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Palomar College
1140 W. Mission Rd.

San Marcos, CA 92069
(760) 744-1150 Ext. 2460
FAX (760) 761-3588
Athletic Director:
John Woods

FOOTBALL

Schedule | 2001 | Stats | Roster | Coaching Staff | Team History

Comets 10-1 for 2002 ...

 

 

Alex Thompson

 

Matt Kovacevich

 

Coach Joe Early

       

(Copyright 2002 Rick Rowell)

23 sophs from '02 move on
With eight recent signings and commitments, 23 sophomores from Palomar College's 2002 football team, which was 10-1 and ranked No. 4 in the Nation by the JC Grid-Wire, have moved on to four-year programs.

Running back Chris Williams has signed with San Jose State, linebacker Sean Sovacool with Northern Arizona, linebacker Mike Tinoisamoa with UNLV, safety Shane Lancaster with Liberty, cornerback Greg Williams with Tuskegee, and center Zach Williams with Rocky Mountain, bringing the Comets' list of scholarship players from last fall's team to 20. Running back Alex Thompson will walk on at San Diego State, and down lineman Buick Tuua will walk on at San Jose State.

Orientation for Palomar's 2003 summer program is slated for Monday, June 23, at 6 p.m. in front of the Dome.

2002 Palomar Sophomores to 4-year Colleges

  • MATT KOVACEVICH, P, Utah (D I-A) — Transfered in January
  • JOHN NIELSEN, QB, Kansas (D I-A) — Transfered in January
  • WILLIE TAGOAI, FS, UNLV (D I-A)
  • BRIAN NICHOLSON, DE, UNLV (D I-A) — Transfered in January
  • ANDREW PAOPAO, DE, San Jose St. (D I-A)
  • CHRIS WILLIAMS, RB, San Jose St. (D I-A)
  • MIKE TINOISAMOA, OLB, UNLV (D I-A)
  • BUICK TUUA, DL, San Jose St. (D I-A)
  • ALEX THOMPSON, RB, San Diego St. (D I-A)
  • SEAN SOVACOOL, LB, Northern Arizona (D I-AA)
  • ROMAN YBARRA, QB, Idaho St. (D I-AA) — Transfered in January
  • EDDIE SULLIVAN, WR, Montana St. (D I-AA) — Transfered in January
  • RORY CANFIELD, OT, Montana St. (D I-AA) — Transfered in January
  • ANDREW DORSEY, LB, Portland St. (D I-AA) — Transfered in January
  • SHANE LANCASTER, SS, Liberty (D I-AA)
  • TRENT HENDERSON, WR, Southwest Texas St. (D I-AA)
  • GREG WILLIAMS, CB, Tuskegee (D II)
  • FREDDY ELLIS, CB, South Dakota St. (D II) — Transfered in January
  • JERALD ETEUINI, DL, U. of Minnesota Duluth (D II)
  • AETO TAELE, DL, U. of Minnesota Duluth (D II)
  • ZACH WILLIAMS, Rocky Mountain (NAIA)
  • HERMAN NUCKOLS, DB, St. Ambrose (NAIA)
  • JEFF SHERWOOD, K, St. Ambrose (NAIA)
Hall resurfaces with KC
Former Palomar College All-American running back Joe Hall is back in the NFL, vying for a spot at fullback with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Hall, who played on the four-year college level at Kansas State, was with the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 preseason.

"He's got all the athleticism to play in this league," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. "He's a big man. He could fill that role of fullback/H-back/tight end. He's 320 pounds right now. If he gets down to 300 pounds, he can play for us."

That was in April. When preseason drills began for the Chiefs, Hall reported at 300 pounds. He played for the Chiefs on Monday night, Aug. 4, against the Green Bay Packers in the Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio.

"He catches my eye every time I come on the field," Vermeil said.

Hall, a Dallas Morning News second-team All-Big 12 selection for K-State, rushed for 158.0 yards per game for Palomar's 11-1 National Community College co-championship team as a sophomore in 1998.

"This guy can play," Kansas City Vice President of Player Personnel Lynn Stiles said. "We know he can catch the ball; he can catch a BB outside at two in the morning! Now, whether he can put it together remains to be seen, but he'll have the opportunity to fail or succeed. It's what he does with that chance to make himself better that will decide it."

