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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

2014 Schedule, Results    |    2014 Stats    |    2014 Roster    |    2014 Coaches         

         Records, Leaders (Entering 2015 Season)  |  Palomar Football History  Comets Currently in NFL, 4-year College Football | View, Download Hugh Cox's Photos


2014 Season

Javante O'Roy (No. 29) has committed to play on the Division I level for the Mean Green of the University of North Texas. O'Roy is pictured above intercepting a pass against Southwestern during the 2013 season as a freshman. He returned the pick for an 87-yard touchdown. -- Photo by Hugh Cox.

PC's O'Roy verbals to North Texas after visit

SAN MARCOS (12-17-2014) -- Javante O'Roy became the first 2014 Palomar football player to commit to a four-year college program on Wednesday following a recruiting trip.

O'Roy a 6-foot-0, 185-pound sophomore cornerback from Antelope High School who played two seasons for the Comets after a redshirt season at Sacramento City College, will play for the University of North Texas Mean Green of Conference USA.

O'Roy, who played in 20 of 21 games for the Comets during the 2013 and 2014 seasons while missing one game because of an injury, has two of the four longest interception returns in Palomar history.

He returned an interception 101 yards for a touchdown to set a Palomar record in the Comets' 2013 season opener with El Camino College (officially 100 yards re: NCAA statistical rules). He also returned a pick 87 yards for another TD, fourth-best on Palomar's all-time list, in 2013 vs. Southwestern.

 In his two seasons with the Comets, O'Roy had 101 tackles (50 as a freshman, 51 during the recent season as a sophomore), 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions (2 for touchdowns), 13 pass break-ups, 2 fumble recoveries and 3 forced fumbles.



TOP PHOTO:
Dylan Donahue, shown recording one of his 2014 team-high 10.5 sacks during the Comets' 33-6 victory over San Diego Mesa on Sept. 20, was voted Most Valuable Player honors by his teammates. -- Photo by Hugh Cox. DIRECTLY ABOVE (Left to Right): Justin Harris, Bryan Jones, Sean Cameron, Charlie Long, Drew Madera, Austin Wolff, Alex Dunn, Khris Alvarez, Malohi Makihele, J.J. Taele -- Photos Melinda Finn

Comets vote Donahue Most Valuable Honor

SAN MARCOS (12-10-2014) -- Defensive end Dylan Donahue received the Most Valuable Player award for Palomar's 2014 football team after balloting among the players.

Donahue, a sophomore from Billings, Montana, is being recruited, among others, by Pitt and Colorado State.

Honored on Wednesday at Palomar's football awards lunch at Home Town Buffet in San Marcos were:

Most Valuable Player
Dylan Donahue, DE, So., Billings West High School, Billings, Montana
Outstanding Offensive Player
Justin Harris, RB, So., Chaparral High School, Temecula, CA
Outstanding Defensive Player
Bryan Jones, CB, So., Great Oak High School, Temecula, CA
Outstanding Special Teams Player
Sean Cameron, KR, Fr., Carlsbad High School, Carlsbad
Offensive Captain
Charlie Long, C, Fr., Poway High School, Poway / Purdue University
Defensive Captain
Drew Madera, LB, So., Chaparral High School, Temecula, CA
GPA Award
Austin Wolff (3.8), LB, So., Fallbrook High School, Fallbrook, CA
Most Inspirational
Drew Madera, LB, So., Chaparral High School, Temecula, CA
Most Improved
Alex Dunn, OT, So., Vista Murrieta High School, Temecula, CA
Linemen of the Year
Khris Alvarez, OT, Fr., San Marcos High School, San Marcos, CA
Dylan Donahue, DE, So., Billings West High School, Billings, Montana
Most Sacks Award
Dylan Donahue, DE, So., Billings West High School, Billings, Montana
Hammer Award (Special Teams)
Malohi Makihele, LB, So., Mission Hills High School, San Marcos, CA
Iron Man Award (Special Teams)
J.J. Taele, LB, Fr., El Camino High School, Oceanside, CA
Coaches' Awards
Jimmy Moreno, FB, So., Poway High School, Poway, CA
Ian Kelly, DE, So., Chaparral High School, Temecula, CA
Austin Wolff, LB, So., Fallbrook High School, Fallbrook, CA
All-Southern Conf.
First Team

Dylan Donahue (Defensive Player of the Year), DE, So., Billings West HS, Billings, Montana
Austin Wolfe, LB, So., Fallbrook High School, Fallbrook, CA
Bryan Jones, CB, So., Great Oak High School, Temecula, CA
Damon Nolan, Slot/Punt Returner, So., Murrieta Valley High School, Murrieta, CA
Khris Alvarez, OT, Fr., San Marcos High School, San Marcos, CA
M.J. Bailey, WR, So., San Marcos High Schoolo, San Marcos, CA
Justin Harris, RB, So., Chaparral High School, Temecula, CA
Second Team
Joe Naotala, DT, So., Army-Navy Academy, Carlsbad, CA
Drew Madera, LB, So., Chaparral High School, Temecula, CA
Bryce Alexander, CB, Fr., Brawley High School, Brawley, CA

Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Dylan Donahue records a sack against Fullerton College. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Donahue wins Defensive Player of Year award

LONG BEACH (12-02-2014) -- Palomar end Dylan Donahue has been selected as Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year by conference coaches.

Donahue, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound sophomore from Billings West High School in Billings, Montana.

Despite missing one game and parts of three others because of an injury, Donahue led the 7-4 Comets with 64 tackles and had 10.5 sacks for 104 yards, 22 tackles for loss for 144 yards, 1 broken-up pass, 6 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 1 blocked kick.

ALL-SOUTHERN CONFERENCE COMETS
FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE
GUARD -- Khris Alvarez (6-4, 305), Freshman, San Marcos HS)
RECEIVER -- M.J. Bailey (6-1, 200), Sophomore, San Marcos HS
RUNNING BACK -- Justin Harris (5-10, 180), Sophomore, Temecula Chaparral HS
FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE
END -- Dylan Donahue (6-3, 245) Sophomore, Billings West (Montana) HS -- Player of Year
LINEBACKER -- Austin Wolff (6-1, 230), Sophomore, Fallbrook High School
CORNER -- Bryan Jones (6-0, 180), Sophomore, Great Oak High School
RETURNER -- Damon Nolan (5-7, 155), Sophomore, Murrieta Valley High School
SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE
(None)
FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE
TACKLE -- Joe Naotala (6-2, 265), Sophomore, Army-Navy Academy
INSIDE LINEBACKER -- Drew Madera (6-1, 215), Sophomore, Temecula Chaparral HS
SAFETY -- Bryce Alexander (6-1, 175), Freshman, Brawley High School




 

TOP PHOTO: Joe Naotala (95) set the tone for Palomar's Patriotic Bowl victory on Saturday by blocking Oscar Reynoso's PAT attempt after Glendale scored the game's first touchdown. Bryan Jones (8) latched onto the ball and took the it all the way to the end zone to score the Comets' first two points. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Damon Nolan returns punt 55 yards for a touchdown that put Palomar in front for good 9-6. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. DIRECTLY ABOVE: The Comets celebrate their bowl victory. -- Photo by Phillip Farry. BELOW RIGHT: Punter Codey Wuthrich, named Palomar's Player of the Game.

Comets win Patriotic Bowl to finish 7-4 year

ESCONDIDO (11-22-2014) -- Palomar overcame 105 yards in penalties and a series of mistakes to win the Patriotic Bowl on Saturday at Wilson Stadium, pinning a 30-22 loss on a Glendale team that came into the game with a 9-1 record.

The win allowed the Comets to finish the season 7-4, a big turnabout from last year's 2-8 finish, Palomar's worst record in 32 years.

Palomar quarterback Mitch Bartram passed for 222 yards and one touchdown, including five completions to M.J. Bailey for 115 yards, and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

Codey Wuthrich averaged 42.4 yards on eight punts against a big rush with a long of 54 yards and three punts inside the 20-yard line. He was named the Palomar Player of the game. In a remarkably consistent performance, Wuthrich both got the Comets out of bad field position or put the Gauchos in bad field position. His 22 punts inside the 20 on the season broke the Palomar record of 20 set by Rocco Hemphill in 2011. Wuthrich also obliterated the Palomar career record with 41 punts inside the 20 over a two-year period.

