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Riverside defeats Golden West 27-23 for SCFA championship, advances to second straight state title game

RCC's Noa Purcell makes the game-saving tackle at the goal line as time expired to secure the Tigers' SCFA Championship win. (Photo by Sean Sydnor)
RCC's Noa Purcell makes the game-saving tackle at the goal line as time expired to secure the Tigers' SCFA Championship win. (Photo by Sean Sydnor)

Story courtesy RCC Athletics

It came down to the final play in the Southern California Championship game between the Riverside City College Tigers and the Golden West College Rustlers. After scoring a last-minute touchdown, Golden West followed by successfully recovering an onside kick to keep their championship hopes alive.

With no timeouts remaining and just seconds left on the clock, the Rustlers drove down to Riverside's 15 yard line and connected on a slant pattern that nearly sent them to the CCCAA State Championship game. Thankfully for the Tigers, sophomore linebacker and SCFA Central Defensive Player of the Year Noa Purcell was standing between the Rustler wide receiver and the goal line.

Out of Purcell's team high 60 tackles on the year, his 60th stop proved to be the biggest of his intercollegiate career. He broke down on the one yard line, stuff the potential game-winning score and sent the Tigers to their second-consecutive California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship contest.

For the second-consecutive season, the Riverside City College football team has claimed the Southern California Regional Championship title. The Tigers have now reached the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship for the second-straight season under Head Coach Tom Craft.

No. 4 Riverside defeated No. 2 Golden West, 27-23, to advance to the big dance despite losing to the Rustlers in week four of the season. Riverside defeated top-seeded Ventura, 41-21, in the Southern Regional Semifinals to begin their journey.

The state championship game will be hosted in the South at a location to be determined, likely at Riverside City College or Mt. San Antonio College. Riverside will face off against the Northern California Champion City College of San Francisco Rams who defeated the College of San Mateo Bulldogs, 20-17.

The last team to win back-to-back CCCAA State Championships was Mt. San Antonio in 2009 and 2010. Furthermore, the last program to reach consecutive state championship contests was CC San Francisco in 2014 and 2015.

In his 11th season at the helm, Craft and his coaching staff has built a Southern California juggernaut that has won 112 total games featuring two Southern California Championships and 10 conference championships. Additionally, Riverside has never suffered more than three losses in the last 11 campaigns.

It was tough sledding for both teams as the first half ended at a three-all draw. Riverside's only points came from a 51 yard field goal from sophomore kicker Ricardo Chavez. It was a result of a successful two-minute drill led by freshman gunslinger Jordan Barton.

Things began to heat up in the second half where the majority of the scoring took place. The Tiger's found the end zone first with freshman wide receiver Devvin Gitchuway connected with Barton for a 39-yard touchdown reception.

After the Rustlers answered with a touchdown of their own on the following possession, freshman running back Dean Connors got into the end zone for a one-yard score to close out the third quarter of action.

Golden West followed by tying the game up at 17-all early in the fourth quarter, but Riverside was able to connect for another touchdown on a 74-yard bomb from Barton to sophomore wide receiver Jammal Houston. It was the second-consecutive 70+ yard touchdown pass Barton had thrown in postseason action.

A 29-yard chip shot from Chavez extended the Tigers lead to 27-27 in the fourth quarter which seemed to be the end of the Rustlers. However, they added a late touchdown and nearly another, but the season-saving play by Purcell led to the Tiger victory.

Purcell was the catalyst to the Tigers defense with seven tackles and a forced fumble. Sophomore corner Carlton Johnson recovered the forced fumble for his third turnover of the postseason. He finished with eight tackles and three pass break ups.

Freshman linebacker Gage Summers led the team with a career-high 12 tackles – four being solo.

Barton went 28-for-38 with 312 yards and two touchdowns and completed at least one pass to nine receivers. Houston hauled in five grabs for a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Juwan Tucker reeled in six grabs for 73 yards, while freshman Walter Brooks had five snags for 49 yards.

Sophomore Thomas Kinslow led the charge on the ground with 17 carries for 64 yards. Connors tallied a touchdown and 60 yards on nine carries.