Palomar wins 2nd ball game
By David Willauer
ANCHO CUCAMONGA (10-01-2016) — The Comets are back in gear. After frustrating losses in three of four close games to open the season, Palomar hit host Chaffey with everything it had on the way to a 34-22 nonconference victory on Saturday night at Grigsby Field.
Coach Joe Early’s squad jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead by scoring on a 2-yard run by Josh Bernard, a 71-yard pass play from quarterback Matt Romero to Terrell Arnold and a 10-yard Romero-to-Robert Ursua pass.
After the Panthers answered with a third-quarter touchdown to pull to within seven points, the Comets counterpunched with two more touchdowns in a 20-second span early in the the fourth quarter to go back up by 20 points. LaMont Chaney’s 32-yard run on an end-around play and an interception and 8-yard TD return by Malavai Taylor put Palomar in front 34-14 with 10:23 left in the game and made a later Chaffey touchdown basically irrelevant.
The Comets mixed the above with a punting clinic by Sam Tapia, who took over the game by controlling the teams’ field position, and a spectacular defensive performance by safety Zach Gallina (13 tackles, 9 solo, a fumble recovery at the Chaffey 13 after Roger Mann knocked the ball loose, an interception at the Palomar 7 and 13-yard return, a forced fumble and back-to-back pass break-ups in the end zone).
Tapia deposited five more punts inside the 20-yard line, including chip shots that pinned the Panthers at the 7-, 6- and 3-yard lines. He boomed four 40-yard-plus punts, including a 56-yarder that knocked down the Panthers’ Tarmas Stewart who backpedaled, backpedaled some more, then crashed backwards to the turf at his own 19-yard line when he finally caught the ball.
“This guy gave us field position time after time all night,” Early said, pointing to Tapia. “That wins games.”
The Comets’ defense intercepted Chaffey quarterback Vincent Bowes four times, sacked him three times and broke up six passes. Besides Gallina’s and Taylor’s picks, Xzavier Crawford intercepted Bowes at the Palomar 1-yard line and Dominique Love provided the other interception at the Comets’ 13. He returned the ball out to the 20.
The sacks were provided by Mann (for 10 yards), Nako Te’i (for 6 yards) and Christian Prince (for 6 yards). Prince also had two of the pass break-ups (the others came courtesy of Gallina, Michael Moore, Crawford and Nate Johnson). And, late in the game, Prince separated the ball from a Chaffey receiver, who had just caught a pass and was starting to head up the Palomar sideline, with a violent hit. The ball shot into the air and out-of-bounds, followed by the Chaffey receiver.
Hunter Turner, Mann, Te’i, Mickey Sega, Austin Alualu and Prince combined for seven tackles for loss for 52 yards. Mann had 1.5 tackles for loss for 19 yards and Turner contributed 2 for 10 yards.
Issiah Augero contributed two kickoff returns of 35 and 34 yards. Romero was 12-for-24 passing for 167 yards, included five completions to Ursua. And Patrick Koch, who kicked a 51-yard field goal last week, sent his first three kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks. Koch did miss an extra point for the first time this season, going 4-for-5. Tapia, the holder, took the blame for the miss.
Palomar gets a bye next week and will open Southern Conference play the following Saturday night, Oct. 15, at home at Wilson Stadium in Escondido against Orange Coast.
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