Glendale took the game's opening kickoff and took the ball 55 yards on five plays to go in front 6-0. But Joe Naotala blocked the PAT try and Bryan Jones scooped up the ball and took it all the way to the Vaqueros' end zone for two points -- and the Comets only trailed 6-2.

That was the only time Palomar would trail all afternoon. With 3:52 left in the opening quarter, Damon Nolan returned a Glendale punt 55 yards for a touchdown which, along with Patrick Koch's first of four extra points, put the Comets on top 9-6.

Bartram's 53-yard pass play to Wayne Ganan early in the second quarter extended Palomar's lead to 16-6. The Vaqueros got back on the board on a 50-yard Sean Murphy-to-Danavian Caly fourth-down pass play with just 22 seconds left in the quarter to cut the Comets' lead to 16-13 at the half.

Matt Taylor's 40-yard punt return set up another Palomar touchdown, with running back Justin Harris pulling up and throwing a 2-yard pass into the end zone to tight end Tiree Burton on fourth down to put Palomar back up by 10 points at 23-13 with 6:36 left in the third quarter.

After a Glendale field goal made it 23-16, the Comets drove 63 yards in seven plays to go in front 29-16 with 6:03 left in the game when running back Deviante Sayles tried to go over the top for a 1-yard touchdown, was pushed back but still muscled his way into the end zone. Koch's PAT made it 30-16.

Glendale's Player of the Game Marquise McGuire (115 yards rushing on 28 carries) scored on a 3-yard run with 4:16 to play. Dylan Donahue broke through to block the PAT and the Vaqueros still trailed by eight points 30-22.

That meant the visitors needed a TD and two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime. But Wuthrich and his long snapper, Austin Paredes helped assure the Vaqueros wouldn't have an opportunity. Wuthrich delivered a 43-yard punt to the Glendale 27 and Paredes' athletic tackle dumped Kev'n Farmer for a 7-yard loss back to the 20 when Farmer gave ground trying to take the return to the outside.

The Vaqueros could only advance the ball out to the 29 on three plays, and Junior Tau stopped McGuire for no gain on fourth-and-one with 1:04 remaining in the game. The Comets then ran out the clock and the final score for Palomar's 15th all-time post-season win was in the books.

Nolan also had a 21-yard reception and returned a total of three more punts for 33 more yards. He also had a 44-yard return, which would have given him five for 132 yards, called back because of a holding penalty.

Some of the other big peformances for the Comets came from DeAngelo Ivey (10 tackles, 9 solo including a tackle for loss), Naoala (fumble recovery, 8 tackles 0.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, to go along with his PAT block), Javante O'Roy (forced fumble, fumble recovery and 8 tackles), Toefua Amu (8 tackles), Austin Wolff (6 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss and a forced fumble) and Ian Kelly (open-field tackle on a punt return).

Then there was the performance of Tony Black, a little-used sophomore back-up center from Vista Murrieta High School who received an opportunity to play extensively in place of starter Charlie Long who exited with a shoulder injury. Black made the most of his opportunity and responded with a career game to remember.

"Tony saw a lot more action than he'd seen the whole time the last two years, and he made the most of it, which was big for us," coach Joe Early said.

"Overall, we made a lot of mistakes, but we responded and overcame them."

GAME STATS | SEASON



Palomar will host Glendale College in the Patriotic Bowl on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Escondido High School's Wilson Stadium. Here, center Charlie Long is about to snap the ball in last week's 47-20 victory over Santa Ana College. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Kickoff for Patriotic Bowl is Saturday at 2 p.m.

SAN MARCOS (11-19-2014) -- Palomar (6-4) will host Glendale College (9-1) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Escondido's Wilson Stadium in the Patriotic Bowl.

The Comets will be making their 23rd post-season appearance. They're 14-8 all-time in the post-season.

It will be the first time Palomar has played in the post-season since 2011, when the Comets played Cerritos in the SCFA Bowl, which doubled as a first-round state playoff game. That Palomar team wound up being ranked No. 18 in the nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire of Kirkland, Washington.

UT SAN DIEGO FEATURE ARTICLE ON BILL DIETRICK, CURRENT PALOMAR QUARTERBACKS COACH AND THE FORMER OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR AT NOTRE DAME, STANFORD, WASHINGTON AND WASHINGTON STATE WHO HAS DEVELOPED 12 NFL QUARTERBACKS

GAME DAY: Patriotic Bowl: Glendale (9-1) at Palomar (6-4), Chick Embrey Field at Wilson Stadium, Escondido High School, 2 p.m. Saturday
Palomar Offense
No. Name Pos  Ht  Wt  Yr High School/College
2--Mitch Bartram QB  6-1  190 So Escondido / McKendree University
5--Justin Harris RB  5-10 190 So Temecula Chaparral
23-Daviante Sayles RB  5-10 180 Fr Rancho Buena Vista / E. Illinois University
80-M.J. Bailey SE  6-1   200 So San Marcos
9--Damon Nolan SL   5-7 155 So Murrieta Valley
84-Wayne Ganan FL  5-10 175 Fr Del Norte
75-Charlie Long C    6-2   282 Fr Poway / Purdue University
77-Eddie Grajeda LG  6-1   315 So Escondido
73-Alex Dunn LT   6-7   295 So Vista Murrieta
76-Khris Alvarez RG  6-4   310 Fr San Marcos
72-Luke Davis RT   6-4   240 Fr Poway
Palomar Defense
49-Dylan Donahue DE  6-3  245 So Billings West (Billings, MT)
94-Junior Tau DT 5-10  275 So Chaparrel
95-Joe Naotala DT   6-1  267 So Army-Navy Acadamy
99-Ian Kelly DE   6-3  240 So Temecula Chaparral
52-Drew Madera LB   6-1  210 So Temecula Chaparral
40-Malohi Makihele LB  5-11 220 So Mission Hills
47-Austin Wolff LB   6-1  230 So Fallbrook
8--Bryan Jones CB   6-0 180 So Great Oak
7--Javante O'Roy CB   6-0 185 So Antelope (Antelope, CA) / Sacramento CC
29-Diovanni Brewer S     5-9 150  Fr Oceanside
3--DeAngelo Ivey S     6-0 170  Fr Carver (Atlanta, GA)
Palomar Special Teams
83-Patrick Koch PK  5-10 165 Fr Del Norte
14-Matt Taylor H    5-9  175 So Temecula Chaparral
51-Austin Paredes LS   6-1  215 Fr Valley Center
87-Grant Fleming KO  6-4  220 Fr Vista Murrieta
60-Codey Wuthrich P    5-11 190 So La Costa Canyon
26-Shawn Cameron RET  5-8 190 Fr Carlsbad
5--Justin Harris KR  5-10 190 So Temecula Chaparral
9--Damon Nolan PR   5-7 155 So Murrieta Valley

Bryce Alexander, shown on a return after one of his Palomar record four interceptions vs. Santa Ana last Saturday, is the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Week. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Alexander is Southern Conf. Player of the Week

LONG BEACH (11-09-2014) -- Bryce Alexander, who broke the Palomar single-game record with four interceptions in last Saturday's 47-20 victory over Santa Ana, has been selected as Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Week.

Alexander, who returned the interceptions a total of 72 yards, is a freshman out of Brawley High School.

He broke the PC record of three held by two players who both went on to play for in the Big 12 for Iowa State. Josh Hargis set the record against Long Beach City College in 2003 and Anthony Young tied Hargis' mark vs. Saddleback in 2009.


TOP PHOTO: Devionte Sayles hurdles a Santa Ana defender during a 20-yard run on Saturday night. He rushed for 128 yards in Palomar's 47-20 victory. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Bryan Jones breaks up a Santa pass at the Comets' 3, knocking the ball away from No. 1, Dunne Hayden.-- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW: Brice Alexander, who intercepted four passes to break the Palomar single-game record.

Sayles (128 yds), Alexander (4 picks) lead way

ESCONDIDO (4-15-2014) -- Devionte Sayles rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and Bryce Alexander broke Palomar's single-game interception record with four picks on Saturday night as the Comets closed out the regular season with a dominating Southern Conference win.