Hall is a recent graduate of Kansas State with a joint humanities/English major.

In addition, former Palomar All-American center Matt O'Neal is now with the New York Jets. O'Neal, a former All-Big 12 selection at Oklahoma, was with the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. The Washington Redskins signed ex-Palomar and University of Indiana guard Pita Elisara. Elisara was with the New York Giants in the 2001 preseason and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2002 preseason.

PALOMAR PLAYERS ON NFL ROSTERS AS OF 8/1/03

  1. Chris Cash (USC), CB, Detroit Lions
  2. Keith Miller (Cal), LB, Seattle Seahawks
  3. Kevin Swayne (Wayne State), WR, New York Jets
  4. Mitch White (Oregon State), OT, Tampa Bay Bucs
  5. Robbie Robinson (Colorado), FS, St. Louis Rams
  6. Matt O'Neal (Oklahoma), C, New York Jets
  7. Joe Hall (Kansas State), FB, Kansas City Chiefs
  8. Pita Elisara (Indiana), OG, Washington Redskins
Nielsen will play at Kansas
John Nielsen, one of two sophomore quarterbacks on Palomar's 2002 football team, is headed to the Big 12 Conference to play for the University of Kansas.

Nielsen, a 3.815 student at Palomar and a J.C. Grid-Wire Academic All-American honorable mention selection, is already attending at Kansas. He'll vie for the Jayhawks' quarterback job in spring practice.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder completed 53.3 percent of his passes this past season for a Palomar team that went 10-1, won the Mission Conference championship and was ranked No. 2 in Southern California by the California Community College Football coaches Association and No. 4 in the Nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire.

Nielsen started the Comets' season opener, a victory over a Moorpark team that also went 10-1 and finished the season ranked No. 6 in the Nation. He sustained a hand injury during the game and wound up spending most of the year backup up UCLA transfer Roman Ybarra, who has transfered to Idaho State.

Nielsen, the Eastern League Player of the Year at Mira Mesa High School in 2001, also considered Pittsburgh and Utah.

Palomar ranked No. 4 in U.S.
Palomar College, which went 10-1 in its first season under new head coach Joe Early, is No. 4 in the final 2002 J.C. Grid-Wire National rankings announced Tuesday, Nov. 17.

California State champion Reedley is ranked No. 1, followed in the Top Five by No. 2 Butte, No. 3 Northeastern Oklahoma, No. 4 Palomar and No. 5 Joliet (Illinois).

Palomar won the Mission Conference Central Division and overall Mission Conference championships, Early was Mission Central Coach of the Year and the Comets' coaches were selected as Staff of the Year. The Comets defeated Grossmont in the South County Bowl.

Along their way to their final No. 4 National ranking, the Comets defeated No. 6 Moorpark, No. 12 Grossmont and No. 15 Saddleback.

FINAL J.C. GRID-WIRE NATIONAL TOP 20 — 1. Reedley, 12-0; 2. 2. Butte, 10-1; 3. Northeastern Oklahoma, 10-1; 4. PALOMAR, 10-1; 5. Joliet (Illinos), 10-1; 6. Moorpark, 10-1; 7. Georgia Military, 10-1; 8. Dixie (Utah), 10-2; 9. College of the Canyons, 10-2; 10. Chaffey, 10-1; 11. Fresno City College, 9-2; 12. Grossmont, 9-2; 13. Butler County (Kansas), 10-2; 14. City College of San Francisco, 9-2; 15. Saddleback, 9-2; 16. Glendale (Arizona), 9-2; 17. Trinity Valley (Texas), 10-2; 18. Foothill (9-2); 19. Coffeyville (Kansas), 9-3; 20. Holmes (Mississippi), 9-2.


Swayne catch can't help Jets
Former Palomar receiver Kevin Swayne caught a fourth-quarter pass for 12 yards but his New York Jets team lost 30-10 to the Oakland Raiders in the AFC semifinals Sunday, Jan. 12, in Oakland. Swayne helped lead the 1993 Palomar football team to an 11-0 record and the consensus National Community College Championship. He completed his second season with the Jets in Sunday's playoff loss.

