Riverside Hauls in Sixth-Consecutive Conference Title, Earns Top Seed in Southern Regional Playoffs

Photo by Bobby R. Hester
Photo by Bobby R. Hester

The No. 2 Tigers have yet to spend a week below the top five in all three major football polls this season. They had faced five ranked opponents and carted an undefeated record entering into the biggest contest of the season on Saturday night against the No. 3 Saddleback College Gauchos. In the most highlight touted game of the season that had the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) National Southern Division Title on the line, it was the Tigers who finished strong en route to a 56-25 victory.

Head Coach Tom Craft continues to sail a ship of success as he has earned his ninth conference title in the past 11 years. This conference championship tastes sweeter than the others because it represents Craft's 99th career victory. He will look to push his win's total to an even 100 this Saturday in the first round of the SCFA Southern Regional Semifinals.

With the victory, the Tigers have earned the top seed in the South and will host the fourth-seeded Mt. San Antonio College Mounties on Saturday, November 23 at 6 p.m. on home turf. No. 2 Saddleback and No. 3 College of the Canyons will play in the other Southern California Regional Semifinal.

Riverside fashioned a lethal game plan that led to 613 total yards of offense that incorporated a balanced attack on the ground and through the air. They averaged 7.9 yards-per-play and were only forced to punt the ball three times.

The defense was dominant after settling into the scheme. Riverside halted Saddleback to a 50 percent third down efficiency rating and recorded three interceptions to mark the 10th-consecutive contest with at least one takeaway. The trio of Rey Estes, Isaia PaoPao and Shawn Dourseau were responsible for an interception each.

Offensively, freshman quarterback Jacob Barlage outdueled Saddleback's quarterback to prove he was amongst the elite in the state. In his second start under center in as many weeks, Barlage lit up the defense by going 19-for-26 with 310 yards and four touchdowns. He added a rushing score in the third quarter to extend the Tiger lead by 24 points.

The most impressive showing was that of freshman running back Thomas Kinslow. He recorded career high numbers after carting the pigskin 23 times for 174 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He averaged 7.6 yards-per-carry as well.  Freshman Jamon McGlory followed with 10 touches for 44 yards. Freshman Elijah Bennet had one of four rushing touchdowns on six carried for 33 yards.

Freshman wide receiver Reggie Retzlaff has come on strong in the past two games and matched his career-high in touchdown receptions with two. He earned a bill in receiving yards to mark a career-high. Sophomore Giovanni Sanders followed with four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.