Riverside, Foster, Edge Long Beach

In a showdown of the two top-ranked teams in Southern California, #1 Riverside got 137 yards rushing from Denzel Foster and two key special teams plays in the second half to get past #2 Long Beach, 27-21, Saturday evening at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.

With Riverside (7-1, 4-0) trailing, 14-13, Thaddeus LaGrone blocked a 49-yard field goal and teammate Treshon Broughton picked up the bouncing ball and returned it for a touchdown with 4:41 left in the third quarter. Then in the final seconds of the third quarter, Chad Nolan recovered a fumble on a muffed punt, which led to a 15-yard touchdown run by Nicholas King two plays later to give the Tigers a 27-14 lead.

Long Beach (6-2, 2-2), which rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final 6:13 just four weeks ago against then-#1-ranked Mt. San Antonio, scored with 1:32 left to get within a score. But after eschewing the onsides kick and hoping the defense would force a Riverside punt, the Vikings watched helplessly as Foster gained a first down with a 21-yard run to allow the Tigers to run out the clock and lock down the win.

The game featured two excellent teams and was intense and physical. There was an NFL-type feel to it, with each team able to move the ball in the middle of the field only to have the defenses dig in and prevent actual scoring chances. Long Beach's Kenny Potter made his first start since the Mt. SAC game October 4th, but ended up missing most of the fourth quarter after taking a hard shot as he released a pass and landing on his left (non-throwing) shoulder.

Long Beach took the opening kickoff and set the tone by quickly driving down the field. But on the 10th play of the drive, from the Riverside 20, Potter's pass was intercepted by Ray Ford in the end zone, and the Vikings came away empty. Riverside then drove down the field, reaching the Long Beach 23. But then the Viking defense dug in, and Riverside had to settle for a 40-yard field goal by Jimmy Camacho to take a 3-0 lead.

Long Beach got on the board and took a 7-3 lead thanks largely to an incredible one-handed catch by USC-bound receiver De'Quan Hampton. He hauled in a 38-yard pass from Potter that got the ball to the Riverside 3. Two plays later, Zach Saffle entered the game as a wildcat quarterback and carried the ball in to give the Vikings the lead.

Riverside answered with another long drive on its next possession, reaching the Long Beach 11, but again had to settle for a Camacho field goal. This one was good from 29 yards out and cut the Long Beach led to 7-6 with 12:38 left in the second quarter. Long Beach tried to answer with a field goal of its own, but Alfredo Solis' 47-yard try with 10:22 left in the quarter was wide left.

Long Beach's next possession ended with a punt, and what a punt it was as Josh Thomas' 48-yard kick rolled out of bounds inside the Riverside 1 yard-line. But the Tigers responded by putting together an amazing 99-yard drive, and took a 13-7 lead when King threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jermel Walker with 5:02 left in the first half.

Riverside received the kickoff to start the second half, and that started a rough sequence of events for the Tigers. First, return man Durron Burton field the ball on the ground about 7 yards deep in his end zone. Regrettably, he elected to run the ball out, rather than take the touchback, and he was tackled at the 10. Then on the first play from scrimmage King had trouble handing the snap and fumbled, with Josh Allen recovering the ball for the Vikings at the 10. Three plays later, Potter scored on a 2-yard keeper and Solis kicked the extra point to give Long Beach a 14-13 lead just 1:27 into the second half.

Long Beach forced a Riverside punt, and then drove to the Tiger 18 on its next possession when the game changed dramatically and, perhaps, supernaturally. On 3rd down, Potter dropped back to pass but was soon under pressure, and scrambled to his right. Looking downfield as he approached the sideline, Potter kept running sideways and collided with the referee, sending the official to the ground. The ball popped out and Riverside's Mike Fangatua picked it up and started towards the end zone, several yards ahead of his nearest pursuer. Then the whistle sounded. After the confusion was sorted out, the play was ruled dead and the ball given back to Long Beach at the 32 for 4th down. Solis came on to try a 49-yard field goal.

But, apparently, the football gods were displeased with that outcome. For on that very field goal attempt, Lagrone broke through the middle of the line and blocked the kick. Broughton picked up the bouncing ball - very near the spot that Fangatua had corralled a loose ball moments earlier - and carried it the distance, scoring the touchdown that Fangatua was not allowed to have and giving Riverside a 20-14 lead with 4:41 left in the third quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, with Riverside still holding a 20-14 lead, the Long Beach defense forced a Tiger punt. But Viking return man Anterio Bateman was unable to make a clean catch, and the ball came out. Nolan recovered the fumble at the Long Beach 15. Two plays later, King scored on a 15-yard run to make it 27-14 seven seconds into the fourth quarter.

On Long Beach's next possession, Potter was hit hard as he released a pass, and after his final pass attempt was intercepted by Cortland Fort with 7:19 left his afternoon was over. On came Brock Dale, who led Long Beach to two touchdowns in the Mt. SAC game just four weeks prior. He led the Vikings on another scoring drive this time around, throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Blandin with 1:32 left to cut the margin to 27-21.

The Vikings decided to kick the ball long on the ensuing kickoff - Riverside had 10 men up to guard against the onsides kick - hoping to force a Tiger punt and get the ball back one last time. And Riverside's first play lost a yard. But on the next play Foster broke free for a 21-yard run, gaining the first down and clinching the win for the Tigers.