Former Palomar cornerback Chris Cash , a rookie out of USC who started all season at left cornerback for the Detroit Lions, led all NFL corners in tackles during the 2002 season. Cash finished the season with 115 tackles, third best on the Lions team. He also had an interception and two fumble recoveries.

Cash, who helped lead the 1998 Comets to an 11-1 record and a National Community College Co-Championship, was selected as the Lions' Pepsi Player of the Week after recording 12 tackles (10 solo) on defense, breaking up a pass and adding two special teams tackles against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 13.

Ex-Palomar linebacker Keith Miller plays for the Denver Broncos. While Cash was a sixth-round draft choice out of USC, Swayne played four-year college ball at Wayne State (Nebraska). Miller played at Cal.

Click here to view a story and action photo of Chris Cash on the first page of the Detroit Lions web site.

Click here to read a summary of Cash's rookie season from the Lions web site.


Palomar goes 26-0 vs. County
First-year head coach Joe Early’s Palomar College team ran its football record against San Diego County teams to 26-0 since 1987 on Saturday, Dec. 7, by taking control of the South County Bowl when it counted.

Palomar (10-1), the Mission Conference champion and ranked No. 10 in the Nation, scored two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes, 6 seconds to beat No. 7-ranked Grossmont 20-19 at Southwestern College’s DeVore Stadium. The Griffins finish 9-2.

Palomar has won 21 of its last 24 games.

With the Comets trailing Grossmont 19-7 after four field goals by two different Griffins kickers, quarterback Roman Ybarra dove head-first over the line of scrimmage to score from 1 yard out with 3:06 to play and Ryan Lux converted to pull Palomar to within 19-14.

After an onside kick attempt that did not go 10 yards, Palomar held Grossmont to three-and-out and, with 1:32 to play, Ybarra hit freshman receiver Adam Burke over the middle on an 80-yard pass play for the winning touchdown.

All this came after Ybarra passed for only 45 yards in the first half and the Griffins led at intermission, 13-7.

Palomar, trailing 10-0, got on the board just before halftime by doing what it has done the best all year.

Matt Kovacevich pinned the Griffins at their own 12-yard line with a 49-yard punt and, moments later, Buick Tuua forced a fumble and Mike Tinoisamoa recovered the ball at the Grossmont 4. Three plays later, Alex Thompson scored on a 4-yard run, and Lux kicked the PAT to make it 10-7.

Kovacevich pinned opponents deep in their own territory all season, and Palomar finished the regular season plus-25 on take-aways.

Grossmont extended its lead to 13-7 on a field goal with two seconds remaining in the half, and the added two more field goals in the second half to make it 19-7.

Ybarra finished 13-for-32 passing for 189 yards, Burke had four catches for 115 yards and Detron Johnson had four receptions for 46 yards.

Palomar also rushed for 183 yards, with Chris Williams carrying for 89 yards on 19 carries and Thompson tacking on 78 yards on 17 tries. The Comets edged the Griffins in total offense, 372 yards to 365.

The Comets are 11-3 all-time in post season games.

