On the night Mt. San Antonio honored a fallen teammate, the Mounties also managed to keep their playoff hopes alive with a hard-fought 20-17 win over heated rival Riverside in a key National Division Central Conference showdown at Hilmer Lodge Stadium.
Before the game, the Mounties had a moment of silence for freshman linebacker and long snapper George Steward, who was killed along with his girlfriend in a traffic accident last weekend. George's younger brother Ray sang the national anthem, and the crowd observed a moment of silence.
And perhaps drawing inspiration, defending state champion Mt. SAC (5-3, 3-1) found a way to stay in the playoff picture against a Riverside squad that had spent much of the season as the #1-ranked team in California. A loss to Fullerton last week dropped the Tigers from the top spot, however, and Saturday's game had a lot of urgency for two top programs looking to make the postseason field.
Mt. SAC jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead on the strength of its excellent defensive front, a short touchdown run and a couple of long field goals by freshman kicker Brandon Garcia. But Riverside (5-2, 2-1) used quick-hitting pass plays to score twice in the third quarter, and added a field goal early in the fourth quarter to take a 17-13 lead. At that point the Mt. SAC offense had punted five times in the second half, never making it past the 50.
Then on the most important drive of the season, Mt. SAC quarterback Anfernee Bruton found slot receiver Montero Dubose for a stunning 48-yard pass play, and that got the Mounties' offense started. Four plays and a penalty later, with run-first quarterback Jerry McConico on to lead the short-yardage defense, Mt. SAC got the touchdown it needed when McConico scored on a 4-yard run with 5:15 left.
And that proved to be the difference in the game. Riverside drove just across midfield in a bid to tie or re-take the lead, but Ian Fieber's pass was intercepted by Khalil Rasheed-Brown with 3:42 left. Mt. SAC ran the clock down to just 11 seconds before punting the ball away one final time. RCC ran three plays after that, but with so little time left and no timeouts remaining never seriously threatened to score.
Mt. SAC had built a 13-0 halftime lead as its defense held Riverside to just two first downs – one on a defensive holding penalty and the other on a short fourth-down pass – in the first half. Garcia kicked field goals of 48 and 49 yards early in the second quarter, and McConico scored on a short run to cap a 7-play drive with 4:21 left in the half to make it 13-0 at the break.
Riverside rallied in the third quarter, taking advantage of a Mt. SAC mistake when punt return man Brian Reed muffed a kick and Ethan Pulley recovered for the Tigers at the Mt. SAC 25. Then Fieber threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Alonge Brooks for RCC's first score. Following a Mt. SAC punt, Fieber capped a 12-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Evan Rodriguez, with Julian Castro's extra point giving the Tigers a 14-13 lead. Castro added a 35-yard field goal with 13:10 left in the fourth quarter to make it 17-13.
For Mt. SAC Bruton completed 22 of 38 passes for 204 yards, and he also ran the ball 18 times for a game-high 65 yards. McConico carried the ball 7 times for 18 yards and two touchdowns. Isaiah Manley led Mt. SAC receivers with 7 catches for 52 yards, but 11 different Mounties caught at least one pass.
For Riverside, Fieber completed 26 of 52 passes for 221 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Dominique Maiden had 6 catches for 57 yards, and Brooks had 4 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. But the RCC running game had just 32 yards on 21 carries.
The win keeps Mt. SAC and Riverside just a game behind first-place Long Beach in the ultra-competitive Central Conference. RCC hosts Long Beach next week, while Mt. SAC takes on LA Harbor.
Last year arguably the three best teams in the state all resided in the Central, with Riverside winning the conference title in the regular season and Mt. SAC winning the state championship in the postseason. Long Beach was the odd-man out last time around, and once again, only two of these three teams can make the playoffs. El Camino is still in the picture as well and has a chance to control its own fate as the Warriors finish the season against Mt. SAC and Long Beach. Stay tuned...