Palomar defeated Santa Ana 47-20 at Wilson Stadium to finish the season with a bowl-qualifying 6-4 record. Bowl invitations will be issued on Sunday, when the Comets will find out if they're playing an additional game next week or packing up their gear.

Sayles, a freshman from Rancho Buena Vista High School by way of Eastern Illinois University where he red-shirted last season, scored on runs of 33 yards in the second quarter and 5 yards in the fourth quarter. His performance led the way as the Comets piled up 291 yards on the ground, also including 66 yards and one touchdown by Justin Harris and 61 yards, including a 50-yard TD, by Shawn Cameron.

The four interceptions by Alexander, a true freshman out of Brawley High School, broke the Palomar record of three in a game held jointly by Josh Hargis against Long Beach City College in 2003 and Anthony Young vs. Saddleback in 2009. Hargis and Young both went on to play in the Big 12 for Iowa State.

Alexander had 72 yards in returns for the night.

Palomar's 291 yards and four rushing touchdowns came despite losing three starting linemen during the game with injuries.

Matt Taylor blocked a Santa Ana punt to set up the game's first touchdown, a 5-yard pass from Mitch Bartram to Damon Nolan midway through the first quarter. Patrick Koch kicked his first of five PATs to put the Comets in front 7-0.

The Dons tied the game later in the quarter on the first of three Shane Truelove touchdown passes. But Nolan's 38-yard punt return set up Harris' 4-yard TD run that put Palomar ahead for good 14-7, igniting a 21-point second quarter.

After Cameron's 50-yard run made it 21-7, Santa Ana answered with Truelove's second touchdown pass which, brought the Dons back to within eight points at 21-13.

Sayles' first touchdown, from 33 yards out, with 4:54 left in the second quarter made it Palomar 28, Santa Ana 13 at the half.

Truelove's third TD early in the third quarter allowed the Dons to creep back to eight points again, 28-20.

But the Comets shut out the visitors over the game's final 24 minutes and 55 seconds.

During that span Palomar scored on two Koch field goals from 24 and 43 yards out, a 5-yard Bartram-to-Wayne Ganan TD pass that was set up by Dylan Donahue's fumble recovery at the 5, and Sayles' second TD run from 5 yards out with 7:21 left in the game that was set up by Alexander's third interception.

Alexander's fourth interception just inside the end zone with 3:16 to play short-circuited the Dons' final drive of the night. They'd taken the ball from their own 27-yard line to the Palomar 7 in 10 plays and a disputed pass interference call on the play before the pick.

Shalimar Lawson-Hinds led Palomar in tackles with 11, 9 of them solo. He had three tackles for loss for 19 yards. Alexander had 7 tackles and a broken up pass. Hunter Moore Drew Madera and Dominic Darby each had 6 tackles including a tackle for loss. Bryan Jones and Diovanni Brewer each broke up three passes.

Codey Wuthrich deposited two punts inside the 20-yard line, another that barely bounced into the end zone for a touchback and a 47-yarder that was downed at the 24-yard line with four seconds left in the game.

The Comets end with a 3-3 Southern Conference record, with the Dons finishing their season at 3-7 and 0-6 in conference.

GAME STATS


TOP PHOTO: Dylan Donahue unloads on Fullerton quarterback Joey Verhaegh as he sacks him for a 13-yard loss on Saturday afternoon. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Palomar's Diovanni Brewer knocks Fullerton's Tim Holt out of bounds at the 2-yard line at the end of a 27-yard pass play as Austin Wolff (47) comes in to try to help. Brewers' effort prevented a Hornets touchdown. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Defending SoCal champions buzz past Comets

YORBA LINDA (11-08-2014) -- Playing with a lineup decimated by injuries, Palomar didn't have close to the firepower to knock off 2014 Southern Conference champion and last year's Southern California champ Fullerton on Saturday.

The Hornets stung the Comets 38-17 at Nathan Shapell Memorial Stadium at Yorba Linda High School. Fullerton, which has a bye next week ended its regular season with an 8-2 overall record and a 6-0 conference mark and moves on to the four-team Southern California playoffs that begin in two weeks. Palomar slips to 5-4 on the season but will be bowl eligible if it can win its final regular season game vs. Santa Ana next Saturday night at Escondido's Wilson Stadium.

Palomar battled last year's state runner-up for 2 1/2 quarters before succumbing to the Hornets' superior firepower. The Comets led 10-7 after Justin Harris' 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Patrick Koch's 40-yard field goal with 5:31 remaining until halftime.

But Fullerton came back go in front 17-10 at the half, scoring 10 points in the last 2 minutes of the second quarter on Joey Verhaegh's second of three touchdown passes and Casey Eyman's 39-yard field goal.

It became a battle of attrition after that as two more of the Comets' best defensive players, Javante O'Roy and Dylan Donahue, exited with injuries and the Hornets kept adding to their lead.

Justin Harris, the conference's leading rusher, ran for 64 yards on 20 carries for Palomar, while Brett Hollingsworth and Mitch Bartram combined to complete 20 of 30 pass attempts for 154 yards. M.J. Bailey (eight receptions for 61 yards), Wayne Ganan (six receptions for 51 yards), Damon Nolan and Tiree Burton combined for all of the Comets' catches. 

Palomar's final touchdown came on a 24-yard run by Deviante Sayles with 49 seconds remaining in the game. But by then Fullerton had opened up a 38-10 lead.

Jason Sam rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and Verhaegh passed for 235 yards as the Hornets piled up 510 yards in total offense in the game.

Battling against almost insurmountabe odds, Palomar's offensive line, playing with 6-foot-4, 240-pound Luke Davis making his first start at right tackle in place of the previous 6-foot-8, 320-pound starter, limited Fullerton's defense to one sack. And the Comets made multiple big defensive and special teams plays.

The biggest defensive / special team series of plays came late in the second quarter, Diovanni Brewer saved a touchdown when he knocked Fullerton tight end Tim Holt out of bounds at the 2-yard line at the end of a 27-yard pass play from Verhaegh. The Comets then stopped the Hornets on first-and-goal, second-and-goal, third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal.

After the Comets were pinned at their own 4-yard after taking possession of the ball, punter Codey Wuthrich, standing barely inside the back of the end zone in short punt formation, kicked a 41-yarder that was downed at the Palomar 45.

Shawn Cameron returned four kickoffs for 115 yards.

Donahue, at defensive end, had seven tackles (six solo), including a 13-yard sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, before his fourth-quarter injury. He also had a quarterback hurry.

GAME STATS


ABOVE: Damon Nolan (No. 9) returns a punt 58 yards for a touchdown one minute and 17 seconds into the second half on Saturday night. That brought the score in the game to Golden West 20, Palomar 19. But the Comets missed the PAT kick and the Rustlers scored the game's final 13 points. BELOW LEFT: Dylan Donahue (No. 49) pressures Golden West quarterback Chris d'Entremont, the state passing leader, into hurrying an attempt that fell harmlessly to the turf, yards away from the nearest receiver. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW RIGHT: Cody Wuthrich, who deposited a punt at the Rustlers' 1-yard line late in the third quarter. After two straight half-the-distance penalties on Golden West for false starts, d'Entremont drove the Rustlers more than 99 yards to the game's final touchdown, bringing the final score to 33-19.

2 picks and a 99-yard plus drive do in Comets

COSTA MESA (11-01-2014) -- Two costly interceptions, one which set up a touchdown just before halftime and the other at the goal-line when Palomar appeared to be driving for the go-ahead TD in the third quarter, turned the game around in a 33-19 loss to Golden West on Saturday night.

But the bullet in the head for the Comets in the Southern Conference game at Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium came late in the third quarter, with the Palomar trailing by seven points, 26-19.

The Comets' Cody Wuthrich deposited a punt at the Golden West 1-yard line, and back-to-back half-the-distance penalties put the Rustlers back to within inches of their own goal line.

That's when quarterback Chris d'Entremont, the state's leading community college passer who threw for four touchdowns and ran for another TD, drove the Rustlers 99-plus yards to the game's final touchdown. That advanced the score to 33-19, which is the way the night ended.