San Diego Union-Tribune story on game ... North County Times story on game

2002 Schedule, Results

DAY

DATE

OPPONENT

LOCATION

TIME

W/L

SCORE

Sat

Sept 14

Moorpark

Away

7:00

W

22-17

Sat

Sept. 21

Southwestern

Home

1:00

W

30-16

Sat

Sept. 28

Long Beach City College

Home

1:00

W

37-17

Sat

Oct. 5

El Camino

Away

6:00

W

33-27

Sat

Oct. 12

Mt. San Antonio

Home

1:00

L

23-31

Sat

Oct. 26

*Fullerton

Home

1:00

W

27-7

Sat

Nov. 2

*Orange Coast

Away

1:00

  W

43-6

Sat

Nov. 9

*Saddleback

Away

5:00

W

19-16

Sat

Nov. 16

*Santa Ana

Home

1:00

W

47-21

Sat

Nov. 23

*Golden West

Home

1:00

W

24-10

South County Bowl at DeVore Stadium, Southwestern College

Sat

Dec. 7

Grossmont

S'western

1:00

W

20-19

* indicates Mission Conference Central Division game

Home Games at Wilson Stadium, Escondido High School

All Games Broadcast Live on KKSM-AM 1320 Radio

Sept. 14

PALOMAR 22, Moorpark 17 — The Comets, ranked No. 10 in the Nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire in the preseason, beat No. 18 Moorpark on the road in the season football opener for both teams. The Comets fell behind 17-16 with 1:22 to play, then scored the winning touchdown as time expired on a 56-yard pass and run play from quarterback Roman Ybarra to preseason all-American receiver Eddie Sullivan. Sullivan and safety Willie Tagoai, another preseason All-American, both came up huge for the Comets. Sullivan caught 14 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Tagoai intercepted two Moorpark passes. Ybarra came off the bench in the second quarter to go 16-for-38 passing for 241 yards and three TDs. Linebackers Andrew Dorsey and Sean Sovacool, and defensive end Andrew Paopao (two sacks for 17 yards) also had big games for Palomar. Ryan Lux kicked a 50-yard field goal for Palomar's first points of the season, and punter Matt Kovacevich averaged 40.0 yards for 10 punts, with four punts over 40 yards and a long punt of 55 yards. Kovacevich pinned the Raiders inside their own 20-yard line four times in the game, including once at the 9-yard line. John Nielsen, who started the game at quarterback, may have suffered a broken hand. The Comets, defending Southern California champions and winners of three National titles wince 1991, came home victors in their first game uner new head coach Joe Early, a longtime Palomar assistant who took over for current San Diego State coach Tom Craft. "We practice situations like this all the time, our guys kept their cool and I'm proud of them," Early said. "But it never should have come down to the last play. We made some first-game mistakes that we're going to have to correct."

Sept. 21

PALOMAR 30, Southwestern 16 — The Comets, trailing 16-3 at halftime, let the offensive line and running backs do the work over the last two quarters as the Comets scored 27 unanswered second-half points in their home opener. With the win, coach Joe Early's Comets advance to 2-0. Running behind tackles Taylor Schmidt and Chris Pino, guards Rory Canfield and Eder Arosemena and center Zach Williams, the Comets scored four second-half touchdowns on the ground. Chris Williams rushed for 161 yards and a 13-yard touchdown on 21 carries and Alex Thompson tacked on 114 yards and TDs of 3 yards and 1 yard on 20 carries. Josh Sattley tallied the other TD from the 1. John Nielsen helped spark the comeback at quarterback, coming on for starter Roman Ybarra early in the second quarter and hitting on eight of 12 pass attempts. Adam Burke had seven receptions for 95 yards. The Comets had two touchdowns called back, a run by Thompson and a pass from Nielsen to Eddie Sullivan. Palomar forced four turnovers, getting interceptions from Shane Lancaster and Brandon Bell, and fumble recoveries from Andrew Dorsey and Andrew Paopao. Dorsey returned his fumble recovery 18 yards to the Southwestern 2 to set up Thompson's first TD. Greg Williams caused the fumble Dorsey returned. Joey Drayton separated Jaguars receiver Richard Gaines from the football on Paopao's recovery. Paopao finished with 6 tackles (4 solo), a tackle for a loss, 2 sacks, a caused fumble, a fumble recovery and a deflected pass. Lancaster had another interception nullified because of a penalty. Paopao, Jerald Eteuini, Brian Nicholson and Drayton sacked Southwestern's quarterbacks five times for 44 yards in losses, and the Comets outrushed the Jaguars 269 yards to 32 yards. Ryan Lux kicked a 45-yard field goal for Palomar, and Matt Kovacevich had four punts for 160 yards, including a 48-yarder that pinned Southwestern back at its own 1-yard line. Palomar hasn't lost to a San Diego County team in 14 years, since the Comets fell to Southwestern on a late fourth-quarter touchdown during the 1988 season.