For Riverside, King completed 13 of 26 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran for a score. Foster led all rushers with 137 yards on 22 carries. But this was a total team win,, with special teams players like Lagrone, Broughton and Nolan playing a key role. The defensive line of Fangatua, Christopher Lewis, Davante Wilson and Jeremiah Mitchell was outstanding all evening. In short it was the kind of win a good team puts together against another good team.

For Long Beach, Potter completed 14 of 26 passes for 177 yards, and Dale was 10-for-18 for 98 yards and a touchdown. Bateman led Viking rushers with 74 yards on 18 carries, and he also had 5 catches for 43 yards. Blandin had a superb game with 9 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown to lead all receivers.

The win keeps Riverside alone atop the ultra-competitive Central Conference of the National Division, and the Tigers have the chance to clinch the conference title next week with a 1 pm game against second-place Chaffey in Rancho Cucamonga.

Meanwhile, the loss could prove devastating to Long Beach, which now falls into a third-place tie with Mt. SAC in the Central Conference. Only two teams out of a field of Riverside, Long Beach, Chaffey and Mt. SAC will make the playoffs.

Prior to the game, Long Beach honored longtime coach Jim Stangeland, who led the Vikings to three national championships in the early 1960s. Like the recent San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball, Long Beach won three championships in five years - 1960, 1962 and 1964 - and that included wins in the Jr. Rose Bowl in 1960 and 1964. The 1964 team was already scheduled to be honored on the 50th anniversary of its championship before Coach Stangeland passed away last week at the age of 92.

Riverside Tigers 27
Long Beach Vikings 21

Saturday, November 1, 2014 - 6 pm - Veterans' Stadium, Long Beach
National Division - Central Conference

1st Quarter:
R - FG Camacho 42 yds 7:14 (3-0)
LB - Saffle 1 yd run (Solis kick) 0:07 (3-7)

2nd Quarter:
R - FG Camacho 29 yds 12:38 (6-7)
R - Walker 24 yd pass from King (Camacho kick) 5:02 (13-7)

3rd Quarter:
LB - Potter 2 yd run (Solis kick) 13:33 (13-14)
R - Broughton 47 yd return of blocked field goal attempt (Camacho kick) 4:41 (20-14)

4th Quarter:
R - King 15 yd run (Camacho kick) 14:53 (27-14)
LB - Blandin 5 yd pass from Dale (Solis kick) 1:32 (27-21)

Team Statistics:

First Downs: Long Beach 25 (7 rush, 15 pass, 3 penalty), Riverside 21 (10 rush, 8 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Long Beach 39-118, Riverside 44-185
Passing Yds: Long Beach 275, Riverside 153
Comp-Att-Int: Long Beach 24-44-2, Riverside 13-26-0
Return Yds: Long Beach 114, Riverside 101
Sacks-Yds: Long Beach 2-20, Riverside 3-26
Fumbles-Lost: Long Beach 1-1, Riverside 2-1
Penalties-Yds: Long Beach 9-93, Riverside 9-95
Time of Possession: Long Beach 31:34, Riverside 28:26

Individual Statistics:

Rushing: LB 4-Bateman 18-74, 24-Johnson 5-22, 6-Moore 6-21, 7-Potter 8-4, 17-Saffle 1-1, 12-Dale 1-(-4); R 4-Foster 22-137, 17-King 17-47, 25-Anderson 3-10, team 2-(-9)
Passing: LB 7-Potter 14-26-2-177; 12-Dale 10-18-0-98, 1 TD; R 17-King 13-26-0-153, 1 TD
Receiving: LB 5-Blandin 9-90, 8-Whitt 5-55, 4-Bateman 5-43, 2-Hampton 4-77, 6-Moore 1-10; R 1-Marenco 2-36, 3-Walker 2-36, 10-Morin 2-34, 18-Geater 2-15, 4-Foster 2-4, 88-Burton 1-14, 87-Pomee 1-8, 8-Whitney 1-6
Interceptions-Ret Yds: LB none; R 24-Ford 1-8, 38-Fort 1-18
Fum Rec-Ret Yds: LB 10-Allen 1-0; R 29-Nolan 1-0
Sacks: LB 4-Rowe, 10-Allen; R 15-Solomon, 90-Lewis ½, 99-Mitchell ½, team
Punters: LB 7-Thomas 5-45.0 avg; R 80-Zamora 6-38.2 avg
Kick Returns: LB 24-Johnson 3-62, 6-Moore 2-37, 1-White 1-19; R 35-Davis 1-37, 88-Burton 2-20
Punt Returns: LB 4-Bateman 2-(-4); R 35-Davis 3-28
Return of Blocked FG: LB none; R Broughton 1-47
Missed FG: LB 47-Solis 46 yds (wide left), 49 yds (blocked); R none

Notes: Showdown! Riverside entered ranked #1 in SoCal while Long Beach entered ranked #2. RCC improves to 7-1, 4-0 in conference while LB falls to 6-2, 2-2. Potter started at QB for LB; Saffle ran one play as wildcat QB and Dale entered when Potter was injured for one play in 2nd qtr and for good in 4th qtr. RCC's 1st TD came on a 99-yard drive. LB's 2nd TD came after Allen's fumble recovery. 33-Lagrone blocked the field goal for RCC. RCC's 4th TD came after Nolan recovered the fumble on a punt muff. LB kicked deep after its last TD but RCC ran out the clock after gaining a first down on a 21-yd run by Foster.

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