The first few plays of the drive allowed Golden West to get out of the shadow of its own goalpost and advance the ball almost to midfield. d'Entremont then hooked up on a 57-yard pass play to Zimari Manning with 36 seconds remaining in the quarter. It was the second d'Entremont-to-Manning touchdown of the evening.

The Comets (5-3, 2-2) had plenty to be proud of on a cool evening, but shot themselves in the foot just enough times to take them out of both the game and the Southern Conference race. There were their usual penalties that included false starts, a foolish roughing-the-passer shove in the back that nullified a Palomar interception, the interceptions by Golden West and, until the Comets tightened up their defense in the second half, an inability to halt third-down and even fourth-down conversions.

Some of the first-half positives were two Patrick Koch field goals of 24 yards, which put Palomar in front 3-0 early, and 41 yards and an athletic 3-yard touchdown pass from receiver M.J. Bailey, who snuck behind the backfield to the right side and tossed the ball to tight end Wyatt Paterson alone in the end zone. The trick play came the second quarter on fourth down-and-goal and brought the Comets back to within one point at 14-13.

In the second half, there was an electifying 58-yard punt return for a touchdown by Damon Nolan that again brought the Comets back to within a point at 20-19 one minute and 17 seconds into the third quarter -- and Wuthrich's punt. The Comets missed the PAT kick after Nolan's TD and Rustlers scored the game's final 13 points.

Some game-long positives included solid blocking by the offensive line that allowed Justin Harris to rush for 90 yards on 12 carries. There also were Bailey's 13 receptions for 113 yards, and 244 yards of total offense by quarterback Brett Hollingsworth (199 yards passing and 45 yards rushing).Deviante Sayles returned four kickoffs for 117 yards, an average of 29.3 yards per return with a long of 41 yards. Nolan added 79 yards on two punt returns.

Defensively, the Comets made a series of big stops against d'Entremont, who leads the state with both 324.1 yards passing per game and 33 touchdowns in eight games, and his teammates. Leading the way for the defense: end Dylan Donahue with 9 tackles (5 solo), a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a quarterback hurry and his constant harrassment of d'Entremont trying to pass and attempting to evade him. DeAngelo Ivey also had 9 tackles (7 solo). Drew Madera was third on the team with six tackles.

State No. 11-ranked Palomar is out of the playoff hunt but can still qualify for a bowl game by beating either Fullerton next Saturday on the road or Santa Ana the following Saturday night at home.

State 10th-ranked Golden West goes to 6-2, 3-1 and can clinch at least a title tie in the Southern Conference and conference's automatic playoff berth by beating Orange Coast next week and Fullerton in two weeks.

Palomar also came into the game ranked sixth in Southern California (Golden West is ranked fifth) and 25th in the nation (the Rustlers are ranked 24th).

GAME STATS


Coach Joe Early has the Palomar football team ranked No. 6 in Southern California, No. 11 in the state and No. 25 nationally. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

PC resurfaces in national poll, is sixth in SoCal

GLENDALE / SAN MATEO / KIRKLAND, WA (10-29-2014) -- Coming off a bye week, Palomar's football team is in position to make its biggest splash on the Southern California, state and national levels since 2009, when the Comets went 10-3, advanced to the Southern California championship game and wound up eighth in the nation.

Going into a 7 p.m. Southern Conference game on Saturday against Golden West at Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium, Palomar is ranked sixth in Southern California (Golden West is ranked fifth). The Comets are ranked 11th in Southern California (the Rustlers are 10th). And the Comets have resurfaced in the J.C. Grid-Wire national rankings out of Kirkland, Washington at No. 25 (Golden West is No. 24).

Still awaiting the Comets after Saturday, defending Southern California champion Fullerton a week from Saturday on the road and Santa Ana to close out the regular season in two weeks at Wilson Stadium in Econdido.

Not that Early is even thinking about the final two weeks at this point, but if Palomar were to run the table, it would clinch no worse than a tie for the Southern Conference championship. If it were to run the table and Saddleback loses at least one of its final two games vs. Fullerton on Saturday and Golden West on Nov. 15, the Comets would automatically clinch a spot in the four-team Southern California playoffs, with the SoCal champion moving on to the state championship game.

The highest end-of-season national ranking under Early as head coach came in his first season of 2002, when the Grid-Wire ranked the 10-1 Comets No. 4 in the country. Early was an assistant on Palomar's three mythical national championship teams in the 1990s.

NATIONAL (J.C. Grid-Wire) STATE (CCCFCA) SOUTHERN CAL (CCCFCA)
1-East Mississippi (9-0) 1-American River (7-0) 1-Riverside City College (6-1)
2-Iowa Western (9-0) 2-College of San Mateo (6-1) 2-Long Beach CC (6-1)
3-Trinity Valley (Texas) (9-0) 3-Riverside City College (6-1) 3-Mt. SAC (6-2)
4-American River (7-0) 4-Long Beach CC (6-1) 4-Fullerton (6-2)
5-Snow (Utah) (7-1) 5-CC of San Francisco (6-1) 5-Golden West (5-2)
6-College of San Mateo (6-1) 6-Diablo Valley (6-1) 6-PALOMAR (5-2)
7-Arizona Western (8-1) 7-Mt. SAC (6-2) 7-Ventura (4-3)
8-CC of San Francisco (6-1) 8-Fullerton (6-2) 8-Chaffey (4-3)
9-Scottsdale (Arizona) (7-1) 9-Butte (5-2) 9-Cerritos (5-3)
10-Riverside City College (6-1) 10-Golden West (5-2) 10-Bakersfield (4-4)
11-Hutchinson (Kansas) (8-1) 11-PALOMAR (5-2) 11-Saddleback
12-Long Beach CC (6-1) 13-Sacramento CC (5-2) 12-Canyons
13-Mississippi Gulf Coast (8-1) 14-Santa Rosa (5-2) 13-Grossmont
14-Mt. SAC (6-2) 14-Ventura (4-3) 14-Santa Ana
15-Navarro (Texas) (7-2) 15-Laney (4-3) 15t-Citrus
16-Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) (7-2) 16-Cerritos (5-3) 15t-El Camino
17-Tyler (Texas) (7-2) 17-West Hills (7-0)  
18-Fullerton (6-2) 18-Victor Valley (7-0) Only Playoff-tier teams eligible
19-Kilgore (Texas) (7-2) 19-Fresno City College (4-3) for above coaches' poll. Non-
20-Coffeyville (Kansas) (7-2) 20-Chaffey (4-3) playoff eligible teams from the lower
21-Diablo Valley (6-1) 21-Southwestern (6-1) tier have a separate poll
22-Nassau (New York) (8-0) 22-Bakersfield (4-4)  
23-Santa Rosa (5-2) 23-Glendale (6-1)  
24-Golden West (5-2) 24-Hartnell (6-1)  
25-PALOMAR (5-2) 25t-Saddleback (4-4)
  25t-Santa Barbara CC (6-1)

Amu named Defensive Player, Athlete of Week

LONG BEACH / SAN DIEGO (10-21-2014) -- Palomar football player Toeafua Amu has received two awards for his performance in the Comets' 20-10 victory over Orange Coast on Saturday night in Escondido.

Amu, a sophomore outside linebacker from El Camino High School, was selected Defensive Player of the Week by the Southern Conference and Men's Athlete of the Week for all sports by the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference.

With the Comets trailing 10-0 six minutes into the second half on Saturday, Amu turned the game around on one play. He intercepted a pass and returned it 42 yards for the touchdown that got Palomar on the scoreboard. The play ignited a win that put them in a tie for second place, one game behind Fullerton, the defending Southern California Community College champion and 2013 state runner-up.

Amu also had five tackles (four solo, all for losses).

ABOVE: Toeafua Amu (41), Junior Tau (partially hidden in the middle and Drew Madera (52) swarm Orange Coast receiver Mark Munson. -- Photo by Stephen Davis. BELOW LEFT: Amu, who returned an interception 42 yards for Palomar's first touchdown. BELOW RIGHT: Malohi Makihele, who also had an interception. The Comets' other interception came courtesy of Diovanni Brewer.

Interceptions ignite come-from-behind victory

ESCONDIDO (10-18-2014) -- After playing lackluster football for much of the evening and trailing Orange Coast in a Southern Conference game 10-0 a little under six minutes into the second half on Saturday night, it turned out Palomar had the Pirates right where they wanted them.