Sept. 28

PALOMAR 37, Long Beach City College 17 Palomar, ranked No. 10 in the Nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire, opened its Mission Conference football schedule by rushing for 356 yards Saturday in a cross-division rout of No. 15 Long Beach City College at Wilson Stadium in Escondido. Alex Thompson, a sophomore from San Marcos High School, ran for 190 yards and a 2-yard touchdown on 34 carries. Chris Williams, a sophomore from El Camino High School, rushed for 177 yards and a 65-yard TD on 25 carries. The Comets again got dominant offensive line play from Chris Pino, Taylor Schmidt, Rory Canfield, Mike Nelson, Eder Arosemena and Zach Williams as they advanced to 3-0 on the season. Long Beach fell to 2-1. Defensively, Palomar forced five Long Beach turnovers, including safety Willie Tagoai's third pick of the season. Ron Rockett, Brandon Bell and Shane Lancaster also had interceptions. Lancaster returned his pick 54 yards down to the Long Beach 6-yard line in the final minute. Quarterback Roman Ybarra then took a knee on two straight snaps to run out the clock. Nick Badin recovered a fumble for Palomar, and Andrew Paopao had two more sacks. Sean Savacool also had a sack. The Comets scored their other touchdowns on a 1-yard run by Josh Sattley and a 6-yard pass play from Ybarra to Travis Plash on an audible call with 1:52 left in the game. Ryan Lux tacked on field goals of 36, 27 and 18 yards, added four PAT kicks and had five kickoffs either into or through the end zone that the Vikings couldn't return. Long Beach found itself unable to deal with Palomar's fast-temp, no-huddle offense that kept the Vikings off-balance and tired them out. Matt Kovacevich pinned the Vikings at the 6-yard line in the fourth quarter with a 45-yard punt that came five plays before Tagoai's interception stuck a fork in Long Beach's last hopes.

Oct. 5

PALOMAR 33, El Camino College 27 — Palomar, ranked No. 7 in the Nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire entering the game, rocked host El Camino on Saturday Night, Oct. 5, at Murdock Stadium in Torrance to advance to 4-0 in Joe Early's first season as head coach. The Comets, also 2-0 in the Mission Conference, again got big numbers from running backs Alex Thompson (143 yards rushing and a 66-yard touchdown run on 16 carries) and Chris Williams (100 yards on 19 carries) running behind a line anchored by tackles Chris Pino and Taylor Schmidt. Quarterback Roman Ybarra completed 14 of 27 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns — an 18-yarder to Eddie Sullivan, a 65-yarder on a middle screen to Adam Burke and a 17-yarder to Sullivan. Sullivan had six receptions for 88 yards, Marlon Carter four for 48, Burke two for 76 and Khalid Qassimyar two for 32 yards. Ryan Lux added field goals of 22 and 27 yards as well as three extra point kicks. Palomar intercepted El Camino quarterback Ronald Venters six times. Greg Williams had two picks. Willie Tagoai, Sean Sovacool, Jeff Norton and Nick Baiden also had interceptions. Tagoai also had nine tackles (four solo) and a deflection. Mike Tinoisamoa had 12 tackles (nine solo) and caused a fumble. Defensive end Andrew Paopao had two more sacks, his sixth and seventh of the season. Matt Kovacevich boomed four punts for a 40.0-yard average. The defending Southern California Champion Comets avenged their only loss of the 2001 regular season.

Oct. 12

Mt. SAC 32, PALOMAR 23 — The visiting Mounties took advantage of two fumble recoveries and two interceptions to post an upset Mission Conference victory over the Nationally No. 7-ranked Comets at Escondido High School's Wilson Stadium. Mt. SAC (3-2, 3-0 in the Mission) handed the Comets (4-1, 2-1) their first loss of the season and snapped Palomar's regular-season win streak at 10 games. Palomar's last regular-season loss was to El Camino College, 35-31, on Sept. 29, 2001, also at home. Eddie Sullivan had eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown for the Comets, most of them of the spectacular variety. Preseason All-American safety Willie Tagoai notched his fifth interception of the season. Palomar apparently scored on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Roman Ybarra (18-39-2-204) with 3:36 remaining, which would have pulled the Comets to within two points with a chance to go for a two-point conversion. But, as the teams lined up for the PAT, the officials huddled and ruled there had been an inadvertent whistle during the play. They nullified the TD and took the six points off the scoreboard. Palomar then turned the ball over when Ybarra fumbled. Jeff Sherwood, in his first appearance of the season, kicked field goals of 43, 39 and 43 yards. Punter Matt Kovacevich pinned the Mounties at their 17 yard line with a 47-yard kick and at their 7 with a 35-yard pooch kick. Palomar outgained Mt. SAC in total offense, 411 yards to 310. The Comets played without preseason All-American defensive lineman Brian Nicholson (separated shoulder) and lost three more defensive linemen during the game because of injuries.

