During his seven years as head coach, Ed Carberry’s football program has never beaten Palomar College. In fact, the Jaguars have never beaten the Comets. Southwestern College’s last victory against its rivals was back in 1988, when SWC’s nickname was still the Apaches.
“It took seven years, but we got ‘em!” Carberry hollered on the phone to his mother after a satisfying 31-28 victory.
Mrs. Carberry missed a thriller. SWC grabbed a quick 14-0 lead thanks to its passing game. Quarterback Frank Foster connected with receiver Cameron Lee for a 36-yard touchdown pass and receiver Rashad Ridley made a brilliant diving catch in the end zone.
Southwestern’s defense stifled the Comets, holding them to minus-four yards and forcing two turnovers in the first quarter.
The home crowd was going wild, but SWC could not sustain the torrid pace. With the Jags threatening again, things unraveled. A holding penalty negated a first down and on the next play Palomar defender Javante O’Roy returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown. The teams traded a pair of touchdowns to give the Jags a 21-14 halftime lead.
Third quarter bumbles silenced the crowd and had many wondering if the Palomar Curse was inviolable. A Foster fumble and a third down pass interference penalty allowed Palomar to tie the game 21-21.
After a field goal gave SWC a 24-21 fourth quarter lead, the Jags faced a fourth and one on Palomar’s 32-yardline, too close to punt yet too far to kick a field goal. Running back Devonte London got the ball but was stuffed at the line.
Momentum swung to the Comets.
Palomar took a page out of the Jags’ playbook and ran the ball down the field. A facemask penalty gave the Comets a first and goal inside the five-yard line. With a little over 10 minutes left Palomar took its first lead of the game, 28-24.
Momentum changed again, however, when SWC linebacker Khaalid Abdullah pulled off his helmet near the sidelines.
“Let’s win the f***ng game!” he shrieked as the offense took the field.
Abdullah’s emotional admonishment woke up the somnolent offense.
After a 16-yard pass to receiver DeSean Waters to start the drive, SWC ran 49 yards on five plays to take a 31-28 lead. Junior Nemorin – all of 5’8” and 185 lbs. – dropped his shoulder to send a Palomar defender flying backwards on an eight-yard run. His pivotal play helped set up Foster’s 15-yard touchdown run.
“We were running it up the middle and they were ready to bite,” Foster said while grinning ear to ear. “They all bit (on the fake) and I just took it up the sideline.”
With eight minutes left, the Comets were not done. When Palomar running back Justin Harris ran the ball 24 yards to the SWC 40-yard line, it looked like a score was inevitable. Then the defense dug in. On third and 10 Palomar QB Ryan Lamb rolled left to escape pressure and threw the ball up for grabs. Jaguars defensive back Marcus Harris grabbed it for his second interception of the game.
Harris, normally a wide receiver, looked at home in the secondary. He had a 51-yard touchdown reception the previous week against L.A. Valley. He was a last-minute replacement for a banged-up secondary.
“I came out nervous (on defense) coming out after playing receiver all week, but I played DB last year so I felt like I was going to come out here and ball,” said Harris. “I consider myself an athlete. I can go out there and run routes, or go out there and guard you, too.”
SWC ran the ball downfield and burned nearly five minutes off of the clock. A failed fourth down, however, gave the Comets a shot to win with 1:58 left in the game.
As Palomar set up a two-minute offense, Abdullah and the defense decided their time was up. SWC’s defensive line wreaked havoc on the drive. Tackle Alfonzo Hampton blocked a pass at the line and pressure by fellow tackles Rick Loewen and Darrein Booker forced an incomplete pass. Defensive end Jalal Yousofai followed with a quarterback sack, pushing Palomar out of field goal range. On fourth and 17, Yousofai hit the quarterback as he slung a desperation heave, clinching the victory. SWC is now 3-1 on the season, not to mention 1-0 against Palomar this year.
SWC is the Clint Eastwood team of the Mountain Conference, good, bad and sometimes ugly. The Jaguars have the seventh best rushing attack in the state (250.8 yards per game), but miscues still plague both sides of the ball. Southwestern is the fourth most penalized team in the state, averaging almost 14 flags per game. They also average two turnovers per game.
Even so, SWC won by 21
points against San Bernardino despite racking up 16 penalties for 142 yards. Penalties that hurt the most were those that extended opponents’ drives or cut s
hort SWC drives. Turnovers that give their opponents a short field are the killers. In the loss to Los Angeles Va
lley an interception set up a Monarchs touchdown, a bad snap cost SWC a field goal, a penalty pushed them off the one-yard line on fourth and goal, and another penalty nullified a successful onside kick recovery in the final two minutes. Turnovers and penalties also nearly cost the Jags the Palomar game.
SWC outgained Palomar by 288 yards. Foster passed for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Cedric Agyeman rushed for 131 yards. DeSean Waters had 146 receiving yards and the defense forced four turnovers. Three turnovers and 13 penalties by the Jags kept Palomar in the game, but that was the last thing on Carberry’s mind.
“We have finally broken all of the shackles,” he said. “We’ve beaten Mesa, Grossmont and Palomar.”
Carberry has his mother on speed dial just in case he has more good news.