Interceptions and healthy returns by linebacker Toeafua Amu (left), linebacker Malohi Makihele (right) and defensive Diovanni Brewer all resulted in touchdowns and ignited a 20-10 come-from-behind victory over the Pirates at Wilson Stadium. The Comets (5-2, 2-1) enter their bye week in a tie for second place in the conference behind 2013 Southern California champion and state runner-up Fullerton.

With the visiting Pirates on top by 10 points and in possession of the ball in a second-and-3 situation from their own 31 in the third quarter, Amu picked off a Kody Whitaker pass and returned it 41 yards down the right side for the touchdown that got Palomar on the scoreboard. Patrick Koch's PAT kick cut Orange Coast's lead to 10-7 with 9:41 remaining in the period.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Pirates drove from their own 37 yard line to the Palomar 7, which is when Makihele broke their backs with the second pick of the night. He intercepted Whitaker at the goal line and returned the pick 70 yards. A penalty for an illegal block early on the return brought the ball back and left the Comets with a first down at their own 22 yard-line.

With quarterback Brett Hollingsworth completing five passes, including two to Daniel Warren and two to Damon Nolan, Palomar went 78 yards in eight plays in a drive that took only 2 minutes, 46 seconds. Hollingsworth connected with M.J. Bailey on a 12-yard pass play for the go-ahead touchdown and Koch converted to put the Comets on top 14-10 with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter.

The Comets added a 40-yard TD pass play from Hollinsworth to Wayne Ganan with 7:26 left in the game. The touchdown came on the first snap after Brewer intercepted another Whitaker pass at the Palomar 12 and returned it 45 yards to the Orange Coast 43. The Pirates' Gilbert Gildersleeve blocked Koch's PAT attempt.

The TD gave Palomar a 20-10 lead, which is the way the game ended.

Hollingsworth hit on 14-of-27 pass attempts for 169 yards and two touchdowns after relieving Mitch Bartram, who started the game at quarterback. Nolan, Warren and Bailey caught 14 of those passes for 143 yards. Justin Harris rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries and was instrumental in controlling the ball for the Comets as time ticked down down the stretch.

Cory Salazar, Brewer and Drew Madera each had eight tackles for the Comets and combined for 3.5 tackles for losses and two sacks. As a team, Palomar tackled the Pirates 15 times for losses, including 7 sacks.

Madera recovered an Orange Coast fumble. Javonte O'Roy and Brewer broke up a combined seven passes.

The hit of the night was delivered by defensive end Dylan Donahue, who played in situations returning from an injury that kept him out of last week's win over Moorpark.

On one of his patented clean but violent hits, Donahue leveled a Orange Coast player on Brewer's interception return, adding 20 yards to the end of the return. The player collapsed when he got up and tried to walk off the field but eventually was revived and was helped off. He did not appear to be hurt seriously.

Codey Wuthrich deposited five of his eight punts inside the 20-yard line.

GAME STATS

TOP PHOTO: Palomar's Damon Nolan cradles the ball as he scores the winning touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Mitch Bartram in the second overtime Saturday night. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Linebacker Austin Wolff (47) and defensive tackle Rafael Sangines (50) sandwich Zach LaBar, who started the game at quarterback for Moorpark, on a first-quarter sack. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW LEFT: Wayne Ganan, who ran for 117 yards on five end-around plays and also caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Bartram. BELOW RIGHT: Bryan Jones, who had another big game defensively with an interception, three pass break-ups and four solo tackles

PC wins in 2nd OT on Bartram-Nolan pass, PAT

ESCONDIDO (10-11-2014) -- Palomar held off visiting Moorpark 46-45 in a wild two-overtime non-conference football shootout on Saturday night at Wilson Stadium.

Outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter as the visiting Raiders roared back from a 38-21 deficit and with the game appearing to be slipping away, the Comets (4-2) survived a scoreless first overtime on an interception by Bryan Jones.

Palomar then won the game in the second OT on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Bartram to Damon Nolan in the front of the end zone and Michael Elrod's PAT kick which put the Comets up 45-38.

Getting possession last, Moorpark scored on a 6-yard keeper by quarterback Nick Davis to pull to pull to within one at 45-44 and went for the win when they tried to run the ball in for a two-point conversion. Palomar's defense smothered Raekeal Beasley for a loss on the play, slamming the door on the Raiders and ending the game.

The Comets never trailed in the game and were tied by Moorpark only once, on a 44-yard field goal by Derek Kirk with 1:27 left in the fourth quarter that pulled the Raiders even at 38-38.

Palomar led 7-0, 10-0, 10-7, 17-7, 24-7, 24-14, 31-14, 31-21, 38-21, 38-28, 38-35, 45-38 and by the 45-44 final score.

Freshman wide receiver Wayne Ganan produced 193 all-purpose yards for the Comets, running for 117 yards on five end-around plays and catching four passes for 76 yards, including a 36-yard pass play from quarterback Mitch Bartram.

Justin Harris rushed for 87 yards on 13 carries, with 74 of those yards coming in the first half, and scored on touchdown runs of 2 and 22 yards.

Bartram came off the bench to pass for 197 yards and three touchdowns, hitting tight end Wyatt Paterson with a 30-yard scoring strike that was sandwiched between the TD passes to Ganan in the second quarter and Nolan in the second overtime. Bartram also tacked on 68 positive yards rushing, including a 31-yard keeper when Moorpark's Justin Manuatu poked the ball out of his grasp and the Raiders' Calhill Porter fell on it.

Daviente Sayles added a 13-yard touchdown run for Palomar and Elrod, subbing for regular kicker Patrick Koch who missed the game due to a death in the family supplied the rest of the Comets' point production.

Elrod made one of three field goal attempts, a 33-yarder in the first quarter, and added six PAT kicks.

Nolan had five pass receptions for 80 yards.

On defense, Diovanni Brewer had a big turnover for the Comets when he intrcepted a pass with 6:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.He also contributed 6 solo tackles and an assist. Jones broke up 3 passes, 2 of them late in the game, and had 4 solo tackles.

Cory Salazar (a sack, 6 solo tackles and 3 assists) and Bryce Alexander (a pass break-up in the second overtime and 5 solo tackles) also had big nights in the secondary.

With Dylan Donahue sidelined by an injury, Ian Kelly, Dominic Darby and Joe Naotala stepped up big on the defensive line. Kelly had a sack, 3 tackles for losses, 6 solo tackles, 3 assists and a quarterback hurry. Darby contributed a 12-yard sack, 5 solo tackles and 3 assists. Naotala had 2 tackles for losses, one of them for 8 yards, and had 4 solo tackles.

At linebacker, Austin Wolff broke up a pass and had 7 solo tackles and an assist.

Palomar will return to Southern Conference action next Saturday night against Orange Coast at home.

GAME STATS

TOP PHOTO: Daviente Sayles helps set up Palomar's fifth touchdown of the afternoon on this run. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Freshman Bryce Alexander out of Brawley High School intercepts a pass and returns it 34 yards deep into Grossmont territory. He's escorted on the return by Joe Naotala (95), Toeafua Amu (41), Dominic Darby (97) and Drew Madera (52). -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW: Justin Harris, who rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown for the Comets

Harris (190 yards), Comets run over the G-House

EL CAJON (10-04-2014) -- Justin Harris rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown, M.J. Bailey caught two touchdown passes, and Cory Salazar and Bryan Jones returned interceptions for TDs on Saturday afternoon as they led visiting Palomar over Grossmont 41-24 in a Southern Conference football game.

The G-House, two weeks removed from a 38-28 upset victory over then-state No. 1-ranked Riverside City College on the same turf at Mashin-Roth Stadium, fell behind 34-6 three minutes into the fourth quarter. The Griffins needed three late touchdowns, one on the final play of the game, to make the game appear closer than it actually was.

Harris, a sophomore from Chaparral High School in Temecula and a two-year starter for the Comets, accumulated his 190 yards on 28 carries. He had a long run of 44 yards from his own 17 to the Grossmont 39 early in the fourth quarter, helping ignite a 12-play drive that ended in Palomar's fifth touchdown of the day. And Grossmont could never tackle Harris for a loss.