To view action photo of wide receiver Eddie Sullivan in Mt. SAC game, CLICK HERE.

Oct. 26

PALOMAR 27, Fullerton 7 — Palomar forced seven turnovers on the way to a 27-7 rout of visiting Fullerton in a Mission Conference Central Division football opener Saturday, Oct. 26, at Escondido High School's Wilson Stadium. Preseason All-American Willie Tagoai, the Comets' free safety who is being recruited by such schools as USC, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky, gave Palomar an early lead when he returned a fumble 15 yards for a touchdown with 10:43 left in the first quarter. The Comets recovered four fumbles and intercepted three passes, two by Brandon Bell. Mike Tinoisamoa had one of the picks and also recovered a fumble, partically blocked a punt, broke up a pass and recorded nine tackles (five solo). Alex Thompson rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries for the Nationally No. 14-ranked Comets (5-1 on the season, 1-0 in thee Mission Central). Both his TD's came on runs of 3 yards. The Comets also scored on a 34-yard pass play from Roman Ybarra to Adam Burke. Burke had six receptions for 94 yards. Led by Tagoai, Bell and linebackers Tinoisamoa and Sean Sovacool, the Comets held Fullerton to 69 yards rushing and 79 passing. Punter Matt Kovacevich twice pinned the Hornets (2-4, 0-1) deep in their own territory, at their 14-yard line and at their 4-yard line.

Nov. 2

PALOMAR 43, Orange Coast 6 — Palomar intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble on the way to a Mission Conference Central Division victory on the road. Palomar now has 35 take-aways in seven games — 23 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries The Comets are plus-19 on take-aways on the season. The defending Southern California champions (6-1 on the season, 2-0 in the Mission Central) put 12 defensive points on the board. Andrew Dorsey blocked a punt which Tate Hess recovered in the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown. Shane Lancaster returned his fifth interception of the season 44 yards for a second-quarter TD. Lancaster also had nine tackles (five solo). Brandon Bell set up a touchdown with his fifth interception of the year and a 31-yard return, and Mike Tinoisamoa set up a TD with a pick and 25-yard return down to the Orange Coast 2. Tinoisamoa also had 12 tackles (six solo). Defensive end Andrew Paopao recorded three sacks for 24 yards in losses. DE Nick Badin had two sacks for 12 yards in losses. Buick Tuua recovered a fumble. Palomar's other touchdowns came on passes of 20 and 30 yards from Roman Ybarra to Eddie Sullivan, a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Thompson and a 1-yard TD by Tommy Fisher. John Nielsen, coming in at quarterback in the third quarter, engineered an 82-yard drive for the final touchdown, Palomar’s longest since a 95-yard drive in the Comets’ win over Long Beach City College back on Sept. 2. Nielsen hit Adam Burke and Joe Walker for first-down passes of 25 and 9 yards, and Fisher ran 8 and 16 yards on back-to-back plays to set up his own 1-yard TD run. Sullivan laid out to make a spectacular catch in the right corner of his end zone on his first touchdown catch. Detron Johnson made a spectacular diving catch of his own on a 29-yard completion from Ybarra which set up a 42-yard second-quarter field goal by Ryan Lux. Punter Matt Kovacevich again pinned an opponent deep in its own territory, this time with a perfectly placed 43-yarder to the Orange Coast 1-yard line midway through the openng quarter. Kovacevich's punt paved the way for Dorsey's block of Bryce Sheridan's punt on a fourth-and-6 play from the Pirates' 5 — and Hess' TD recovery.

