Giants thwart Comet comeback attempt, expose defensive middle


Robert Clinton / The Advocate

Players on both teams take a knee as M. Hale is down following kickoff. Crowd cheers as he is helped off the field during the Comet’s loss to College of the Sequoias 55-47 on Saturday.

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

Visalia —Temperatures soared above double digits all week but dipped to a balmy 91 degrees Saturday as the Comet football team launched into the National Bay 6 conference with an offensive barrage, narrowly missing its mark, losing to the College of the Sequoias 55-47.

After climbing back from a double digit deficit, the Comets (0-1 overall) had an opportunity to send the game into overtime trailing by eight with 37 seconds to play, the Giants (1-0 overall) intercepted Comet All-State quarterback Cameron Burston’s pass to receiver Tyrone Morgan for the final play of the afternoon.

“They’re a little bit more than we expected, they have a lot of talent, they will do well in this league,” Sequoias coach Irv Pankey said. “Alonzo (Carter) has done a good job with this program, after the 9-2 season last year it was time to move up.”

The Comets play its first home game at 1 p.m. on Saturday against Sacramento City College at Comet Stadium.

The Giants punched CCC square in the mouth on its opening play from scrimmage. Running back Elijah Porchia sliced through the heart of the defensive line en route to a 68-yard touchdown.

Sequoias led CCC 7-0 after just 20 seconds of play.

Not to be outdone, Burston (23 of 40 for 345 yards six touchdowns two interceptions) took only two plays to even the score at seven. The quarterback launched a 40-yard touchdown strike into the outstretched hands of Morgan (three receptions for 45 yards one touchdown).

For the remainder of the first quarter both teams exchanged blows and scored valuable points with its running backs. The Giants put together a 5-play drive that ended with a 34-yard touchdown run.

On offense, the Comets employed a pitch-and-catch style of game plan featuring Burston to running back Harris Ross (10 carries for 77 yards, 20 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown) for a 14-yard score to tie the game at 14.

The heat continued to be a factor, and at one point, Ross took to his knees to vomit up his pregame meal.

“It’s the first game, there was a mix of adrenaline, nerves and butterflies in our stomachs,” defensive end Mike Ihejeto (three tackles) said. “Early on, I don’t think we were ready for the weather. 90 percent of us aren’t used to playing in this kind of heat and it slowed us down in the first half. In the second half we picked it up.”

CCC outscored the Giants 27 to 21 after halftime.

Burston continued his assault in the second quarter, firing another 40-yard touchdown pass, this time finding sophomore receiver Josh Walker (four receptions for 91 yards one touchdown) for the Comets only score of the quarter.

Sequoia matched the Comet’s scoring pass in the second, adding two field goals and a touchdown run, giving the team a 34-20 lead at halftime.

“Games like this reveal what kind of character you have as players,” coach Alonzo Carter said.

The Comets opened the third quarter in the worst way possible, fumbling the ball leading to another Giant score which extended the mounting deficit to 41-20.

With CCC on its collective heels, Sequoia struck again, this time with a 27-yard gash up the sideline, extending its lead to 48-20.

Comet offense showed flashes of continuity, while surprisingly, the defensive unit struggled to find its identity for much of the afternoon.

“It’s still early but last year we played with more intensity,” safety Rodney Washington (four tackles) said. The body build of our players is different. We had men last season and now there are a lot of freshman out there — we’re going to have to work to continue growing together.”

Throughout much of the first half, freshman wide receiver Osai Brown (six receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns) could be heard saying, “They have a linebacker on me, you have to get me the ball.”

If anyone heard him, it was Burston who got Brown’s message the clearest.

After an 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Marquis Pippins (three reception for 58 yards and one touchdown), which gave the Comets 26 and the Giants 48 points, CCC’s next two scoring touchdowns were to the freshman receiver Brown.

Both passes were caught with defenders in tackling position, however, each score saw Brown elude would-be tacklers by spinning and juking his way around and through defenders to find the endzone.

The first, a 9-yard touchdown to end the third quarter bringing the score to 33-48, effectively solidifying the Comets comeback bid. And the second, a 26-yard fourth quarter score that closed the deficit to 47-55, bringing that comeback bid somewhat closer to reality.

In between the Burston to Brown scoring explosion, Sequoias manufactured a clock chewing 13-play 5 minute drive, culminating in a 2-yard touchdown run to open the fourth quarter.

The Comets put forth a highlight of its own by way of a 47-yard scamper-and-score by freshman running back Brandon ZaunBrecher (seven carries for 69 yards and one touchdown).

The Comets failed to recover its onside kick attempt following Brown’s touchdown and subsequent 2-point conversion completion to Pippins.

The Comet defense held its ground forcing a Sequoia punt in its biggest stand of the entire game.

After the punt, Burston hurled a 42-yard bomb to Walker who caught the ball just outside of the red zone on the Giant 25 yard line.

Following a CCC penalty, with under one minute to play, Burston scrambled to the Giant 21 yard line setting up third down for the team, still needing a touchdown and 2-point conversion to send the game to overtime.

Burston, under pressure, scrambled outside of the pocket and fired the ball toward the end zone, however, lurking Sequoia defenders intercepted the pass.

The play effectively ended CCC’s comeback attempt and sealed an eight point Giant win.