Goals, desire pave pathway to championship greatness

Sophomore exodus, freshman inexperience not enough to deter bowl game expectations

By Jose Jimenez, Spotlight Editor

The cliché of a bad preview for all Contra Costa College athletic teams gets thrown around just as much as a pigskin on Thanksgiving Day.

But that does not apply for the 2015 CCC football team.

These student-athletes are different. Plus the football program has been thriving for three consecutive seasons under football coach Alonzo Carter and Athletic Director John Wade.

“The biggest thing is participation,” Wade said. “Whether it’s the San Francisco Giants, A’s or Warriors, there will be cycles of winning in sports. My biggest thing with these students at CCC is that they get the opportunity to play football, use it to transfer and get a job somewhere.”

Wade said it will be hard for the Comets to repeat as champions this season because in football you have to stay healthy over the course of the entire year.

According to the 2015 Preseason JC Athletic Bureau, CCC is ranked 22nd in the state and 29th in the country.

Carter said CCC has never been ranked among the best teams in the country.

“We’ve had the second most players leave to Division I football and that’s the standard that I have set here on campus,” Carter said. “Those are unheard of numbers for this region and we have a lot of expectations, but we also have a lot of talent.”

He said being ranked 29th in the country is “amazing in itself.”

Compared to building a franchise in the NFL, college football is different.

Carter and his coaching staff, however, have put together the best team and showcased them out on the gridiron for the past three seasons.

After moving away from the Bay Valley Conference and playing in the Pacific 7 Conference for the first time in school history, CCC won the championship.

In the Pac 7, CCC finished 10-1 and polished a red-shirt freshman quarterback, Jonathan Banks, into a transfer to Kansas State University and Division I football.

In fact, over the course of the past three years players from all over the U.S. have traveled to San Pablo to participate in CCC’s football program.

Last year it was Florida native and defensive back Elijah McClendon, and now it is Texas native and offensive lineman Isayah Toliver who decided to make the trip to join the team.

Toliver, a college freshman, said he comes from his high school in Westbury, a community in Houston, Texas, and moved to the Bay Area to graduate from Hercules High School so he can play football at CCC.

“I just want to bring a piece of my heart to the team,” Toliver said. “Everyday we are getting better and I want to help the program to continue winning.”

Some say the season last year played out like a “Greek tragedy” for CCC, but the team last year was too good to defeat, especially with best coaching staff in the Pac 7.

Carter earned the Northern California Coach of the Year award, and the support from the director so any team in the conference looking to dethrone the champs will find it hard because the program is thriving.

CCC defeated every team in the Pac 7; Los Medanos, Mendocino, Redwoods, San Jose, Shasta and Yuba and look to keep the streak going.

West Hills-Coalinga (Golden Coast Conference) beat CCC last year, but after the loss to WHC, 50-21, the Comets won nine straight games and ended the season with a victory over Hartnell College in the Living Breath Foundation Bowl, and dedicated the season to position coach Daryll Blackmon, who died in a car accident a day after Halloween.

CCC players finished in the top 10 in nearly every statistical category last season and seek to continue to make history with new quarterback Cameron Burston and running back Harris Ross, plus a pantheon of defensive studs like brothers Chima and Chibu Onyeukwu.

“Hopefully we have a good team this year,” Wade said. “But it’s been amazing these past three years watching how we have been able to fill in the players like we have year after year.”