The Comets took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a touchdown by Deviante Sayles, who sailed high into the air as he dove over his own blockers and Grossmont's defense into the end zone from 2 yards out.

Palomar added two second-quarter TDs, on a 13-yard pass from Mitch Bartram to Bailey and Salazar's 52-yard interception return, which put the Comets on top 20-0 at the half.

The Griffins finally got on the board 5 minutes into the second half on a 55-yard Michael Carrillo-to-Thomas McDonald pass play, But Palomar answered late in the period on a 1-yard run by Harris which put the Comets back in front by three touchdowns 27-6.

Bailey's second TD catch, coming at the end of a 5-yard pass from Brett Hollingsworth with 12:12 left in the game, gave the Comets their biggest lead at 34-6. Hollingsworth, making his first appearance since suffering a concussion against Long Beach City College, came into the game in the fourth quarter..

Turnovers and some sloppy plays helped Grossmont score three late touchdowns, making the game appear to be relatively close.

Jones' interception and 29-yard return gave Palomar a 41-18 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the game, before the Griffins scored on a short pass as time expired to round out the scoring.

The Comets had a bunch of big defensive plays besides the two pick-sixes, including two fumble recoveries by Hunter Moore, one of which he caused himself, and sacks by Moore, Dominic Darby and Ian Kelly. Bryan Alexander also had an interception and 34-yard return. Salazar, Joe Naotala and Drew Madera also had tackles for losses.

"We still have to learn to close out people," coach Joe Early said. "But we're happy with the win and we have to move forward to next week and the rest of the season."

The Comets host Moorpark in a non-conference game next Saturday night at Wilson Stadium in Escondido before resuming confernce action one week later with a home game vs. Orange Coast.

Palomar upped its record to 3-2 overall, 1-1 in conference. Grossmont is 2-3 and 0-2.

GAME STATS

View, Download Hugh Cox's Photos From This Event

TOP PHOTO: Shawn Cameron returns a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter Saturday evening to give the Comets a 21-14 lead over Saddleback at Wilson Stadium in Escondido. The return tied Cameron for second on the all-time Palomar list. The Gauchos, however, came back to win the teams' Southern Conference opener 32-21.DIRECTLY ABOVE: Deviante Sayles hurdles the line on a short that gave Palomar a first down early in the second quarter and set up a field goal. -- Photos by Hugh Cox.  BELOW: M.J. Bailey, who had six receptions for 143 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown from quarterback Mitch Bartram.

Palomar can't hold on in conference opener

ESCONDIDO (9-27-2014) -- Saturday night's Southern Conference opener against Saddleback at Wilson Stadium featured plenty of spectacular football by Palomar.

Shawn Cameron, a freshman from Carlsbad High School, returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with 5:42 left in the first quarter, giving the Comets their third lead in the game's first 9 1/2 minutes and tying Chris Cash for second on the all-time Palomar list.

The Comets led three separate times in a 4-minute, 22-second span in the opening quarter -- on a 4-yard touchdown run by Deviante Sayles that made it 7-0, a 71-yard pass play from Mitch Bartram to M.J. Bailey that made it 14-7 and on Cameron's kickoff return that put them on top 21-14.

Damon Nolan set up Sayles' TD with a 44-yard punt return on the previous play.

But, each time, Saddleback answered back. And when Patrick Koch kicked a 28-yard field goal that broke a 21-21 tie and put Palomar ahead 24-21 early in the second quarter, it would be the last time the Comets would lead in the game.

The Gauchos went on to record their first victory of the season 32-21, and Palomar must now win next Saturday afternoon at Grossmont to keep from falling to 0-2 two weeks into the conference season.

The Comets only scored once more during the course of the evening, on Bartram's 8-yard TD pass to Daniel Warren with eight minutes to play in the game. That pulled Palomar, which had fallen behind by 11 points, back within range at 35-31.

However, after Jadon Henry returned Grant Fleming's kickoff following the touchdown 42 yards out to the Saddleback 45, the Gauchos slit the Comets' throats on the ensuing play when Bautista and Chris Dimry hooked up on a 55-yard TD pass play. Bautista also hit Dimry for a 52-yard touchdown that got Saddleback on the scoreboard for the first time in the opening quarter.

On the night, Bautista connected on 22-of-35 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for an additional 47 net yards, which gave him 403 yards of total offense.

Even after the second Bautista-to-Dimry touchdown, Palomar still had chances to get back into the game. But they shot themselves in the foot on each occasion and saw time tick methodically away as the Comets fell to 2-2 overall.

Palomar made just enough mistakes to prevent them from slamming the door on the Gauchos (1-3). The mistakes ranged from 110 yards on 14 penalties, including one illegal procedure and false-start penalty after another, to dropped passes, misdirected passes, blocking breakdowns and badly-blown pass coverages that left Saddleback receivers ridiculously wide open downfield.

If not for just some of those mistakes, the Comets made more than enough big plays to win the game. Bartran passed for 320 yards. Bailey caught six passes for 143 yards and one touchdown. Wayne Ganan, Nolan and Warren added nine more catches for 161 yards and Bartram's second TD. Bartram, Sayles, Justin Harris and Ganan ran for a combined 103 yards.

Defensively, Palomar had four sacks, 10 tackles for losses and two broken-up passes. Dylan Donahue led the Comets with 10 tackles (5 solo), 6 of them for losses that added up to 34 yards, and 2 sacks for 13 yards. Drew Madera had 9 tackles and a half-sack. Dominic Darby added 2 sacks.

Cameron's achievement on his kickoff return is not to be taken lightly. He missed tying Nakoa McElrath's Palomar record of 100 yards against Fullerton in 1997 by 1 yard. McElrath moved on to become a first-team All-Pac 10 receiver at Washington State and led the Pac 10 in receiving in 1999. He later played for the Seattle Seahawks.

Cash, whose 99-yard return came against Pasadena City College in 1999 and whom Cameron tied with his return on Saturday, moved on to earn All-Pac 10 honors at cornerback for USC and was a three-year starter for the Detroit Lions. Cash finished his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons and is now the defensive backs coach at Florida A&M.

Bumped from third to fourth place on the all-time Palomar list: current Comet head coach Joe Early, who had a 98-yard TD return against Orange Coast in 1979. Early moved on to Long Beach State, which since has dropped football.

GAME STATS

TOP PHOTO: Palomar's Damon Nolan (9) has been selected as Southern Conference Special Teams/All-Purpose Player of the Week for his 272 all-purpose yards in Saturday's 33-6 victory over San Diego Mesa. DIRECTLY ABOVE: The Comets' Junior Tau (94), shown taking down Mesa's quarterback and running back at the same time on an attempted hand-off, was named Defensive Player of the Week. Tau had 9 tackles (7 solo), a sack and 3 tackles for losses against the Olympians. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Nolan, Tau take Southern Conference honors

LONG BEACH (9-23-2014) -- The Southern Conference has seleced Palomar's Damon Nolan and Junior Tau for Player of the Week honors for their performance on Saturday in the Comets' 33-6 victory over San Diego Mesa.

Nolan, a 5-foot-7, 155-pound sophomore from Murrieta Valley High School, accumulated 272 all-purpose yards against the Olympians. He ran the ball once for 17 yards, caught 7 passs for 97 yards and the game's first touchdown and returned 7 punts for 158 yards.

Tau, a 5-10, 275-pound sophomore from Temecula Chaparral High School, had 9 tackles (7 solo), a sack and 3 tackles for losses.

Co-Players of the Week on Offense were Golden West quarterback Chris d'Entrement and wid receiver Zimari Manning for their performances in a 36-30 win over Citrus on Saturday night.

TOP PHOTO: Daviante Sayles, a redshirt freshman from Rancho Buena Vista High School by way of Eastern Illinois University, cuts off a block by Khris Alvarez, a freshman from San Marcos High, to score Palomar's third touchdown of the night in the third quarter. DIRECTLY ABOVE: Linebacker Austin Wolff (47) and tackle Joe Naotala (partially hidden, No. 95) haul down Mesa's P.J. Russell in the first quarter. Cornerback Diovanni Brewer (29) arrives to help. -- Photos by Hugh Cox.  BELOW LEFT: Damon Nolan, who had 236 all-purpose yards, not counting a 69-yard punt return that was called back. BELOW RIGHT: MacKenzie Bettle, who blocked a Mesa punt that sailed out of the back of the end zone for a safety

Comets continue domination of Olympians

SAN DIEGO (11-20-2014) -- Palomar's defense made life a living hell for quarterback Brandon Diaz and his San Diego Mesa football teammates on Saturday night. And the Comets' offense and special teams weren't far behind in inflicting pain on the Olympians.

