MERCED — The Comet football team extended its winning streak to 13 games, including six wins on the road, with a 33-28 victory at Merced College (2-2) on Saturday.
Traveling to the Central Valley and facing off against one of the top prospects at cornerback in the state, Merced’s Devron Davis, would be a daunting task for any freshman quarterback.
But Contra Costa College’s play caller Cameron Burston (15 for 20 passing for 200 yards and four touchdowns) led his team through hostile territory.
“Our quarterback play has been exceptional this year,” Comet coach Alonzo Carter said. “Cam (Burston) is first in the state in completion percentage and seventh in touchdowns with 12 — he hasn’t thrown an interception all season.”
Tension was high throughout the game and both teams were warned to stop trash talking and roughhousing after the whistle.
High intensity play returns to San Pablo on Saturday when Los Medanos College challenges the sanctity of the Comet’s Homecoming Game 6 p.m. at Comet Stadium.
The Blue Devils lived up to their name, earning two separate personal fouls for ripping off CCC players’ helmets.
The Comets owned the action on the field early. First by forcing an opening drive punt for Merced, which was highlighted by a monstrous sack by CCC linebacker Toddrick Gaines for a 6-yard loss.
“They tried blocking me,” Gaines said. “But when they saw me coming around the edge they couldn’t stop me.”
Energized by Gaines’ bone jarring shot, CCC’s offense made its way toward the Blue Devils’s end zone. It marched 85 yards in 15 plays before receiver Sterling Taylor ultimately crossed the goal line after catching a 6-yard pass from Burston.
The Comets led 7-0 with 7:11 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Rather than appear shaken by the way CCC’s offense had its way with them, Merced players seemed eager for the chance to answer the blow they had taken.
Before the Comet players were done celebrating the score, Blue Devil kick returner Jeffery Richardson was at midfield, slipping tackles en route to a 94-yard touchdown return. CCC led 7-6 after the failed Merced kick.
The Comets, aware that Davis was lurking in the backfield, balanced the offense with a healthy dose of running game. The seven-play drive only featured two passes, a 14-yard first down to receiver Tyrone Morgan and a 25-yard touchdown to Burston’s new security blanket — receiver Frank Stephens.
Stephens was selected as the American Division Offensive Player of the Week last week and already has 20 receptions for 454 yards and six touchdowns this season.
At the end of the first quarter CCC led 14-6. With the first score, before the grins could be removed from the Comet faces, the Devils were poised to score. This time by way of a 79-yard touchdown pass by Merced quarterback Sincere Jones to a dashing Richardson.
The Blue Devils tied the score at 14-14 with a two-point conversion. After punting on the following possession, CCC held Merced to a 46-yard field goal attempt — and blocked it.
With the game tied, and seven minutes to go before halftime, both teams exchanged punts on their following possessions.
At halftime the Comets led at 20-14.
Comet running back Austin Harper fielded the third quarter kickoff for CCC. The sophomore navigated his way 95-yards through a sea of Blue Devils before spectators had the chance to get settled back into their seats following halftime.
“I saw everyone cutting to the middle because that was the designed play,” Harper said. “I decided to trust my speed and get to the outside.”
The Comet defense owned Merced’s next two offensive possessions. Big plays like an 8-yard sack by CCC defensive lineman Chima Onyeukwu were overshadowed by untimely CCC penalties.
The Comets earned no first quarter penalties and had fewer penalty yards than the Devils.
Even after giving up the length of the field due to penalties, the defense held Merced for nearly 10 plays in a row from the red zone without yielding any points.
Shortly after the goal line stand, the Comets gave up a big play up the middle of the defense. Merced running back Josh Stephens broke free for a 54-yard touchdown.
At the end of the third quarter; however, CCC still led 26-21.
The fourth quarter started with the Comets still being forced to kick the ball after ending its last two series with punts, until CCC defensive lineman Jibrel Fowler came up with the first interception for any defensive lineman this season.
“When the ball was in the air everything was in slow motion,” Fowler said. “It was the first pick on any level of football for me.”
The Comets quickly translated the turnover to points with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Burston to Taylor — his second of the game.
The score gave the Comets a 12-point cushion; they now led the Blue Devils 33-21.
A sack by CCC defensive end Anthony Ledoux aided in the MC decision to punt on the following drive.
In the second half, the CCC defense opened the floodgates and spilled the Blue Devil’s desire to win all over the ground. All they could muster was a late 3-yard rushing touchdown to bring the score to its final count of Contra Costa College with 33 and Merced College with 28.