THE WHOLE STORY: Palomar College Comets

Tom Luginbill. Todd Bankhead. Sean Salisbury. Chris Keldorff. Tony Alvarez. Greg Cicero. Those quarterbacks have etched their names into Palomar (CA) Community College history.

Sophomore Andy Goodenough is poised to add his name as he prepares to begin his second season as the Comets starting quarterback. Of that list, only Luginbill (in 1992-93) and Alvarez (97-98) have started both seasons and they each led Palomar to the National Championship in their sophomore year. This season, the Comets have been considered one of the favorites to reach the pinnacle of community college football. Even 16-year head coach Tom Craft feels this may be one of his best teams ever.

"I think we have really improved ourselves from last season in the positions we needed to address," said Craft, who has a 105-54-1 mark three national titles (the first in 1991) to boot. "When you have a quarterback who is playing his second season, it's almost imperative to have a supporting cast to significantly improve your chances of being successful. We feel we have done that this year."

Palomar has been awarded the #1 rating spot in Southern California by the JC Athletic Bureau, while JCFootball.com ranks them #2 in the state.

The following is an in-depth look at the 2001 Comets by position:

QUARTERBACK – Goodenough (6-3, 210) has all the tools to repeat as the Mission Conference Central Division Offensive Player of the Year. Last season he completed 68.3% of his passes and threw for 2,339 yards and 19 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He is currently being recruited by such prestigious colleges as Miami, Washington and USC and will once again be the taskmaster of the Comets vaunted no-huddle pro-style offense. Freshman John Nielson is blessed with the tools to take over should anything happen to Goodenough, while the team also has UCLA bounce-back Roman Ybarra (Vista).

"I think Andy has a better supporting cast this season than last," said Craft. "Having a better offensive line and a stronger group of receivers, we should be able to put some points on the board."

RUNNING BACKS – One of the most under-rated positions over the years, the Comets were second in the Mission Conference last season in rushing yards. Heralded freshman Chris Williams (Oceanside El Camino HS) was the San Diego Player of the Year last season after rushing for 2,043 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior. He will lead a contingent of players who look to fill the shoes of graduated Josh Galea'I, Brandon Sanchez and Keiki Misipeka.

"We have been a running back by committee team at times, but regardless of who we have used, we have been successful," added Craft. "We have more big-play possibilities with this group than in the past. When Ricky Blanton threw for over 2,000 yards at San Diego State, (former Comet) George Jones rushed for over 1,000 yards that season. We have had some very good running backs come through here, but they sometimes get lost in the spotlight of our throwing game."

Sophomore Siree McClean, as well as Mt. San Antonio College transfer Percy Arseneaux will also see playing time. Also look for Alex Thompson (San Marcos) and Allan Hancock College transfer Rory Palmer to fight for carries each week.

WIDE RECEIVERS – Returning starter Deondre Alexander had a phenomenal freshman season with 57 receptions for 772 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a unanimous All-Conference selection and will be look to as the #1 receiver. Unlike last season, he will not be the team's only aerial threat. Outstanding freshman Ben Breshnahan (Fallbrook) has returned to football after playing basketball at UC San Diego. He was one of Craft's top recruits coming out of high school and now gets the opportunity to utilize his talents.

"We have a great deal of inside quickness at wide receiver, which suits our offensive style." continued Craft. "I also believe that Deondre will be more of a team leader for us this season. He has truly become an example for his teammates. Last year, he was still adjusting to being away from home (Fontana HS). But he is more emotionally, structurally and socially mature this season."

Sophomore Larry Slaughter returns for his sophomore year and will be joined by a trio of transfers who could start for almost any other team in the conference. Trent Henderson (Compton College), Daryl Johnson (6-2, 190, Montana State) and Tim Lewis (Riverside College) will also see time, as will talented freshman Eddie Sullivan (Carlsbad).

