Sweet redemption

Football team defeats Hartnell College in bowl game, extend winning streak to nine games in ultimate season match up

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

SALINAS — In a repeat of last year’s Living Breath Foundation Bowl match-up Contra Costa College (10-1 overall 6-0 in the Pacific 7 Conference) defeated Hartnell College (9-2 overall 5-1 in the Golden Coast Conference) 34-27 in the bowl game on Nov. 29 at Rabobank Stadium.

In what was billed as a neutral-field contest, the host stadium was located just an eight-minute drive from the Panther campus. Resulting in tailgating and bleacher stomping fans creating more of a homecoming-like atmosphere among the implicitly biased Panther majority than some of the spectators expected.

“There was adversity in this game from all directions,” CCC quarterback Jonathan Banks said. “I was confident we would win from the moment we got here. If (winning and losing) was left up to me, I knew I would come through in the clutch.”

Banks was named Pac-7 offensive player of the year touting a 61.1 completion percentage ranking 10th in the state.

The quarterback finished with 173 yards passing completing 8 out of 19 attempts. While rushing for 75 yards and manufacturing four of the Comets five touchdowns, his 1-yard touchdown run with 4:15 remaining in the game solidified CCC’s lead.

This allowed the defense to put an exclamation point on its own stellar bowl game performance.

CCC held a one-point lead at halftime. Throughout the first half familiar mistakes led directly to Panther points. Game stats revealed CCC was penalized 19 times for 192 yards to Hartnell’s 10 for 76 yards.

The San Pablo squad was penalized for more yards in the game than they had passing.

“I can accept penalties but some of the calls were over the top,” CCC coach Alonzo Carter said. “We knew it would be a close game. Coming away with a win feels great.”

At one point bowl officials came to the field to confer with referees and the conference observer for clarity on calls made against the Comets — calls so questionable that they brought audible gasps from the Panther fans that dominated the supposed neutral facility.

The deluge of flags subsided momentarily, but resumed as the game regained its normal pace.

“Coach (Carter) told us it was going to be on the defense to win the game,” Linebacker Terrance Alexander said. “At halftime he told us ‘…if you’re not a soldier don’t come out of the locker room.’ We came out and shut out Hartnell for the rest of the game.”

Alexander was named to the All Pac-7 team and led the Comets with 46 tackles this season.

The CCC defense netted five sacks and eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a combined total of 43 yards lost for the Panthers.

Alexander along with all-league teammate DeOnte Reynolds and Clarence Corbin anchored the suffocating Comet defense. They forced 3.5 sacks and garnered 17 tackles between them in the game.

Running backs Harold Halcombe III and Kruger Story Jr. spearheaded the CCC ground attack racking up 203 yards between them on 32 carries. Halcombe, also named to the all-league team added 23 yards receiving in route to capturing the LBF Bowl MVP trophy.

Hartnell sliced through the Comet defense early jumping out to a seven-point lead. CCC would score twice over the next seven minutes, on a 1-yard run by Halcombe and a 24-yard touchdown pass from Banks to fellow all-league teammate Frank Stephens.

“My team went 0-40 in high school,” Stephens said. “…So to go 10-1 and win a bowl game is something special.”

Panther quarterback Michael Turner, who finished 13-23 for 227 yards threw the first of his three touchdowns with 2:42 remaining in the first quarter to receiver Ronnie Turner.

A failed extra-point left CCC ahead 14-13.

Two more touchdown runs by Banks for the Comets sandwiched another Panther touchdown pass. The scoring onslaught found CCC ahead, 28-20.

The Panthers would drive 65 yards up the field on their ensuing drive with just under a minute before halftime to leave them just one point down at the break, 28-27.

The third quarter was sloppy for both teams. Play was dominated by penalties and mistakes that kept both sides from gaining any momentum.

In the closeout quarter Banks and Halcombe blew holes in the Panther defensive front. Turner and the Hartnell offense were completely overwhelmed by the Comet defensive pressure. They would have been totally ineffective without CCC penalties keeping stalling Panther drives alive.

With a one-point lead in the 4th quarter, Banks and the Comet offense put together its second longest drive of the contest — a nine-play 53-yard tromp up the field that was culminated by a 1-yard Banks’ touchdown run solidifying the 34-27 bowl victory.

“Redemption is always great,” offensive coordinator Terry Collins said. “A combination of things went into our success (this year) — players executed at the right time and veteran leadership in the system.”

Maintaining a solid system was a common theme amongst the coaches as they basked in their championship glory. Quarterback coach Jeff Anderson, who guided Banks to 17 touchdowns and roughly 2700 yards on the season, believes the system is the foundation of the program’s success.

“We try to teach them not only about football, but about life,” Anderson said. “Our guys bought into the system and what we were trying to accomplish.”

Carter’s infrastructure extends far beyond the football field. Like all good coaches, his work regularly takes the ride home with him.

“At home it’s not so much about what goes on in the game,” Carter’s wife Roezell Carter said. “He’s always doing things to make sure (students) are academically on track. He’s always saying, if they take care of business in the classroom, I can take care of them on the field.”