Air Palomar to Return in '03?

Perennial JC powerhouse, Palomar College, is known for its vaunted air attack. But last year head coach Joe Early pounded opponents on the ground behind now-graduated Chris Williams (SJSU signee) and Alex Thompson (SDSU; walking on). What's in store for Comets fans and Mission Conference opponents this fall? Coach Early provides some insight...

Head Coach: Joe Early (Entering 2nd season)
2002 Record: 10-1; Mission Conference Central Division champs
2002 Bowl Game: Beat Grossmont in South County Bowl, 20-19
Final 2002 Ranking: JC Grid-wire #4; COA/CCCFCA SoCal Poll #2

2002 Recap: Palomar Head Coach Joe Early is entering his second season as the head football coach and he looks back fondly at his first year and what his players accomplished. "There was great character on that team, they worked hard in practice, and they never gave up," said Early.  The Moorpark Raiders and the Grossmont Griffins can attest to that. On opening day last season the Comets beat Moorpark on a Hail Mary touchdown with no time left. To end the season, Palomar completed a comeback against the Griffins with an 80-yard touchdown pass to take the lead late and hold on to win the game. "That being the team that I had in my first year as a head coach is something that I will always remember," said Early. Twenty-three sophomores from the '02 squad moved on to four-year schools after the season.

2003 Outlook: The 2003 season will bring changes for everyone in the Mission Conference.  The divisions have been realigned based on win loss records the past two years. They have the potential to change again every two years.  Palomar will play in the American division, which includes Cerritos, Golden West, Long Beach, Mt. SAC, and Orange Coast. The Comets had the number one record in the Mission over the last two years (20-3) so they will have the toughest schedule (see below). Early's squad will visit defending Southern California champion College of the Canyons, Saturday, September 13, at 7 p.m.

Coach Early feels that Palomar will look more like the team people are used to seeing, throwing the football, and less like the run-dominant team they were a year ago. He didn't want to talk about his prospects at this point, but we've heard that the offensive line is a strong point.

The Comets coaching staff underwent several changes in the offseason. Joe's brother, Dan Early, is the offensive coordinator this year. Mark Halda has joined the team as the quarterback's coach. He is a former SDSU Aztec quarterback who is good friends with former Comets head coach Tom Craft. Eric VanTassle will coach the wide receivers. His most recent experience came as a volunteer coach with the San Diego Riptide of the Arena League. He also played at Oceanside High School. Tony Seau returns to the Comets as a defensive line coach. Seau played on the 1998 national championship team as a tackle.

Players to Watch: DB Brandon Bell (6-1, 190), DB Ron Rockett (6-1, 185), OT Chris Pino (6-5, 280), OT Taylor Schmidt (6-5, 295), and PK Ryan Lux (6-3, 215).

2003 Palomar College Football Schedule

Sat., Sept. 6 — Mt. San Jacinto at Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 13 — at College of the Canyons, 7 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 20 — Fullerton College at Cal St. Fullerton, 1 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 27 — Saddleback at Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 4 —   at Pasadena City College, 7 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 18 — Mt. SAC at Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 25 — Golden West at Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 1 —   at Orange Coast, 6 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 8 —   Long Beach City College at Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 15 — at Cerritos, 7 p.m.

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