Life after death, team makes history

Football team dominates season following death of assistant coach

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Life after death, team makes history

Coach Alonzo Cater (center) points toward the team’s championship banner in the stands after the Comets’ 51-10 win over San Jose City College at Comet Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014. The win clinched the team’s third consecutive conference championship.

Coach Alonzo Cater (center) points toward the team’s championship banner in the stands after the Comets’ 51-10 win over San Jose City College at Comet Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014. The win clinched the team’s third consecutive conference championship.

Qing Huang / The Advocate

Coach Alonzo Cater (center) points toward the team’s championship banner in the stands after the Comets’ 51-10 win over San Jose City College at Comet Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014. The win clinched the team’s third consecutive conference championship.

Qing Huang / The Advocate

Qing Huang / The Advocate

Coach Alonzo Cater (center) points toward the team’s championship banner in the stands after the Comets’ 51-10 win over San Jose City College at Comet Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014. The win clinched the team’s third consecutive conference championship.

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

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For Comet football, 2014 was a season of firsts; finishing in first place in the first year of play in the Pacific 7 Conference — en route to 10-1 season, culminating in a 34-27 Living Breath Foundation Bowl rematch victory over Hartnell College Nov. 29.

The season played out like a Greek tragedy, starting innocently enough, with players returning to spring practice dedicated to making up for the loss in the previous bowl game to Hartnell in 2013.

Heartbreak struck the team with four games remaining in the season when position coach Daryll Blackmon was killed in a car accident just hours before the team was to take the field in a decisive 44-27 win over Shasta College on Nov. 1.

Comet football Coach Alonzo Carter points to that moment as the turning point in the season.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in coaching,” Carter said. “Finding out what happened just hours before. After the game it was a combination of tears of joy and of sadness. Holding in all of those emotions put everything in perspective. It was the biggest game, a battle for first place. I was so proud of the way the guys bought into the plan.”

Carter chose not to reveal word of the tragedy to his players until after the game. Upon hearing the news the team promptly dedicated the season to Blackmon and played every remaining game in his honor.

The team took out its emotional rage on the field and finished in the top 10 in California in eight statistical categories. CCC finished ninth in scoring notching 447 total points and sixth in points-per-game averaging 40.6.

They were seventh in total offense averaging 436.9 yards per game and eighth in rushing touchdowns with 32.

Special teams also cracked the top 10 finishing eighth in points after touchdown, making 53 of 60 attempts.

“I knew we would be good at the beginning of the season. You could tell there was a lot of talent on the team in practice,” Comet lineman Joe Baltrip said. “Going 10-1 and winning our bowl game and the championship was the highlight of the season for me.”

It is difficult to point to one moment on the field that would stand out for a team that put together a string of second half shutouts over a five-game stretch.

That is a run that saw the team average more than 50 points per game.

The highs and lows of the season were dramatic. Either fans cheered any of the multiple big plays of 80 yards or better or bemoaned the squad for the inopportune penalties it was prone to receive regularly throughout games.

In a season built on overcoming obstacles, the Comets rose to the occasion not only capturing the conference championship, but also receiving multiple individual awards.

Carter was named Pac 7 Coach of the Year and quarterback Jonathan Banks also accepted Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Sophomore running back Harold Halcombe garnered All-Conference recognition along with linemen Alem Amore and Darus Workman.

Amore and Workman both will move on to play Division I football at  Jackson State University and North Carolina State University, respectively.

Comet receiver Frank Stephens and kicker Lorann Fonseca rounded out the All-Conference awards for CCC.

“It didn’t take long for everybody to get on the same page and come together as a team,” Comet defensive back Lavon Washington said. “We knew our potential from the start and we just had to take it step-by-step as a team.”

Moving forward, Carter said the team will continue to strive for the high standards it set over the last three seasons.

“That standard was set to the credit of all of the players and coaches,” he said. “To win the championship in the inaugural season of a new conference (Pac 7) can only be described as historical.”

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