By Ray Hamill — Too many red-zone breakdowns cost the Corsairs on Saturday afternoon, as they dropped their season opener, 41-34, to Monterey Peninsula College at the Redwood Bowl.
All in all, however, it was an impressive performance for College of the Redwoods against the perennial powerhouse Lobos, in what was an exciting game of football not decided until late in the contest.
“We knew Monterey was going to be a formidable foe. They’re good every year,” CR head coach Frank Borba said. “We just made some mistakes today that cost us.”
The positives for CR were numerous.
Quarterback Brody Lucero led a dynamic passing game and threw five touchdown passes, while receivers Micha Fontenot-Cornely and Zach Loveland each showed a flair for the big play with a pair of TD catches apiece, three of them going for 56 or more yards.
Running back Elijah Hicks also had a productive day running the ball and breaking tackles, on an offense that drove effectively against the highly-touted visitors all day.
“I thought that undoubtedly there were more positives than negatives,” Borba said.
Lucero, out of North Bend, Ore., in particular looks like a legitimate threat at quarterback going forward, after red-shirting a year ago. And while he had three interceptions — at least one of which was caused by a missed route by the receiver — and overthrew his targets at times, for a debut performance, it was one to remember.
“I thought he competed,” Borba said. “And I thought he played great. He gave us the opportunity to win the football game.”
He had some options to throw the ball to.
Fontenot-Cornely had two massive catches in the first half, displaying a big-play ability opposing defenses will have their hands full defending all season.
The former St. Bernard’s standout had TD receptions of 61 and 83 yards in the second quarter, to pull the home side back from an early 14-point deficit and leave them trailing by two late in the first half.
The freshman receiver was able to out-jump the coverage on each catch, before breaking free down the sideline and finding the end zone untouched.
He should have had a third TD catch but for an earlier dropped ball when he was open.
“We knew the weapons we had coming in, and I think the community got to see those weapons today,” Borba said.
Loveland was just as effective, pulling in the next two TDs on receptions of 16 and 56 yards, as the Corsairs battled back time and again.
Loveland finished with 242 yards on 10 receptions.
CORSAIRS OPTIMISTIC AHEAD OF 2018 SEASON — Numbers are down slightly for the Corsairs in 2018, but in terms of quality and balance throughout the lineup, head coach Frank Borba is about as happy as he’s ever been.
The Corsairs, in fact, never led, but continually found a way to pull within one or two points of the Lobos.
It was perhaps the most impressive aspect of the CR performance, and one that suggests this year’s team has the mentality — as much as the talent — to be a competitive one.
Former Eureka standout Marcus Finney, playing his first game of football in three years, added the fifth TD of the day for the Corsairs late in the fourth quarter.
He quickly followed that with a two-point conversion reception to pull Redwoods within seven.
The visitors, however, were able to run out the clock after that and hold on for a hard-fought win.
Ultimately, red-zone letdowns cost the Corsairs, with three drives cut short in the second half alone, one on downs and two on interceptions.
The lack of a reliable kicking game didn’t help matters, with the Corsairs’ kicker, Roberto Ortiz, unavailable due to soccer commitments.
Ortiz will also miss next week’s game, but will be available for the remainder of the schedule, and is reportedly a dynamic kicker.
“That hurt us,” Borba said.
Too many penalties also was problematic for the Corsairs, something the coach and his staff will be working on with the players before next week’s game at Gavilan.
“If we can clean up that stuff, we’ve got a chance to be a real talented football team,” Borba said.
The Corsairs showed plenty of promise on the defensive side of the ball as well.
They gave up too many yards to the high-flying Lobos offense, and ultimately too many points, but it was a solid showing against a top-tier team.
In particular, freshman linebacker Tyrique Bell was outstanding and displayed a nose for the ball.
Plenty of positives for Redwoods football after season opener against Monterey Peninsula at the Redwood Bowl on Saturday, most notably the play of quarterback Brody Lucero …
“He flew around,” Borba said.
Bell was instrumental in numerous CR plays, coming away with a pair of fumble recoveries.
Another freshman linebacker, Fatu Tuitasi, also had a fumble recovery, and as a unit the defense came up with several big stops.
There were also, however, spells of missed tackles and too many penalties as the Lobos were able to keep drives alive.