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN – The Comet offensive line has been rated #2 in the state by JCFootball.com and returns two All-Conference selections. Tackle Damion Holman (6-5, 310) and Gerald Sykes (6-3, 310) anchor a massive offensive line that could be one of the best lines ever at Palomar. Add to the mix Glendale (CA) College transfer Ryan Morris (6-6, 300), A 2nd Team All-Western State Conference choice, and the Comets might be able to have their way with almost any defensive front seven.

"I think this is the position we have improved the most at," said Craft. "Along with wide receiver, I believe that this offensive line will be the biggest keys to our success this season."

Center Evan Shuler (6-2, 280) will be complimented by freshman Brett Schleiger (6-3, 280, Temecula Valley), San Jose State transfer Edrick Contreras (6-2, 300, Vista), returner Amos Misilau (6-2, 305) and freshmen Rory Canfield (6-3, 260, Helix) and Zach Williams (6-3, 260, Helix) to form a deep and versatile line.

DEFENSIVE LINE – Returning All-State and All-Conference pick Andrew Woycik (6-3, 235) is quick and strong, while sophomore Tony Seau (6-1, 320) might be the most improved player on the team. The younger brother of NFL All-Pro Junior Seau, Tony has shed some weight and has gotten his body and mind stronger for the rigors of Saturday nights. Another returning All-Conference pick, Aeto Taele, has put on about 15 pounds of muscle, while Sid Bachman (6-3, 280) appears to have made the successful switch from the offensive line.

"We are quicker up front than we were last year and I think that helps us out a bit," said Craft. "We still have guys with size, but we will be able to do more things on defense with this group."

Freshman Andrew Paopao, the brother of former QB Tyler Paopao (Redlands University), has impressed the coaching staff, while returners Portland Bates and Calvin Wishom will be joined by freshman Brian Nicholson (Vista).

LINEBACKERS – One of the deepest positions for the Comets this year, they were led last season my MLB Marco Chavez, who was a 1st Team All-Conference pick. He will have his hands full trying to keep his job from freshman Mike Tinoisamoa (Vista), who has played exceptionally well this spring. Charles Williams (6-2, 210), another returning starter, and Ricks College transfer Ray Holdcraft (6-0, 230) will cover a lot of territory for Palomar. Holdcraft comes in with great credentials and just might be one of the best to ever come through the program.

"We have a very deep group of linebackers this season," said Craft. "Ray Holdcraft is a great addition to our team this year and will work well with the rest of the defense. Marco Chavez received a great deal of attention last year and will be pushed to keep his job. That could make him even better this season."

Jacques Phreton, Mt. San Antonio College transfer Junior Taumoepeau (6-2, 235), along with freshmen Sean Sovacool (Fallbrook) and Andrew Dorsey (Fallbrook) have all shown the coaching staff they deserve playing time this season.

SECONDARY – Craft feels as though this position may be his least sound, but does have returning All-Conference cornerback David Dixon back. Returning sophomore Greg Farr seems to have solidified a spot after returning an interception 25 yards for a touchdown in the team's intrasquad game last week.

"We need to shore up this position a little bit before the start of the season," said Craft. "We still need to find our final starter, but any of the guys we are choosing from should be able to do the job."

Converted running back Rodrick Gibson has done a fine job since his switch, while freshmen Willie Tagoai (Vista), Johnny Hearn (Vista) and TyArron Clayborn (El Camino) are all fighting for a starting spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS – Newcomers Matt Kovacevich (El Camino), the top high school kicker in San Diego County and Jeff Sherwood (Chatham, NY) look to handle the kicking duties this season.