Nov. 9

PALOMAR 19, Saddleback 16 — Palomar held Saddleback's highly-touted offense to 10 yards and one first down in the first half and continued on to beat the Gauchos, 19-16, in what probably was a showdown for the Mission Conference Central Division football championship in a steady rain Saturday night, Nov. 9, at Saddleback. The Comets scored touchdowns on a 12-yard pass from Roman Ybarra to Eddie Sullivan, a 5-yard run by Tommy Fisher and a 32-yard interception return by Brandon Bell to lead 19-0 with 13:28 to play in the third quarter. Saddleback came back to score 16 fourth-quarter points, but strong safety Shane Lancaster, who came up big all night, made a key fourth-down tackle for a 5-yard loss on a screen pass to halt the Gauchos' final threat. That came after the officials ruled that Palomar’s Alex Thompson had fumbled the ball at the Saddleback 10-yard line when it appeared the Comets were going in for another touchdown. Palomar’s coaches argued unsuccessfully that Thompson was down before the ball squirted lose. Thompson rushed for 105 yards on 31 carries for the Comets. Sullivan caught six passes for 141 yards. LB Sean Sovacool had 10 tackles (five solo), a sack, two tackles for losses and two blocked punts. CB Josh Hargis broke up five passes and had a sack. DE Andrew Paopao contributed eight solo tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses and a pass deflection. DT Brian Dorsey had seven tackles (four solo), two sacks and two tackles for losses. LB Mike Tonoisamoa had nine tackles (five solo). LB Andrew Dorsey added eight tackles (five solo). Punter Matt Kovacevich boomed five kicks for an average 44.4 yards, including a 65-yarder. Palomar, ranked No. 16 in the Nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire, advances to 7-1 on the season and 3-0 in the Mission Central. Saddleback, ranked 15th in the Nation, is 6-2, 2-1. The game matched teams that have won six National titles between them, the Comets most recently in 1998 and the Gauchos most recently in 1996.

Nov. 16

PALOMAR 47, Santa Ana 21 — Willie Tagoai returned his sixth interception of the season 76 yards for a touchdown, Chris Williams and Alex Thompson each rushed for more than 100 yards and quarterback John Nielsen ran for a touchdown and passed for another Saturday as Nationally 10th-ranked Palomar routed Santa Ana 47-21. With the victory at Wilson Stadium in Escondido, the Comets advanced to 8-1 on the season and clinched at least a tie for the Mission Conference Central Division football championship, running their division record to 4-0. Tagoai's pick and broken-field TD return was one of five take-aways in the first half that helped stake the Comets to a 37-7 lead after two quarters. Brandon Bell had his seventh interception of the season, and Jeff Norton and Ron Rockett also had picks. Nick Badin recovered a fumble. Josh Hargis blocked a field goal. Williams rushed for 147 yards and a 27-yard touchdown on 10 carries. Thompson added 112 yards on 16 tries and scored on TD runs of 12 and 33 yards. Nielsen came in the game in the second quarter and threw a 37-yard pass to Eddie Sullivan down to the 1-yard line to set up his own 1-yard sneak for a touchdown. He also threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Adam Burke in the second half and finished 4-6 passing for 71 yards. John Canles had a 60-yard kickoff return that set up one of Thompson's touchdowns.Ryan Lux returned to early-season form, kicking field goals of 38 and 25 yards on two attempts, going 5-for-5 on PAT tries and kicking off into the end zone seven of eight times. Nielsen drove the Comets from their own 43-yard line to the Santa Ana 8 as the game ended. Coach Joe Early elected to let the clock tick down instead of running another play. Palomar can finish the regular season 9-1 as well as win the Mission Central outright by beating Golden West at home Saturday, Nov. 23. Last season, the three-time National Champion Comets went 10-2, won the Southern California title and were ranked No. 10 in the final J.C. Grid-Wire National rankings. Palomar has won 18 of its last 21 games. The Comets also have won 20 of their last 22 regular-season games. Palomar has captured 12 division titles in the last 15 years, including five in a row.