The Comets, who haven't lost to Mesa in 47 years in an on-again, off-again rivalry, rolled to a 33-6 victory at Merrill Douglas Stadium. The Olympians never seriously threatened until they scored on a 53-yard Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game -- getting the ball off on an off-balance fling from backup QB Scort Weismann to Chris White after it was snapped with less than one second remaining.

While Palomar's front seven of Junior Tau, Dylan Donahue, Hunter Moore, Ian Kelly, Toefua Amu and Austin Wolff spent the better part of the evening punishing Diaz and his teammates in and behind the Olympians' backfield, slot receiver Daman Nolan and the offense set the tone for the night immediately following the opening kickoff.

A 17-yard run by Nolan on an end-around play and two Mitch Bartran-to-Nolan pass plays that went for a combined 53 yards put the Comets on top early 7-0 after a one-minute, 55-second opening drive. Bartran and Nolan connected on a 28-yarder for the touchdown and Palomar never let up on the way to its second win in three games.

The Comets also scored on a 43-yard field goal by Patrick Koch, a 4-yard pass from Bartram to Daniel Warren, a 5-yard run by Daviente Sayles, a safety when MacKenzie Bettle blocked a punt that sailed out of the back of the end zone, and a 10-yard pass from Bartram to M.J. Bailey. Koch converted after all four Palomar touchdowns.

Bartran, making his first start at quarterback, connected on 15-of-26 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns before giving way in the fourth quarter to Austin Early, who was 4-for-5 for 26 yards. With the Comets leading 33-0, Early's fifth attempt was dropped by a tight end who was wide open in the back right corner of the end zone.

Nolan accounted for 272 all-purpose yards (7 catches for 97 yards, the 17-yard run and 7 punt returns for 158 yards). He also had a 69-yard punt return to deep in Mesa territory called back because of a block in the back away from the play.

Justin Harris, Sayles and back-up fullback Ricky Smith combined to run for 163 yards.

Defensively, Tau led the Comets with 9 tackles (7 solo), 1 sack and 3 tackles for losses. Donahue contributed 1 sack for a 10-yard loss and had 3 tackles for losses. Naotala had 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for losses. Wolff had 1 sack for 12 yards and 1.5 tackles for losses. Amu had 1.5 tackles for losses. Moore had a 9-yard sack, and Miranda also had a tackle for loss.

Palomar sacked Diaz and Weismann six times for 45 yards. All in all, the Comets tackled the Olympians 14 times behind the line of scrimmage for 67 yards in losses.

The non-conference victory kept the Comets unbeaten against the Olympians since Oct. 14, 1967, when Mesa won 14-7.

Palomar will return home to Wilson Stadium in Escondido next Saturday to host Saddleback in a Southern Conference opener at 6 p.m.

GAME STATS 

ABOVE: Shawn Cameron returns a kickoff 48 yards from the goal line after Long Beach's last touchdown of the night on Saturday. BELOW: Cornerback Bryan Jones (8) breaks up a pass intended for De'Quan Hampton in the end zone to prevent a touchdown by the Vikings. -- Photos by Hugh Cox

Palomar runs into a buzzsaw in its first loss

LONG BEACH (9-13-2014) -- The word on the street was that Long Beach City College may be as athletic and talented as any team in the Southern California Football Association this season.

Against the Vikings on Saturday evening at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Comets smacked head-first into the realization that the word on the street may have been right on the money.

After Palomar drove down after the opening kickoff to take a 3-0 lead on the first of two Patrick Koch field goals from 33 yards out just 1 minute, 22 seconds into the game, Long Beach answered right back by scoring 21 unanswered points in the next eight minutes and continued on to a 45-13 non-conference victory over th Comets.

 "They played at a faster speed than we did," Palomar coach Joe Early said.

To make matters worse, the Comets (1-1) did little positive to help themselves the remainder of the first half and found themselves staring at a 35-6 halftime deficit.

That was the bad news. The good news was that they put up a much better battle over the last two quarters, when they came to life and played the Vikings (2-0) to a 7-7 standoff.

The biggest differences in the game were a huge performance by Long Beach quarterback Kenny Potter, who passed for 219 yards and three touchdowns and ran for an additional 143 yards, and the Vikings' monster pass rush that produced nine sacks.

Austin Early, the second of three quarterbacks the Comets used, completed 6-of-9 passes for 109 yards, including a 50-yard play to M.J. Bailey (6 catches, 108 yards) just before the half. But Long Beach sacked him seven times.

Some other bright spots for Palomar were Shawn Cameron's 121 yards on five kickoff returns, including a 48 yarder from the goal line, a 62-yard interception return by DeAngelo Ivey from six yards deep in the end zone, and an interception by Javante O'Roy.

Also Dylan Donahue's 2 tackles (2 for losses) and 2 quarterback hurries, Bryan Jones' 10 tackles and 3 pass-breakups (one in the end zone) and Dominic Darby's 7 tackles and 12-yard sack.

"We did some good things," Joe Early admitted. Just not enough of them.

The Comets also scored on on Koch's 32-yard field goal and quarterback Mitch Bartram's 4-yard touchdown run with 14:25 left in the game. Koch converted after the Bartram TD.

GAME STATS

View, download Hugh Cox's photos

Hollingsworth, Donahue conf. Players of Week

LONG BEACH (9-08-2014) -- The Southern Conference has selected Palomar quarterback Brett Hollinsworth (left) and defensive end Dylan Donahue (right) as Players of the Week for the opening weekend of the season.

Hollingsworth, a freshman from Citrus Hill High School in Perris, hit on 18-of-30 pass attempts for 176 yards and two touchdowns, including a 26-yard strike to Wayne Ganan with 2:38 to play which gave the Comets a 35-28 non-confernce victory over visiting Citrus.

Donahue, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore from Billings West High School in Billings, Montana, did not start the game because he was coming off an injury, but made up for lost time when he got on the field as he sacked Owls quarterback Larry Cutbirth four times for 47 yards. Donahue had seven solo tackles and also contributed a quarterback hurry.

TOP PHOTO: M.J. Bailey dives into the end zone at the end of a 10-yard touchdown pass play from Austin Early to break a 6-6 tie against Citrus with 1:02 left before halftime on Saturday night. The Comets won their season opener 35-28. PHOTO SIRIES DIRECTLY ABOVE: This is the first of two controversial 15-yard roughing-the-kicker penalties called on Palomar that prolonged Citrus drives. -- Photos by Hugh Cox. BELOW LEFT: Hunter Moore, a freshman defensive lineman from Mission Hills High School who returned a fumble 13 yards for a touchdown. BELOW RIGHT: Punter Codey Wuthrich, who played a major role in the victory. He averaged 41.0 yards for eight punts, and his last five went for 43, 44, 50, 49 and 53 yards.

Comets score with 2:38 left to win 2014 opener

ESCONDIDO (9-06-2014 / REVISED 9-09-2014) -- Palomar, trailing by a point as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter Saturday night, scored on a 26-yard pass play from Brett Hollingsworth to Wayne Ganan with 2 minutes, 38 seconds to play to beat visiting Citrus 35-28 in its season opener.

Hollingsworth's second TD pass of the night put the Comets in front of the Owls 33-28, and he then hit Daniel Warren for a two-point conversion that put Palomar in front by the final seven-point margin.

"We overcame some adversity in this one, and that was satisfying, and it feels good to win," coach Joe Early said. "But we haven't done anything but win one game. We're not satisfied with that."

While Palomar suffered its worst season in 31 years a year ago with an extremely uncharacteristic collapse, Citrus is coming off a year which saw the Owls go 8-3, sustaining two of their three losses by one point to powers Mt. SAC 37-36 and Riverside City College 51-50. They turned back Saddleback in the Beach Bowl to cap a near-storybook run.

