YORBA LINDA -- Under a cloudy and, sometimes, rainy sky, the dreams of a state championship game were washed away for the No. 2-seeded Riverside City College (RCC) Tigers football team as the host and No. 1-seeded Fullerton College Hornets toppled the Tigers, 45-29, last Saturday (Nov. 26), at Yorba Linda High School's Nathan Shapell Stadium.
Riverside City (10-2 overall) was in the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) / Southern California Regional Championship game for the third time (2013, 2014, 2016) in the last four seasons inclusive.
After spotting the hosts an 8-0 lead nearly five minutes into the game, RCC responded with a paif of field goals (22- and 20 yards) by freshman place kicker John Hilfer (Redlands / Redlands East Valley HS '16) and a 41-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Collyn Anderson (Durham, NC / Hillside [NC] '12) to sophomore wide receiver Jacoby Herring (Riverside / Citrus Hill HS '15) with 4:56 left in the second quarter. Hilfer's PAT kick made the score 13-8 in favor of RCC.
The next two series forced "three and out" situations. Riverside sophomore tailback / punter Seth Acda (Murrieta / Vista Murrieta HS '15) had a 37-yard punt to the Hornet 46-yard line where freshman Justin Manyweather took the ball and raced to the RCC goalline for a 54-yard punt return TD the ensuing point after touchdown kick gave Fullerton (11-1) a 15-13 lead, a lead it never would relingquish.
RCC scored with 3:03 left in the third quarter when Herring hauled in a 58-yard TD pass from Anderson and Hilfer converted the PAT kick to get the Tigers to within 22-20.
The Hornets scored two TDs to close the quarter and led, 36-20, heading into the fourth quarter.
Fullerton extended its lead to 45-20 on a 39-yard field goal (9:48) and then Anderson was intercepted for only the fourth time all season (in 290 attempts). FC's Taj Jones returned the ball 31 yards for a TD and Fullerton soon led 45-20.
With less than two minutes left in the game, RCC sophomore linebacker Nick Underwood (Lake Oswego, OR / Lake Oswego, OR HS '14) was credited with a safety when he tackled Isaiah Jackson in the end zone for a two-yard loss with 1:46 left.
After RCC's Craig Lee returned the ensuing kick 51 yards to the Fullerton 31-yard line, Anderson had a nine-yard completion and then a 22-yard TD completion to sophomore wide receiver Malik Yoakum (Upland HS) with 1:01 left. Hilfer's fourth PAT kick accounted for the final score of 45-29.
Thus, Fullerton will host the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) championship game on December 10 against the American River College (ARC) Beavers (10-2 overall). It'll be a rematch of sorts as the teams also met in a state championship game in 1967 with Fullerton winning, 41-0.
In a testament to Fullerton's stifling rush defense, the Tigers gained only 66 net yards rushing. Sophomore tailback Eltoro Allen (Elk Grove / Elk Grove HS '15) led RCC with only 45 net yards rushing on 13 carries. Acda added 12 yards as he had only five totes.
Anderson completed 29 of 57 passes with the one interception for 337 yards and three TDs and a long gain of 58 yards, but was sacked five times (not seven) for a total of 26 yards. Herring caught six passes for a total of 124 yards and two TDs. Sophomore wide receiver Darius Hunter (Prosper, TX) and Yoakum each had five receptions for 81 and 70 yards, respectively.
For Fullerton, Gerald Hulett had 14 carries for 97 net yards rushing and two TDs and Anthony Wood had 13 totes for 96 net yards rushing and one TD as the Hornets totaled 220 net yards rushing.
Quarterback Jordan Hoy completed 16 of 40 passes for 185 yards and one TD. DeAndre McNeal had six receptions for 54 yards. Manyweather had 95 all-purpose yards (53 net on punt returns, 42 net on kick returns).
Since the 2002 season when teams have been allowed to include postseason games in their seasonal statistics, and in spite the Fullerton rush defense, Riverside had TWO one-thousand-yard rushers on the season. Acda finished with 1,031 yards on 188 carries (5.5 avg.) with ten TDs. Allen concluded the season with 1,001 yards on 149 totes (6.7 avg.) and eight TDs.
Anderson completed 171 of 290 pass attempts (.590) with the aforementioned four interceptions for 2,391 yards and 29 TDs. Herring led the RCC receiving corps with 49 receptions for 787 yards (16.1 avg.) and seven TDs. Yoakum had 48 catches for 588 yards (12.2 avg.) and five TDs. Hunter was next with 41 nabs for a team-leading 812 yards (19.8 avg.) and team-high ten TDs.
On defense, Underwood led with 71 total tackles (39 solo), including 11 tackles for loss (of 24 yards) and 1.5 sacks (seven yards in losses), as well as two interceptions, five qb hurries and four fumble recoveries.
Hilfer led in kick scoring with 94 points (14 of 19 PAT kicks, 51 of 54 field goals, long of 49 yards). Acda led in scoring with 72 points (12 TDs, includsing two receiving), followed by Hunter with 60 points (all ten receiving TDs).
Including last Saturday's loss to the Hornets, in the all-time series, Riverside leads Fullerton, 36-26-1. In the previous meeting between the two teams (Oct. 10, 2015), Fullerton won, 52-21, at Yorba Linda H.S. in a night game.
RCC head coach Tom Craft, who finished his seventh season at the Tigers' helm, has an overall record of 68-12 (through the previous seven seasons, 2010-16). He has guided the Tigers to six bowl victories and six conference championships (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, (co) 2015, (co) 2016).
In 2016, RCC was 10-2 overall, 5-1 in National Central League (NCL) play. In 2015, RCC was 8-3 overall, 5-1 in the National Central League (NCL). In 2013 and 2014, Riverside was 10-2 overall, 6-0 in the National Central Conference (NCC) each season.