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Riverside reaches SoCal Championship game for third consecutive season

Riverside reaches SoCal Championship game for third consecutive season

Preview by Nicho DellaValle, RCC Sports Information

The dynasty lives on.

The wrecking ball in the form of the Riverside City College football team returns to the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern Regional Championship showdown for the third-consecutive year and the fourth time in the last five years.

Riverside will put their undefeated record to the test as they host the Ventura College Pirates on Saturday, November 24 at 6 p.m. in Wheelock Stadium. Per the CCCAA regulation, the cost of admission with be $12. Students, faculty, staff, seniors 60+, children 11 and under, and veterans will be charged $8 for admission. There will be a parking charge of $5. No conference, staff, or parent booster pass will be honored.

If you cannot make it to the stadium, the game will be live streamed by Riverside Athletics on the Riverside Athletics YouTube Channel free of charge.

Under Head Coach Tom Craft, the Tigers have reached the playoffs nine-consecutive seasons and the CCCAA Southern Regional Playoffs six-consecutive seasons. This will be Riverside's fifth trip to the Southern Regional Championship game in the past six years.

Riverside and Ventura are familiar foes as they have lined up against each other six times in the past five years. Riverside holds a 5-1 advantage which encompass two playoff victories in the first round of the Southern California Regionals in 2015 and 2017. The last time the Pirates defeated the Tigers was on Saturday, September 1, 2011 by the final score of 28-27. Since then, the Tigers hold a five-game winning streak against Ventura and have defeated them by at least three scores. This will be the first time the Tigers will face off against the Pirates in the Southern California Championship ballad.

Riverside has dismantled defenses and embarrassed offenses since the opening snap of the season. They average 44.2 points-per-game, 256 rushing yards-per-game, and 250.6 passing yards-per-game. While one may think the Tiger's offensive attack is their strong suit, think again. The Tiger defense is one of the strongest defensive units in the state. They have minimized opposing offenses to 13.6 points-per-game and 77.5 rushing yards-per-game.

Leading the defensive unit is a brute core of line backers consisting of sophomore Vic Viramontes, freshman Kue Olotoa, and sophomore Devyn Charles.

Viramontes made the successful transition from quarterback to linebacker and paces his squad with 56 total tackles leading to a 5.1 tackles-per-game mark. Of those 56 stops, 8.5 have gone for a loss of 32 yards. He has recorded 1.5 sacks on the year and has made at least one tackle in every contest so far. He recorded a season-high eight tackles in a victory over Grossmont in mid-October. The local talent has received over two-dozen NCAA Division I scholarship offers with Texas Christian University, Boise State, University of Missouri and University of Mississippi highlighting the bunch.

Olotoa came on strong in conference play and did not slow down. He ranks second on the team with 42 tackles highlighted by a season-best 11 tackles against Long Beach. He has recorded two sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss and one interception. Charles follows closely behind with 38 stops with two sacks and three pass break ups. Freshman linebacker Jose Ramirez is an equally as threatening weapon as he has recorded 37 tackles and 11 tackles for a loss.

One of the most dangerous weapons for Riverside is sophomore defensive end Nickolas Figueroa. He has a knack for punishing the quarterback as seen in a team-high 11.5 sacks. He ranks fourth-overall in the state in sacks. Furthermore, he leads his team with 19.5 tackles for a loss.

The Tigers secondary is a unit to fear with freshman safety Christian Swint helming the crew. He ranks tied for third on the team in tackles with 38 to average 3.5 tackles-per-game. He is a hard-hitting safety as he has forced three fumbles and recovered two of them. Furthermore, he shares the team-high interceptions mark with three picks. He brought one back to the house in a victory over San Bernardino. Sophomore corner back Eric Wilson shares the team lead in interceptions with three and eight pass break ups.

A team has to score points to win games and there is a reason why the Tigers are boasting an undefeated record. It all starts under center and sophomore quarterback Stone Smartt has acted as one of the best quarterbacks in the state.

Smartt is coming off of his strongest showing this season after being named the Most Valuable Player in the playoff victory over El Camino where he went 20-for-27 with 355 passing yards and four passing touchdowns accompanied by a trio of rushing touchdowns. In 11 starts, he has thrown for 2,618 yards leading to 30 touchdowns, a 65.4 completion percentage, 10.6 yards-per-attempt, and a state-pacing 192.6 efficiency rating. He has thrown for over two bills in all but one contest and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each game. Furthermore, he has rushed for seven touchdowns and 514 yards on 123 attempts.

Smartt owns primo weapons that acts as the best receiving core in the state. Leading the unit is sophomore Tyrone Marshall. The veteran of the crew has reeled in 40 catches for 663 yards and seven touchdowns. Freshman tandem Tyler Kennedy and Jammal Houston own the big play gene as they have combined for 48 catches with Kennedy owns two more grabs than Houston. Houston has crossed the pylons seven times, while Kennedy has planted himself in the end zone six times.

Sophomore running backs Malik Walker and Quincy Wimbish have handled the bulk of the ground game with Walker acting as the slight favorite. He has carted the ball 144 times for 868 yards and nine touchdowns. He has surpassed the century mark four times and has scored at least one touchdown in seven games. Wimbish, who was named the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) Week Five Offensive Player of the Week, has carried the pigskin 88 times for 572 yards and four touchdowns.