But someone forgot to tell the Comets to be overly impressed. Hollingsworth, making his debut as the starting quarterback, connected on nine of his first 10 pass attempts and teamed with Austin Early, who replaced him for part of the second quarter, to throw for a combined 219 yards and three touchdowns.

The Owls, who got 327 yards passing from quarterback Larry Cutbirth, and Comets battled back and forth as the lead constantly changed hands. Hollingsworth threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Damon Nolan to put Palomar in front early 6-0, but a missed two-point conversion set the stage for Citrus to take 14-13, 21-20 and 28-27 leads.

The Comets also scored on a 10-yard pass play from Early to M.J. Bailey, a 13-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Hunter Moore and a 2-yard TD run by Justin Harris. Patrick Koch kicked three PATs.

Early was 7-for-8 passing. Bailey had nine pass recreptions for 87 yards.

Palomar got a huge effort from touted defensive end Dylan Donahue, who didn't start for the Comets after just receiving a medical clearance from a minor injury on Friday but made up for lost time once he entered the game by sacking Cutbirth four times for 43 yards in losses.

Sophomore punter Codey Wuthrich played a major role in the Palomar win. He averaged 41.0 yards for eight punts, and his last five punts went for 43, 44, 50, 49 and 53 yards.

The Comets will try to go to 2-0 when they visit Long Beach City College in another non-conference game next Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the LBCC campus.

GAME STATS

View, Download Hugh Cox's Photos

Receiver Hakim is Jets' primary kick returner

FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey (8-26-2014) -- New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan told ESPN.com on Tuesday that former Palomar wideout and current Jets wide receiver/kick returner/gunner Saalim Hakim has a "leg up" on other candidates vying for a spot on the 53-man roster.

This, Ryan said, is because of his ability to play special teams. And Hakim's ability to play special teams has a great deal to do with his blazing speed. The 24-year-old former Comet, who enters the final preseason game as the Jets' primary kick returner, was timed by NFL scouts at 4.23 in the 40 at his pro day in 2012.

Hakim was activated from the Jets' practice squad late last season and played in their final three games. He showed signs of just how fast he really is on a pair of end-around plays, one which went for a 9-yard gain that he nearly broke for a touchdown.

He also played two games for the New Orleans Saints late in the 2012 regular season.

Hakim, younger brother of 13-year former NFL receiver/kick returner Az-Zahir Hakim, came to Palomar at his brother's suggestion in 2008 from Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, where he was primarily a soccer player. He caught three passes for the Comets as a freshman and, after a year of coaching, had 28 receptions as a sophomore in 2009.

"The only route I knew how to run was a go-route," Hakim told ESPN.com. "But nex thing you know, I started learning other routes too. I was learning a lot."

Hakim moved on to Division II Tarleton State in Texas, where he had 18 catches in 2010. Hakim then spent the 2011 season with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League. One year later, he returned to Tarleton State to participate in pro day and, after running the 4.23 in the 40, Hakim says 18 NFL teams called him.

"My cellphone was blowing up," he told ESPN.com. He first signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys, dislocated a finger in a blocking drill. He next had short stints with the St. Louis Rams and the Saints, then joind the Jets' practice squad in October 2013. The rest, leading up to the Jets' final preseason game prior to the 2014 regular-season opener, is history.

(Hakim lists his college as "Palomar" rather than Tarleton State)

2014 Pre-Season ...

PC, Arizona St. alum Schwab returns to NFL

HOUSTON (8-02-2014) -- Former Palomar and Arizona State offensive tackle Brice Schwab has returned to the NFL. Schwab signed with the Houston Texans last week and has already made an impact in drills at the Texans Training Facility in Houston.

The 6-foot-7, 302-pound Schwab was with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers and the New England Patriots during the 2013 pre-season.

Schwab was ranked as the No. 9 No. 9 community college recruit in the nation and the No. 2 offensive lineman by Rivals.com coming out of Palomar following the 2009 season when the Comets went 10-3, reached the Southern California championship game and were ranked No. 8 nationally by the JC Grid-Wire of Kirkland, WA.

Schwab originally verballed to USC, de-committed when coach Pete Carroll left the Trojans for the Seattle Seahawks and chose Arizona State over Oklahoma and Florida State, both of which also recruited him heavily. He played in nine games for the Sun Devils in 2010, red-shirted in 2011, then started all 13 games at right tackle as a senior in 2012 for a team that averaged 205.5 yards rushing, Arizona State's best total in 25 seasons.

Houston opens the preseason Saturday night at Arizona.

The other former Comet currently on an NFL roster is wide receiver Saalim Hakim, who has been clocked a 4.28 in the 40 and is beginning his second season with the New York Jets.

Earvin Simmons returns a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in Palomar's 38-16 victory over Orange Coast on Sept. 28, 2013. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Simmons signs with MidAmerican Nazarene

SAN MARCOS (7-01-2014) - Palomar kick returner and running back Earvin Simmons, a sophomnore from  Murrieta Valley High School and a first-team All-Southern Conference selection last fall as a sophomore, will play at MidAmerican Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas.

Former Palomar, Kansas State University and NFL running back Joe Hall will be Simmons' position coach.

Simmons returned 22 kickoffs for 709 yards for the Comets in 2013,  an average of 32.2 yards per return.

Palomar's earlier signees were kicker Jonathan Leiva (UNLV), quarterback Ryan Lamb (Central Michigan), defensive end Brian Gundling (Texas State), middle linebacker Sylvester Hagen (Missouri Southern State), running back Aaron Mossbarger (MidAmerican Nazarene), tight end Brett Hayes (Southwest Oklahoma State) and corner Daichi Kozu (Baker University of Kansas).

Safety Stephen Parks, making a tackle against Riverside City College in a 2013 game, will sign with Southern Utah. --  Photo  by Hugh Cox

PC's leading tackler Parks to sign with So. Utah

SAN MARCOS (5-27-2014) -- Stephen Parks, Palomar's leading tackler last season, will sign with NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Southern Utah University.

Parks, a 6-foot-0, 200-pound safety out of Escondido High School, had 147 tackles, 3 interceptions, 10 pass break-ups and 2 forced fumbles as a starting safety for the Comets during the last two seasons.

During the 2013 season, Parks led the Comets with 82 tackles (55 solo) and also had 4.5 tackles for losses, 1 interception, 5 pass break-ups and a forced fumble.

Southern Utah, a member of the Big Sky Conference located in Cedar City Utah, went 8-4 during the 2013 regular season before losing to Sam Houston State in the FCS national playoffs.

The Thunderbirds will open the 2014 season at Nevada on Aug. 30 and also will play Southeastern Louisiana, South Dakota State, Fresno State, Weber State, Cal Poly, Eastern Washington, Idaho State, North Dakota, Sacramento State, Montana and Northern Arizona.

Palomar running back Aaron Mossbarger, who has accepted a full scholarship to MidAmerica Nazarene, dives into the endzone to score a touchdown vs. state runner-up Fullerton College last October. Former Palomar, Kansas State and NFL running back Joe Hall is the Pioneers' running backs coach. -- Photo by Hugh Cox

Mossbarger to play for Joe Hall at MidAmermica

SAN MARCOS (5-13-2014) -- Aaron Mossbarger, an Escondido High School product who played running back for Palomar for the past two football seasons, has signed as a scholarship player with MidAmerica Nazarene University, an NAIA member school in Olathe, Kansas.

Former Palomar, Kansas State and NFL running back Joe Hall is the Pioneers' running back coach.

Mossbarger played in seven games for the Comets last fall and in 15 games over the last two seasons while missing some action with injuries. He won Palomar's 2012 Iron Man special teams award and was a part-time starter at running back for the 2013 team. .

Comets who signed earlier have been kicker Jonathan Leiva with UNLV, quarterback Ryan Lamb (Central Michigan), defensive end Brian Guendling (Texas State), middle linebacker Sylveswter Hagen (Missouri Southern State), tight end Brett Hayes (Southwestern Oklahoma State) and middle linebacker Offisa Kose from the Comets'  2012 team, who sat out last season (Western New Mexico).

A wave of other Comets are expected to move on to the four-year level as the spring semester ends, including tight ends Sam Browning and Ryan Ena, and safety Stephen Parks.

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


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