Football: Loss to Palomar puts post-season in limbo

Falcons dropped 45-35 decision against Palomar
Falcons dropped 45-35 decision against Palomar

Looking to secure their post-season position heading into their Central Division game against Palomar College, the Cerritos College football team was defeated, 45-35 on Saturday. The Falcons (5-4, 2-2) have one more regular season game remaining, as they host El Camino College (6-3, 3-1) at 6:00 p.m. next Saturday. With a win, the team will earn at least a share of the division title (Fullerton is ineligible for the post-season due to sanctions) with the Warriors and possibly Palomar. The playoffs and bowl games will be announced next Sunday.

In the loss to Palomar, the Falcons kept getting close to tying the game on four occasions, but could not stop the Comets, who racked up 505 total yards. Not known as a rushing team, they carved up the Cerritos defense for 145 yards on the ground, while quarterback Connor Curry threw five touchdown passes and rushed for another.

The Falcons trailed by a pair of touchdowns four separate times, and each time they would get in the end zone, the Comets came right back to regain their two-touchdown advantage. The game highlighted some outstanding plays by Cerritos, but the big play strikes by Palomar were too much to overcome.

Down, 21-7 in the second quarter, sophomore running back Rhamondre Stevenson (Centennial, NV HS) broke free from 35 yards out on fourth-and-one to get the team to within 21-14. But with less than a minute remaining in the first half, Curry completed a 33-yard scoring strike, which allowed the Comets to take a two-touchdown lead into halftime.

Coming out in the second half, Stevenson, who was "limited" to 154 yards on the ground, carved up 52 yards on the first two plays of the second half to get the team within scoring range. Faced with third-and-five at the Palomar 8-yard line, sophomore quarterback Isaiah Bravo (West Covina HS) found sophomore wide receiver Jamal Tate (Victor Valley HS/Victor Valley College) for a touchdown pass. Palomar came back on their next drive and went down the field to score. The drive included an 11-yard run by punter Jacob Stepanek on fourth-and-10 that kept the drive going.

Before the end of the third quarter, Bravo (17-for-30, 235 yards, 3 TDs) connected with freshman tight end Matt Den Hartog (Los Alamitos HS) from 21 yards out for a touchdown just one play after Stevenson picked up three yards on a fourth-and-two play. Just like the last Cerritos drive, Palomar responded with one of their own to take a 42-28 advantage. With their backs against the wall, Cerritos decided to go for it on fourth-and-17 at the Palomar 21-yard line. On the play, Bravo tossed a scoring strike into the back corner of the end zone, where Tate was there to pull the ball in over two defenders as he was falling backward.

But that would be all the offense for the Falcons on the night, as the Comets sealed the game with a 35-yard field goal on the next drive with 4:06 left on the clock. Bravo was picked off on the team's last drive of the night. Also a threat with his feet, Bravo also rushed for 66 yards, while Stevenson caught two passes for 71 yards, including one for 63 yards. Stevenson has now rushed for 1,706 yards and scored 14 touchdowns this season.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Latrell Stearns (Gahr HS) led the team with 10 stops, while sophomore linebacker Tishawn Barnaby (Centennial, NV HS) finished with eight tackles and a quarterback hurry. The Cerritos defense, which has been know to pressure opposing quarterbacks, was held at bay by the quick-strike Palomar offense, as they turned 24 pass receptions into 360 yards.