Nov. 23

PALOMAR 24, Golden West 14 With Palomar College turning in an uninspired effort in its regular-season football finale, linebacker Andrew Dorsey stepped up and saved the Comets. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound sophomore from Fallbrook High intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter, wrestling the ball away from receiver Ryan Partridge at the Rustlers' 41-yard line, as the nationally No. 10-ranked Comets salvaged a 24-10 victory at Escondido High's Wilson Stadium that wrapped up their 11th Mission Conference Central Division championship in 14 years. Palomar (9-1, 5-0) also won the overall Mission Conference title when Northern Division champion Pasadena City College was upset by Long Beach City College 50-47. Dorsey had three of Palomar's four take-aways on the afternoon, also recovering two fumbles in the first half. Jeff Norton had the other take-away on an interception. The take-aways give Palomar 45 for the season (30 picks and 15 fumble recoveries), believed to be a national community college record, breaking the listed mark of 39 by Grossmont in 1996. The Comets jumped to a 17-0 halftime lead on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Roman Ybarra to Eddie Sullivan (six catches for 100 yards), a 36-yard field goal by Ryan Lux and Josh Sattley's 1-yard TD run that was set up by a 51-yard pass play from John Nielsen (4-for-6 for the game) to Adam Burke. Palomar had a chance to make it 24-0 on the last play of the half, but Ybarra was intercepted by Golden West's Kenoche Mostella at the goal line. The Rustlers (1-9, 1-4) used the momentum from the pick to control the ball much of the second half and close the Comets' lead to 17-7. But Alex Thompson put Palomar back in front by 14 points on a 2-yard TD run with 2:26 to play. Dorsey then ended Golden West's final chance to come back with the interception. Chris Williams rushed for 112 yards on 14 carries for the Comets. Thompson finished with 96 yards on 25 carries, giving him 1,023 yards in 10 games. Linebacker Sean Sovacool (11 tackles, 9 solo), Dorsey (8 tackles, 6 solo, 2 recovered fumbles, interception, quarterback hurry) and DB Ron Rockett (12 tackles, 8 solo, fumble recovery, broken-up pass) led Palomar's defensive statistics.The Comets also have won 21 of their last 23 regular-season games. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Nielsen, going much of the way at quarterback after entering the game in the first quarter , delivered what likely was the hit of the game when he bulled over an unsuspecting Golden West tackler at the end of an 11-yard run in the second quarter. But, unfortunately for the Comets, a hold behind the play brought it back.

Dec. 7

South County Bowl at Chula Vista

PALOMAR 20, Grossmont 19 First-year head coach Joe Early’s Palomar College team ran its football record against San Diego County teams to 26-0 since 1987 by taking control of the South County Bowl when it counted. Palomar (10-1), the Mission Conference champion and ranked No. 10 in the Nation, scored two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes, 6 seconds to beat No. 7-ranked Grossmont at Southwestern College’s DeVore Stadium. The Griffins finish 9-2. Palomar has won 21 of its last 24 games. With the Comets trailing Grossmont 19-7 after four field goals by two different Griffins kickers, quarterback Roman Ybarra dove head-first over the line of scrimmage to score from 1 yard out with 3:06 to play and Ryan Lux converted to pull Palomar to within 19-14. After an onside kick attempt that did not go 10 yards, Palomar held Grossmont to three-and-out and, with 1:32 to play, Ybarra hit freshman receiver Adam Burke over the middle on an 80-yard pass play for the winning touchdown. All this came after Ybarra passed for only 45 yards in the first half and the Griffins led at intermission, 13-7. Palomar, trailing 10-0, got on the board just before halftime by doing what it has done the best all year. Matt Kovacevich pinned the Griffins at their own 12-yard line with a 49-yard punt and, moments later, Buick Tuua forced a fumble and Mike Tinoisamoa recovered the ball at the Grossmont 4. Three plays later, Alex Thompson scored on a 4-yard run, and Lux kicked the PAT to make it 10-7. Kovacevich pinned opponents deep in their own territory all season, and Palomar finished the regular season plus-25 on take-aways. Grossmont extended its lead to 13-7 on a field goal with two seconds remaining in the half, and the added two more field goals in the second half to make it 19-7. Ybarra finished 13-for-32 passing for 189 yards, Burke had four catches for 115 yards and Detron Johnson had four receptions for 46 yards. Palomar also rushed for 183 yards, with Chris Williams carrying for 89 yards on 19 carries and Thompson tacking on 78 yards on 17 tries. The Comets edged the Griffins in total offense, 372 yards to 365. The Comets are 11-3 all-time in post season games.

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