Defensive effort leads to close win

Comet pass rush sacks Blue Devils nine times

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

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The football team won its second game in a row, gutting out a 27-20 win against Merced College (1-3 overall) Saturday at Comet Stadium.
The Blue Devils took an early lead, scoring seven minutes into the game on a sloppy play where the Contra Costa College (3-1 overall) defender failed to get his head around and find the ball, resulting in a 15-yard touchdown strike.
The mistakes were plentiful early on. Halfway into the quarter, penalties by Merced negated any positives they might have gained rushing the ball through the CCC defensive front. After a lengthy feeling out process, the Comet offense finally seemed poised to capitalize on the Blue Devil shortcomings.
Late in the quarter the offense finally found the illusive rhythm it so often search for, allowing quarterback Jonathan Banks to put together an 11-play drive ending with an 11-yard touchdown pass to receiver Taylor Sterling.
The Banks touchdown did more to reinvigorate the defense than any of the offensive players. Defensive lineman Deyonte Reynolds recorded his first sack five minutes into the contest, but between the first and second quarter, chants of, “We’re about to eat,” could be heard from numerous defensive players along the CCC sideline.
And eat they did, piling on nine sacks for a net loss of 74 yards and numerous runs for losses, while the secondary claimed two interceptions — returning one for a touchdown.
CCC receivers seemed to be willing to drop as many big play balls as they were able to catch. When wide-outs did make plays, such as receiver Malcolm Hale recovering a fumbled kickoff in the end zone for a touchdown, costly mistakes like the taunting penalty that followed would take precious points off of the board.
But the defense came to eat. Defensive back Lavon Washington resuscitated the CCC spirit with an interception returned for a score that put the pilfered points back on the board. The Comets led 20-13 at the half.
CCC stretched the lead after the break on a 42-yard touchdown catch by Terrance Barnes from Banks. The ensuing kick off was fumbled by Merced and recovered by linebacker Ricky Davis. Another opportunity to put the game away was lost when Banks threw his only pick of the game.
“Some of our play has not been consistent when it comes to finishing teams off,” CCC coach Alonzo Carter said. “We need to come in with the mind state that the only one who can beat CC is CC.”
The squad will need that mentality with conference play beginning Saturday in Pittsburg at Los Medanos College.
Another stop, highlighted by a Davis sack, got the ball back in the hands of the Comet offense. Shifty running back Austin Harper ripped off a 13-yard run followed by a 10-yarder. As the crowd anticipated Harper breaking loose on the third, he promptly coughed up the ball, putting the onus on the defense to close this one out.
Over the next five minutes the defense dined on Merced QB Juwan Brown.
Davis notched two more sacks along with Reynolds. Also, defenders Wallace Payton and Anthony Ledoux slung Brown down for a sack that netted a 14-yard loss. The CCC defense marched the Devils 20 yards in reverse, but another penalty handed Merced the ball with 8:41 to go.
“I wanted to go at the biggest guy, I knew he was already too slow to stop me,” Davis said. “And when he started getting tired I just continued to take advantage of him.”
First an attempted Merced touchdown pass was broken up by defensive back Chauncy Carter. A QB keeper pushed the ball to the 12, but it was testing Carter that would be the Blue Devils’ downfall. The defensive back picked off a pass on the following play in the end zone for what looked to be the game clinching play.
“I had a long talk with the coach (Alonzo Carter) earlier in the week and he told me to step up and be the play-maker he knew I could be,” Carter said. “I had a good week in practice. I really felt like I was going to go out there and make things happen today.”
Strategic timeouts and a banged up Banks got Merced the ball with time to score. With 2:53 remaining, the Merced QB snuck his way to pay dirt on a designed run to close the gap to 27-20.
Punting from their own red zone and giving up a big return, the Comets were in need of one more big defensive stand. The lefty Blue Devil QB chose to test Carter once again and, almost as if he was expecting the challenge, Carter stepped up to save the game (again), breaking up a fourth down touchdown pass attempt.

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