Special teams errors doom path to victory

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

The football team failed once again to get its offense moving in the right direction, losing its second game in as many tries, this time suffering a 28-7 loss to Sacramento City College (2-0) Friday in Sacramento.

Panther big plays on special teams proved to be the difference in the contest as the Comets (0-2) yielded a 24-yard return of a blocked punt, a 55-yard run for a touchdown and a 2-play 59-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown that brought the score from a 7-0 CCC lead to a 21-7 SCC advantage at halftime.

SCC also scored on a 95-yard kickoff return on the first play after halftime.

“I’m going to coach them up more this week and implement new measures to be more efficient during practice,” CCC special teams coach Lamont Robinson said. “Next week I’m going to go back to coaching from the booth to get a broader view of everything. Most importantly we want to keep guys in there who want to do the job.”

The Comets scored first in the contest after sophomore quarterback Davin Lemon-Rodriguez (6 for 11 for 86 yards and one touchdown) hit second year receiver Jonathan Thomas with a 28-yard strike for the score.

“Last week was my first game back after almost one year off so I’m just getting my sea legs under me. I’m back at full speed, now it’s just watching film and minimizing mistakes,” Lemon-Rodriguez said.

The 4-play scoring drive came early in the second quarter after drives of 13 plays and four plays proved to be fruitless efforts in the first quarter.

CCC returns to action Saturday to play Sierra College at 1 p.m. at Comet Stadium.

On its lone scoring drive, the Comets relied heavily on the Lemon-Rodriguez to Thomas (five receptions for 57 yards and one touchdown) connection first with a 12-yard catch then the 28-yard touchdown reception which made up 40 out of 42 yards of the drive.

“The touchdown was a roll-out play that always works in practice — it worked the same way in the game,” Thomas said. “We came out with a positive attitude in the second half, things just didn’t work out in our favor.”

On the Panthers next play from scrimmage, following a 29-yard kickoff, SCC had its first big play of the game. On an average handoff, the SCC running back scampered 55 yards to the end zone to knot the game at 7 with 7:49 to play in the second quarter.

The swing of momentum was infectious — for the Panthers.

After forcing the Comets into a three and out, SCC began an 8-play drive into the Comet red zone, however, a fumble by the Panthers, recovered by Comet Jakil Sarhim and returned for 15 yards, gave CCC the ball on the 36 yard line.

The Comets failed to capitalize on the Panther misfortune and were forced to punt after stalling its offense on the 43 yard line.

SCC blocked the Comet punt attempt, scooped up the ball and returned it 24 yards into the endzone.

The Comets were stunned by the abrupt swing in momentum.

“The momentum swing was huge and I think a lot of our kids haven’t been through anything like that,” CCC assistant coach Alex Beglinger said. “It was a true college football momentum swing.”

CCC went from leading the game 7-0 with 9:53 to play in the second half to trailing 14-0 with 49 seconds to play before halftime.

SCC continued to ride its streak of good fortune by attempting an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and recovering the ball with 47 seconds to play before halftime.

The first Panther pass, an 18-yard sideline reception which stopped the clock, was bolstered by a roughing the passer penalty on CCC that tacked 15 yards to the end of the play.

From the 26-yard line, just outside of the Comet red zone, SCC was able to complete a touchdown pass, leaving CCC with not enough time to score before halftime.

At the half, Sac City led CCC 21-7.

Following the break, SCC continued to drown the Comets in Panther prosperity.

After the kickoff by Comet Alexandre Galvan, fielded on the 5-yard line, the Panther special teams created a path for its returner to march 95 yards into the endzone.

The score extended the Panther lead to 28-7, where it would remain for the duration of the game.

SCC’s dominance on the scoreboard was not a reflection of the Comet’s lack of defensive will or inability to hold the Panther offense in check. Both teams punted the same number of times, six, and both fumbled the ball the same ammount — four.

Aside from the football gods looking over the Panthers shoulder, the special teams play of CCC was ultimately the phase of the game that hurt the team the most.

With the talent level in the National Bay 6 being as high as it is, the Comets are going to have to play consistent in all phases of the game to excel on this level.