Playoff Preview: No. 4 Riverside Set to Play No. 1 Ventura in SCFA Regional Semifinals

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

For the eighth-consecutive season, the Tigers have reached the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) Regional Playoffs and earned a chance to compete for a second-consecutive California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship.

The Tigers finished the season as the SCFA Central Division Champions after earning a conference record of 5-0 and an overall record of 8-2. They have earned the fourth overall seed and will face off against the top-ranked Ventura College Pirates (10-0) in the SCFA Regional Semifinals on Saturday, November 27 at 6 p.m.

No. 3 College of the Canyons (9-1) will travel to No. 2 Golden West (10-0) to round out the Southern California playoff picture.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the gates will open for fans and spectators at 4:45 p.m. All tickets must be purchased online as there will be no option for cash purchase. All prices can be found at the link below. Tickets can be purchased here: SCFA Southern Regional Semifinal Playoff Tickets.

Ventura College requires all fans to complete their COVID-19 prescreening form before coming to campus. VCCCD pre-screeners will be present at the entrance to the Ventura College Sportsplex. Masks are not mandatory for outdoor events. The COVID-19 Prescreening link can be found here: COVID-19 Prescreening Link.

The game will be live stated and live streamed. Both links are available on our website and listed below.

Livestream Link · Live Stats Link

Riverside City College and the playoffs go hand and hand, especially when you're talking football.

With their eighth-straight conference title, Riverside set an SCFA record with their eighth-consecutive regional playoff appearance. Under the direction of Head Coach Tom Craft, the Tigers have won 110 games over the past 11 years and need three more wins to reel in their second-consecutive CCCAA State Championship.

Riverside and Ventura have met seven times in the past six years with three contest coming in the SCFA Regional Playoffs; two in the semifinals (2014, 2018) and one in the Southern Championships (2018).

Riverside defeated the Pirates in both semifinal showdowns, but Ventura reigned supreme in the most recent revenge match after beating the Tigers in 2018 as the fourth seed and punching their ticket to the state championships. In the last six years, the Tigers hold a 5-2 overall record against the Pirates.

The Tigers are coming an uncharacteristic season. After starting the season 3-0, the Tigers lost two-consecutive games which had not happened in the Craft era. Additionally, a loss in week four snapped a 22-game regular season winning streak and a 16-game winning streak.

But an uncharacteristic season still lands them in the playoffs. How bad can that actually be? Riverside stayed true and healthy while rattling off five-consecutive conference wins.

Offensively, the Tigers have relied heavily on a run game that boasts the SCFA Central Co-Most Valuable Player in sophomore running back Lawrence Starks. Starks began to take stride in week six of the season as the Tigers began to feed him the rock on a regular basis. After just carting the ball 11 times throughout the first five weeks, he burst on to the scene for 94 carries and 534 yards leading to five touchdowns. He twice surpassed the century mark in rushing yards highlighted by a 17 carry, 158-yard and two touchdown night in a victory over El Camino. He is a weapon in the passing game as well as seen in 12 catches for 221 yard and three touchdowns. He currently averages over 100 all-purpose yards-per-game.

Sophomore Jammal Houston has been the go-to weapon in the aerial attack as he leads his team with 31 catches leading to 463 receiving yards. He shares the team lead with five receptions touchdowns and has averaged 14.9 yards-per-catch. Freshman Marquise Ashley has also hauled in five touchdown receptions off of 22 catches for 354 yards. Freshman Juwan Tucker rounds out the trio with 25 grabs for 319 yards and one touchdown.

It was a quarterback carousel for the majority of the season, but Riverside has relied on freshman gunslinger Jordan Barton to lead them through the playoffs. He has seen time in seven games and holds a 171.1 efficiency rating. He has completed 112 passes (67.1 percent) for 1,574 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has only thrown four interceptions and averages 9.4 yards-per-attempt.

Sophomore place kicker Ricardo Chavez has been the top-scoring offensive weapon not only because he is a kicker, but because he is one of the best in the state. Chavez broke the RCC record with a 54-yard field goal in a win over Saddleback. He has kicked 15 field goals with three landing over 50 yards.

Sophomore linebacker Noa Purcell leads the defensive squad with 47 tackles. He has recorded at least one tackle in each game and four or more tackles in five games. He has recorded 1.5 sacks, forced one fumble, recovered one fumble and swatted away a pass.

Freshman corner Demarco Moorer follows with 32 tackles which include two tackles for a loss. Freshman Gage Summers is close behind with 31 tackles and a forced fumble.

The Tigers secondary has recorded 10 interceptions with Moorer rising up for two of them. Freshman Keithan Gooden leads the team with three.  Sophomore Randall Turner has wreaked havoc in the backfield with a team-high 4.5 sacks, while sophomore Chris Ballard follows with 2.5 sacks.