Bittersweet champions

Despite tears, team earns its third consecutive bowl game, seeks to avenge defeat last season

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

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Players on the Contra Costa College football team visited with the family of 24-year old defensive line coach Darryl Blackmon at his funeral in Berkeley on Wednesday.

Blackmon died in a single-car accident in Mill Valley, in the early morning hours of Nov. 1 on his way home from work.

Having dedicated the season to Blackmon, the team entered Comet Stadium Saturday with one thing on its mind — a Pacific 7 championship. With heavy hearts and a clear mission before them, the Comets scored the final 44 points of the game, and held their opponent scoreless for the final three quarters, en route to a blowout victory over San Jose City College 51-10, wrapping up the regular season (6-0 in the Pacific 7 and 9-1 overall) and clinching their third straight bowl berth.

“Wednesday was tough. It didn’t just affect the defensive line,” offensive lineman Gabriel Davis said. “(Blackmon) was teaching us to be men, he helped all of us — so we could take our game to the next level.”

After a back and forth first quarter the Comet defense had no problem shutting down the Jaguars feckless offensive attempts, keeping  SJCC ball carriers from even threatening to score for the majority of the afternoon.

CCC used a devastating rushing attack featuring running back Harold Halcombe III, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. The shifty ball carrier also had three touchdowns in the contest.

Comet coach Alonzo Carter pulled Halcombe aside before the game and told him that he needed a big time performance from – who he calls, “The most unselfish player on the team.”

The Coach will need his offense firing on all cylinders when CCC faces Hartnell College in its 2014 bowl appearance.

Even when not reaching the end zone, the compact Halcombe seared the Jaguar defense.

In the third quarter, he broke containment and dashed 41-yards up-field. Paving the way for a 13-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Emmanuell Williams to receiver Dominic Barnett.

San Jose City College (3-7 overall 2-4 in the Pac 7) shocked the Comets early, returning the opening kickoff 52-yards. This emboldened the Jaguars as they moved the ball up the field, eventually succumbing to the CCC defensive front after attempting to convert a risky fourth and one.

The Comets squandered the opportunity by fumbling the ball away, leading to an early Jaguar field goal.

Defensive and special teams speedster Lavon Washington, set the table for quarterback Jonathan Banks and the CCC offense with a 35-yard kickoff return. After converting three first downs the drive fizzled, and over the next 6 minutes both teams exchanged possessions without either putting points on the board.

CCC erased the zero from its side of the ledger late in the first quarter on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Barnett for the first of the receivers two touchdowns in the game.

With its offense sputtering, the Jaguars only hope was to attempt a prayer after choosing to go for it on fourth and three. The prayer was answered- by way of a Trenton Paganini touchdown pass up the left sideline to receiver Nick Inneh.

The score enraged the CCC defensive players.

Rather than provide momentum for SJCC, the Comets released a week long build-up of bottled-up emotion and pain.

It started with 10-minutes remaining in the second quarter, on the first of Halcombe’s three touchdowns on the day.

“After the funeral Wednesday, I had to attend my cousin’s funeral Thursday,” Halcombe said. “I harnessed all of that pain and anger and used it, with the help of the offensive line we were able to run effectively and get first downs.”

The emotional outburst was not displayed by Halcombe alone, the CCC receivers over the next 8-minutes would put 13 more points on the board on 47-yard and 16-yard touchdown passes by Banks. The former to receiver Larry Cornish Jr. and the latter to Frank Stephens.

“It’s tough emotionally, getting them geared back up- they’re human,” Carter said. “Even with his (Darryl‘s) mom being here, it’s still a lot to absorb. Considering the week they just had, and fought through, I’m really proud of them.”

A batted ball by defensive end Anthony Ledoux on fourth down, shattered any hopes SJCC had of scoring before the half.

At the break the score was 27-10.

A quick three and out started the third quarter for the Comets. Defensive lineman Chibu Onyeukwu fought through the Jaguar protection to record a sack that forced SJCC to punt the ball back to CCC.

Emanuell Williams replaced Banks in the second half as play caller of the quick strike Comet offense. He moved the ball up the field with pocket passing and timely running, scrambling and convert on fourth and long. The drive was capped by a 2-yard Halcombe touchdown run with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter.

With the CCC defensive boot still in place, pressed firmly to the back of the Jaguar’s collective necks, the Comets used a 41-yard Halcombe run to chew through enough yards for Williams to complete a 13-yard touchdown pass to Barnett.

The Following Jaguar possession netted an interception for defensive back Damarius Brinson. The milestone interception gives a pick to every member of the Comet defensive secondary.

Now even Carter is accepting of the unit’s self-imposed nickname of “The Money Team.”

The SJCC turnover led to a 7-yard touchdown run by Halcombe.

The trio of freshman quarterbacks the Jaguars used to face off against CCC were no match for the high-powered, emotionally charged defense that owned the field today.

When the final whistle blew, the Comets stood triumphant over San Jose City College destroying the visiting team 51-10.

The strides Carter has taken with this team over his tenure are clear in some of the most important statistical categories. Increasing points per game from 30 in 2011 to 40.2 at this point in the season. This team has already surpassed the largest point total of any team during his time on campus, previously 371-points in the 2013 season.

“We set out to win the championship ever since the loss in the bowl game last year,”  defensive back Terrance Alexander said. “We knew we could beat anyone in conference, but now we have a chip on our shoulder, we’re playing hungry-we have more to win for.

CCC has earned a bowl appearance three years in a row.

The task of lifting Comet football from the depths of mediocrity would have been a daunting challenge for any head coach. Highlighting why the hiring of Carter on the heels of an abysmal (1-9) 2009 season, was the perfect fusion of passion and success to restore the football program to the powerhouse it was in years past.

Even before turning the Comet program around, Carter had the recipe for wining. Touting an overall high school record of (82-42-3) in eleven years as a head coach. His mantle is full of achievements, three Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League titles, four Oakland Athletic League titles and three Silver Bowl Championships.

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