowns on a 14-yard Romero-to-Robert Ursua pass and Currie Thomason's 2-yard run.

Punter Sam Tapia had his second straight big night for Palomar, booming a 57-yarder that was downed at the Santa Monica 11-yard line and another kick that pinned the Corsairs at their own 7-yard line. In all, Tapia averaged 40.6 yards for five punts and pinned Santa Monica inside its 20 four times. He also had a kick that the Corsairs' Carbell Lewis fair caught at the 21.

Some of the biggest defensive plays: Linebacker Christian Prince intercepted a pass at the Palomar 46-yard line. Prince also caused a fumble by sacking Brock Raggio for a 10-yard loss and jarring the ball out of Raggio's grasp. And he scooped up the ball when Anthony Zuninga blocked a Santa Monica field goal attempt and returned it 30 yards, half of which came back due to a penalty.

Linebacker Brad Dozier made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Palomar 21 as he knocked down Santa Monica's Darius Brown at the end of a 69-yard catch-and-run from Raggio. The play began with Raggio taking the snap from center at the Corsairs' 10-yard line. Dozier and Dominique Love knocked Corsairs tight end Sam Murphy out-of-bounds at the PC 28 after Murphy caught a Raggio pass and appeared to have a shot to squeeze through and reach the end zone. Xzavier Crawford broke up a pass intended for Santa Monica's Darius Brown in the end zone, preventing a touchdown. Prince also broke up a pass.

And, in all, the Comets combined to sack Santa Monica's quarterbacks six times (1.5 by Dozier) and record 12 tackles for loss for 56 yards (including multiple times by Dozier, Roger Mann and Taylor). Dozier broke up two passes, and Mann contributed three quarterback hurries.

Back on offense, Romero connected on 20-of-33 pass attempts for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Chaney, Johnny Arzola and Ursua combined for 14 receptions for 174 yards. Issiah Augero came on late in the game run average 6.9 yards per carry on eight attempts, Tito Feliciano broke off a 21-yard gain. And Josh Bernard totaled 144 all-purpose yards.

Coach Joe Early said he was hardly thrilled with what he saw, and added that his squad will have to get better. But he thinks the Comets played significantly better than they did against Southwestern.

"We needed this," he said.

Palomar will play its first road game next Saturday at 6 p.m. at another non-conference opponent, Cerritos.


TOP PHOTO: Southwestern's Marquis Williams (No. 2) was credited with a 2-yard touchdown catch of a Joe Hudson pass when it was ruled Williams touched the pylon before going out of bounds. Nako Tei tackles Williams from behind. No. 15 for the Comets is Zach Gallina. MIDDLE PHOTO: Tight end Robert Ursua dives into the end zone with a 30-yard touchdown reception from Matt Romero. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Josh Bernard runs past Southwestern's Sergio Ayon (49) on a 30-yard pass play from former Oceanside High School teammate Romero. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Comets' comeback is too little and too late

ESCONDIDO (9-03-2016) -- Palomar sleepwalked through much of Saturday night's season football opener, then sprung to life to score three late touchdowns. But it turned out to be a case of too little, too late as Southwestern held on for a 34-28 non-conference victory at Wilson Stadium.

It was the first time a Joe Early team lost its season opener since he was named head coach prior to the 2002 season and followed 14 straight opening-game wins. And it was only the second time the Jaguars have beaten the Comets since 1988 -- when they were still known as the Apaches.

Southwestern left little to the imagination in dominating the game for most of the evening, and led 34-7 late in the third quarter after Demetrious Gibbs' 46-yard pick-six touchdown.

But the Comets refused to roll over, scoring 21 unanswered points in the game's final 17 1/2 minutes on three Matt Romero touchdown passes -- for 30 yards to tight end Robert Ursua, 76 yards to wide receiver LaMont Chaney and 10 yards to running back Jordan Morris with 13 seconds to play following a successful onside kick.

The game ended after the Romero-to-Morris touchdown when the Southwestern recovered Palomar's second straight onside kick attempt.

Romero and running back Josh Bernard had hooked up on a 26-yard pass play early in the second quarter that gave Palomar its first touchdown and tied the game at 7-7 after Patrick Koch's first of four PATs.

Linebacker Brad Dozier's interception and 13-yard return down to the 11-yard line set up the Romero-to-Bernard TD on the next play -- after a 15-yard penalty on the Comets for a personal foul.

Even through he was intercepted three times, Romero finished the evening 23-for-44 passing for 307 yards and four touchdowns and was only sacked once. Southwestern quarterback Joe Hudson was 35-for-53 for 318 yards and the interception by Dozier.

Palomar managed 412 yards in total offense in the loss. Bernard accumulated 268 all-purpose yards for the Comets. He totaled 55 yards rushing on 13 carries, 102 yards on nine pass receptions and 111 yards on five kickoff returns.

Palomar punter Sam Tapia put the ball high in the air with good hang time throughout the game as he kept the the Comets in striking range with a big opening night.

Only one of Tapia's punts were returned -- for a 3-yard loss. The sophomore from Cathedral Catholic High School pinned the Jaguars inside the 20-yard line four times, including a 59-yard punt, just 2 yards short of landing him to Palomar's all-time top-eight list, to put the Jaguars at their 10 in the second quarter. Tapia also boomed a 48-yarder that was downed at the 14-yard line.

 Tapia also had three shorter punts, two inside the 20, that kept his average just under 40 yards at 39.4 for seven attempts. He narrowly missed a fifth punt inside the 20, a 43-yarder that was downed at the 21-yard line.

Defensively, Zach Gallina led the Comets with 11 tackles. Michael Prayer had 8 tackles (5 unassisted), Wes Fonoti 7 tackles (5 unassisted, 1 for a loss), Malavai Taylor 7 tackles, Bryce Willette 6, Dozier 5 tackles (4 unassisted, 1 for a loss) and Roger Mann 5 tackles (1 for a loss). Mann also contributed three quarterback hurries.



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