Mt. San Antonio Mounties 20, Riverside Tigers 17
Saturday, October 24, 2015 – 6 pm @ Hilmer Lodge Stadium, Walnut
National Division – Central Conference
M – FG Garcia 48 yds 12:42 (3-0)
M – FG Garcia 49 yds 7:35 (6-0)
M – McConico 1 yd run (Garcia kick) 4:21 (13-0)
R – Brooks 9 yd pass from Fieber (Castro kick) 9:39 (13-7)
R – Rodriguez 4 yd pass from Fieber (Castro kick) 4:47 (13-14)
R – FG Castro 35 yds 13:10 (13-17)
M – McConico 4 yd run (Garcia kick) 5:15 (20-17)
First Downs: Mt. SAC 17 (5 rush, 9 pass, 3 penalty), Riverside 17 (2 rush, 12 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Mt. SAC 41-139, Riverside 21-32
Passing Yds: Mt. SAC 204, Riverside 221
Comp-Att-Int: Mt. SAC 22-39-1, Riverside 26-55-3
Return Yds: Mt. SAC 146, Riverside 118
Sacks-Yds: Mt. SAC 0-0, Riverside 0-0
Fumbles-Lost: Mt. SAC 2-1, Riverside 0-0
Penalties-Yds: Mt. SAC 15-118, Riverside 7-65
Time of Possession: Mt. SAC 36:13, Riverside 23:47
Rushing: M 12-Bruton 18-65, 32-Walker 6-36, 6-McConico 7-18, 28-Ballard 2-10, 15-Gates 2-6, 1-Vaughns 5-5, team 1-(-1); R 7-Anderson 7-17, 8-Acda 14-15
Passing: M 12-Anfernee Bruton 22-38-1-204; 6-McConico 0-1-0-0; R 10-Ian Fieber 26-52-3-221, 2 TDs; 19-Olsen 0-3-0-0
Receiving: M 8-Isaiah Manley 7-52, 80-Anderson 3-23, 10-Fisher 2-23, 5-Ingram 2-11, 28-Ballard 2-7, 84-Dubose 1-48, 16-Reed 1-26, 1-Vaughns 1-5, 13-Akins 1-4, 23-T.Parker 1-4, 15-Gates 1-1; R 80-Maiden 6-57, 88-Brooks 4-65, 2-Herring 4-36, 11-Yoakum 3-24, 13-Thomas 3-22, 18-Burton 2-13, 8-Acda 2-(-5), 6-K.Parker 1-5, 85-Rodriguez 1-4
Interceptions-Ret Yds: M 36-A.Brown 1-29, 9-Bryant 1-7, 21-Rashaad-Brown 1-0; R 3-Robinson 1-0
Fum Rec-Ret Yds: M none; R 42-Pulley 1-0
Punters: M 67-O'Toole 9-39.1 avg; R 39-Fonseca 9-40.4 avg
Kick Returns: M 1-Vaughns 2-61, 15-Gates 2-45; R 29-T.Lewis 4-117
Punt Returns: M 1-Vaughns 2-6, 16-Reed 2-(-2); R 4-La Rue 4-1
Missed FG: none
Notes: Mt. SAC entered ranked #7 in National Division & #16 in Calif and improves to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in conference. Riverside entered ranked #3 in National and #4 in Calif. And falls to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in conference. Bruton played most of the way at QB for Mt. SAC but McConico entered mostly for running plays. Mt. SAC's 1st TD came after Bryant's interception. Riverside had just 2 1st downs in the 1st half but scored after Pulley recovered Reed's punt muff and then took the lead. The 48-yd pass to Dubose set up Mt. SAC's winning TD. Riverside drove to the Mt. SAC 47 but then came Rashaad-Brown's interception with 3:42 left. RCC had one last chance but just 11 seconds and no timeouts and didn't reach midfield. Mt. SAC honored freshman linebacker/long snapper George Steward on this night; he and his girlfriend were killed in a vehicular accident last weekend.