By Ray Hamill — It was an ugly day at the office for the Corsairs on Saturday afternoon.
One of those days Murphy and his law live for, a day where if there was even a remote chance of something going wrong, it was bound to.
And so it went for College of the Redwoods.
The bottom line is they were over-matched by a physically dominant Hartnell side at the Redwood Bowl, a Hartnell side that was better prepared for the game and ended it as a contest with four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter, improving to 3-0.
The Corsairs had problems stopping the run. They had problems stopping the pass. They had problems running the ball. They had problems passing the ball.
You get the picture.
And that added up to a 62-14 loss, dropping Redwoods to 1-2 on the young season.
But it wasn’t just the home team’s performance, or lack of it, that went against them.
A couple of key injuries, way too many penalties and mistakes, and just plain bad luck added to their woes.
“It was kind of a perfect storm today,” CR head coach Frank Borba said afterwards. “Things that could go wrong did.”
It certainly didn’t help when starting quarterback Brody Lucero was knocked out of the game early.
The pass protection was problematic all day, as the Corsairs were dominated along the line of scrimmage, and Lucero was under pressure from the get-go, finally paying the price when he was knocked hard to the ground midway through the opening quarter.
Early indications are that he suffered a shoulder separation to his non-throwing arm and will miss next week’s game at the very least.
A pair of true freshmen — Alex Adams from Clear Lake and Moise Francois from Florida — split time in relief of the starter, with neither able to get much rhythm going and running for the lives most of the day.
The Corsairs knew all week they were going to have their hands full against a dangerous Panthers pass rush, although Borba wasn’t laying all the blame on the line.
“Our plan was to get rid of the ball quickly,” the head coach said. “I’m not going to put it all on the line. We have two young quarterbacks who held onto the ball too long.”
The Corsairs started the stronger of the two teams, holding the visitors with a couple of big defensive stands on their opening two possessions.
After forcing a punt on the Panthers’ second drive, the snap sailed high over the punter’s head into the end zone, where CR’s Blaine Herb applied the pressure to force the safety and give his team a 2-0 lead.
That appeared to wake up the visiting team, however, and on the very next offensive play, quarterback Isaiah Ariolla-Randalle connected on a short pass to receiver Duante Moore, who broke a couple of tackles and took it 79 yards to the end zone.
After that, the mistakes and injuries began to pile up for the home team.
In addition to the endless penalties called on both teams, missed tackles added to the Corsairs’ woes, while tight end Angelo Flores joined Lucero on the sideline with a shoulder injury.
The next three CR drives all ended in fumbles, as the visitors began to pull away, adding touchdown runs of 10, 40, and two yards, as well as a second TD reception, this one from 64 yards out.
Before the day was out, the Panthers had found the end zone nine times, including three TDs from receiver Jeff Weimer and two from receiver Davon Owens.
The Corsairs’ problems were compounded by several dropped balls by a receiving corps that showed little of its big-play capabilities on a day where little seemed to go right for them.
“It’s disappointing,” Borba said. “We let an injury to one of our leaders take the wind out of our sails.”
The bright spots were few and far between for the Corsairs, but there were some.
On the defensive side of the ball, Juan Villafan had an interception early in the game to give the Corsairs some much-needed momentum, while linebacker Fatu Tuitasi blocked a field goal attempt in the third quarter, which was recovered by Kaimana Swann-Merritt and returned about 70 or 80 yards.
Typical for the day that was in it, however, the play was called back on a CR penalty, although the fumble recovery did stand.
The Corsairs’ kick return game also had a productive day, giving the offense some good field position.
Franciois scored the home team’s first TD midway through the third quarter on a short run that capped a 72-yard drive.
A 23-yard scramble from Marcus Finney and a 19-yard run from Francois were the two key plays on the drive.
Finney added his fifth touchdown of the season on a 23-yard reception from Adams late in the third quarter.
Next up for CR is a third home game in four weeks, this one against Contra Costa back on the Corsairs’ own campus, with the ongoing renovation no longer affecting the playing field.
And for Borba and his staff, it means a week of preparing a different starting quarterback.
“We’ll have them up to speed and ready to go,” the head coach said. “They’ll both battle it out in practice this week and see who rises to the top. We believe in both of them.”