PALOMAR COLLEGE 3,000-YARD PASSERS

YEAR

PLAYER (4-YEAR COLLEGE)

PC

PA

PCT

TD

YDS

1988

Duffy Daugherty (Idaho State)

233

421

.553

22

3006

1989

Scott Barrick (Stephen F. Austin)

248

449

.552

21

3225

1990

Brett Salisbury (Oregon)

273

431

.633

33

3228

1991

Andy Loveland (Oklahoma State)

243

405

.600

29

3227

1992

Tom Luginbill (Georgia Tech)

204

328

.622

22

3086

1993

Tom Luginbill (Georgia Tech)

264

426

.639

34

3701

1994

Gregg Wilbur (Florida A&M)

235

405

.580

21

3159

1995

Chris Keldorf (North Carolina)

264

437

.604

28

3037

1996

Jason Wanstreet

92

193

.477

8

1058

1996

Todd Bankhead (UMass)

71

153

.464

6

1010

1997

Tony Alvarez (Utah)

139

237

.586

16

2118

1997

Todd Bankhead (UMass)

47

84

.560

3

703

1998

Tony Alvarez (Utah)

159

308

.516

31

2474

1999

Greg Cicero (Baylor)

155

263

.589

32

2505

2000

Andy Goodenough

207

303

.683

19

2339

PALOMAR COLLEGE PLAYERS IN THE PROS

MATT O'NEAL - C – Atlanta Falcons: On injured reserve during 2000 season but listed as No. 2 on the Falcons' depth chart at center entering the 2001 season. 4-year college: Oklahoma.

KEITH MILLER - LB – Tennessee Titans: Will be in second season in the league 2001. Appeared in 16 games for the St. Louis Rams in 2000. During the off-season, played in NFL Europe and led the Scottish Claymores in tackles and was team defensive MVP. 4-year college: Cal.

MITCH WHITE - OT – New Orleans Saints: 6th-round draft choice in 2001 draft. 4-year college: Oregon St.

KEVIN SWAYNE - WR – New York Jets: Signed with Jets after leading Arena League in receiving in 2001 and caught a key pass in Jets' opening preseason game vs. Atlanta. Spent preseason of 2000 we San Diego Chargers. Also: WR – New York Dragons (Arena League): Two weeks after Orlando's last XFL playoff game, scored 1st TD in Dragons' history on April 21, 2001. Led league in receiving for 2001 season. Also: WR – Orlando Rage (XFL): Scored 1st TD in XFL history. 4-year college: Wayne St. (Neb.).

THOM KAUMEYER - Assistant Coach – Atlanta Falcons: Ex-Comet player and coach and former NFL player will be in second season as an NFL coach in 2001. 4-year college (player): Oregon. NFL teams (player): Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants. Previous coaching experience: Palomar College (Head Coach, 1994; Assistant Coach, 1991, 1993, 1997-99).

PITA ELISARA: OT/OG – San Francisco Demons (XFL): Started every game during 2001 season. 4-year college: Indiana.

DAMEON PORTER - DB – Chicago Rush (Arena League): Leads league in interceptions. 4-year college: Wayne St. (Neb.).

TRAY CRAYTON - S – Oklahoma Wranglers (Arena League). 4-year college: Pitt.

TODD BANKHEAD - QB – New Jersey Gladiators (Arena League: Previously played for British Columbia Lions (CFL). 4-year college: UMass.

MATT GEORGE - K – Toronto Phantoms (Arena League): Fourth in league in field goals, 8th in scoring. Previously played for Pittsburgh Steelers during 1998 regular season. 4-year colleges: San Diego St., Chapman.

HERMAN GORDON - WR – Omaha Beef (Indoor Professional Football League): Eighth in league in receiving for team that advanced to league championship game with 79-18 semifinal victory over Boise Stallions. 4-year college: Wayne St. (Neb.).

TONY ALVAREZ: QB – Utah Rattlers (National Indoor Football League): Joined team for 2001 season. 4-year college: Utah.

TOM LUGINBILL: Assistant Coach – Los Angeles Xtreme (XFL): QB Coach for XFL Champions in 2001. 4-year college (player): Georgia Tech. Arena Football League team (player): New Jersey. Arena Football2 team (head coach): Alabama.

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