Comets seek shocker vs. state No. 1, 2-time defending national champion Hornets

Zach Morel scores on pass from Connor Curry vs. Grossmont. (Hugh Cox Photo)
Zach Morel scores on pass from Connor Curry vs. Grossmont. (Hugh Cox Photo)

SAN MARCOS (10-03-18) – For the fourth time this season, Palomar will face an opponent currently ranked among the top nine football teams in the state at the time on Saturday.

The opponent at 6 p.m. at Escondido High School's Chick Embrey Field at Wilson Stadium in both teams' Southern California Football Association National (State Playoff) Division Central League opener, will be the biggest fish in the community college ocean: Fullerton College.

The Comets will take their best shot against the 5-0 Hornets, two-time defending California and national champions, unanimous No. 1-ranked in the state midway through the 2018 season, winners of 25 games in a row and coming off a 28-23 victory over then state No. 2-ranked Ventura last week.

The Comets (3-2), who are ranked No. 14 in Southern California, have an opportunity to accomplish something – defeat Fullerton – that no one has been able to do since the Hornets lost a bowl game to Chaffey on Nov. 21, 2015.

That was 1,015 days ago.

In the Junior College Athletic Bureau State Coaches Poll, Fullerton is ranked No. 1 with all 14 first-place votes. In the California Community College Sports Information Association State Poll, the Hornets are ranked No. 1 with all 16 first-place votes. And in the California Football Coaches Association Southern California National State Playoff Division Poll, Fullerton is also ranked No. 1.

Ventura, which Palomar came oh-so-close to beating at Ventura two weeks ago, is ranked No. 5 in the JCAB State Coaches Poll, down from No. 2 before losing by five points to Fullerton last week. The Pirates also are ranked No. 5 in the CCCSIA State Coaches Poll. In the CCCFCA Southern California National Division Poll, the Pirates are tied for College of the Canyons at No. 2.

Southwestern, the team the Comets lost to the second week of the season, is ranked No. 9 in both state polls and No. 5 in the SoCal National Division poll. The Jaguars lost to Fullerton two weeks ago.

Mt. SAC, the team the Comets host a week from Saturday, is ranked No. 8 in the CCCSIA state poll.

Citrus, the team Palomar defeated in their most recent home game on Dec. 15, were a state Top Ten team at the time.

Also: Riverside City College, the team the Comets scrimmaged in the pre-season, is ranked No. 3 in the JCAB State Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the CCCSIA State Coaches Pol

"Look at the teams we've played. For the first six weeks of the season, everyone we have played has been ranked among the top nine teams in the state the week we played them, except for Moorpark and Grossmont," Palomar coach Joe Early said. "Three of the teams still are, and so is Mt. SAC, who we play next week.

"This is another big challenge put in front of us, the biggest challenge of all."

What is most special about Fullerton's rise to the top of the community college football world?

"They're very physical. They have excellent speed, and they react very quickly," Early said.

Offensive coordinator Dan Early will announce the Comets' quarterback starter at game time.

QB Shea Morales (along with receiver Malachi Russell) were Southern California Football Association National Division Offensive Co-Players of the Week two weeks ago.

The Comets' other healthy QB, Connor Curry, running back Shevell Sterling and cornerback Jihad Hightower, who made a spectacular one-handed interception in the end zone at the end of the first half in last week's 35-24 road victory over Grossmont, were honorable mention Player of the Week selections (Curry and Sterling on offense; Hightower on defense).  

 

PROBABLE PALOMAR LINE-UPS

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Shea Morales (6-4, 210, Fr., Carlsbad HS)

-or-

Connor Curry (6-2, 200, Fr., Evangel Christian HS, Shreveport, LA / Ouachita Baptist University)

Running Back

Shevell Sterling (5-10, 190, Fr., Grossmont HS)

Fullback

Arnold Yoder (6-1, 260, 260, So., Toledo HS, Toledo, WA / USMC)

Receivers

Logan Gamble (6-6, 200, Fr., St. Anthony HS, Long Beach / Cal)

Malachi Russell (6-0, 160, Fr., El Camino HS)

Mikel Barkley (5-11, 165, Fr., Temecula Great Oak HS)

Zack Morel (6-2, 193, So, Vista HS)

Slot Receivers

Devin Nilson (6-0, 187, So., Carlsbad HS)

Johnny Armentrout (5-10, 175, Fr., El Camino HS)

Johnny Arzola (6-0, 195, So., Oceanside HS, Dixie State)

Tight End

William Gonzalez (6-4, 230, Fr., Murrieta Valley HS)

Left Tackle 

Quinton Maxwell (6-3, 340, Fr., King HS, Detroit)

Left Guard

Francisco Rodriguez (6-4, 300, Fr., Sicks HS, Tampa, FL)

Center

Donovan Pati (6-3, 260, Fr., Vista HS)

Right Guard

Josh Castrellon (6-0, 300, So., La Costa Canyon HS)

Right Tackle

Will Eoff (6-6, 290, Fr., Vista Murrieta HS)

DEFENSE

End

Mason Simeta (6-3, 240, Fr., Lacey HS, Timberline, WA)

End

Jordan Duson (6-1, 240, Fr., Oceanside HS)

Tackle

Koa Evalu-Robinson (6-3, 275, Fr., Lahainaluna HS, Maui, HI)

Tackle 

Nick So'oto (6-2, 300, Fr., Parkway HS, Bossier, LA / Northeastern State)

Linebacker

Spencer Kaoanga (6-1, 220, Fr., Oceanside HS / Air Force Prep)

Linebacker

Chris Calhoun (6-1, 210, Fr. Mission Hills HS)

Cornerback

Jihad Hightower (5-9, 171, Fr., Creekside HS, St. Johns, FL)

Cornerback

Louie Flores (5-10, 180, Fr., Mission Hills HS)

Safety

Jay Craft (5-11, 180, Fr., Cherry Creek HS, Cherry Creek, CO / Kansas State University)

Safety

Giovanni Herrera (5-10, 185, Fr., Mira Mesa HS)

Safety

Josh Bernard (5-11, 205, So., Oceanside HS)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kickoffs, PAT's, FG's)

Mark Meador (5-8, 147, Fr., Del Norte HS)

Punter

Jacob Stepanek (6-3, 205, Fr., Temescal Canyon HS, Lake Elsinore)

Holder

Jacob Stepanek

Long Snappers

Ryan McCowan (5-8, 170, Fr., Valley Center HS)

Edwin Vorachack (5-10, 175, Fr., Escondido HS

Kickoff Returners

Lamar Raboteau (5-8, 165, Fr., Mira Mesa HS)

Damon Wigand (5-10, 180, Fr., Mission Hills HS)

Punt Returners

Devin Nilson

Johnny Arzola