(PALM DESERT) -- The outside linebacker duo of Craig Francois and Hector Palacios turned the 2019 Pasadena City College football team's opener into the pair's personal highlight reel as the Lancers defense swarmed host College of the Desert, 22-13, Saturday night.
Francois made four quarterback sacks, including one for a safety late in the fourth quarter, while Palacios added 3.5 sacks including one that forced a fumble and turned it into a 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Sam Pyne that opened the game's scoring 5:43 into the contest. Safety Darren Meyers capped the win with an interception on COD's final drive with two minutes left.
Both teams had no problem pressuring the QB, as the teams combined for 19 sacks (10 by Desert). Francois led Pasadena with eight tackles, the letterman Meyers five tackles (and a sack), while linebacker Mark Navarro and Palacios also had five tackles each. The Lancers made 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage overall as the speed of Francois, a freshman bounceback from Oregon State, and Palacios, an All-SCFA Second Team selection last year, caused havoc all evening for Desert quarterback Armando Deniz.
Pasadena limited the Roadrunners to just 96 offensive yards, including a minus-4 yards rushing.
Desert led 10-7 before PCC placekicker Edson Zamarron booted a 37-yard field goal to tie it 10-10 with 4:18 left in the second quarter. It remained tied at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Lancers went on a sustained, 12-play drive that started at their own 35 yard line. Second-string QB Edward Norton, a lefthander, fired a 33-yard bomb to receiver Bryan Torres that got PCC to the COD 22. Norton, who had runs of 11 and eight yards on the series, appeared to get PCC a touchdown on a short 6-yard throw but a blocking in the back penalty nullified the score. The Lancers settled for taking a 13-10 lead on Zamarron's second FG, a 30-yard drive through the uprights with 7:16 left in the third period.
After Diego Martinez booted his second field goal from 33 yards, the teams again were tied after three quarters, 13-13.
On the ensuing drive that began at the PCC 32, Norton found Alex Corpus for a 22-yard pass into COD territory. The Lancers made three straight first downs as running back Luring Paialii scampered for 11 yards and Norton took off for a 10-yard keeper. Desert twice were whistled for pass interference calls that took PCC into the red zone at the 2. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Norton couldn't handle a high shotgun snap, but instinctively raced after the loose ball and found a wide open Dyllan Wright in the end zone for the game-winning, 2-yard TD pass.
Offensively, the Lancers totaled only 235 yards, but doubled Desert in first downs, 18-9, and controlled the ball for 38-plus minutes. Returning All-State receiver/returner David Telles totaled all of his 168 all-purpose yards in the first half. Starting lefty frosh QB Richie Schroeder endured eight sacks in the first half, but completed 6-for-8 passes for 80 yards, including a 39-yard strike to Telles. Paialii led the rushers with 25 yards in six carries and Norton added 22 yards, including a nifty, zig-zag 8-yard carry in the third quarter where he eluded five different tacklers, nearly reaching the end zone. Officially, the freshman Norton was 6-for-8 passing for 61 yards.
Defensive back Andy Reyes had perhaps the best special teams play of the game that didn't count as he ran back a punt 90 yards for touchdown in the fourth quarter, making three dart moves before breaking loose at the PCC 40. Unfortunately, a blindside block penalty shortened the return to 37 yards overall.
Letterman punter Jonathan Borashan helped set up the Francois safety by pinning COD at its 9 on a 35-yard punt.
PCC third-year head coach Steven Mojarro won his second straight season opener (both over Desert) and has his program on a mini 3-game win streak going back to last year.
"The defense carried our team on the back of its shoulders with one of our best defensive games in the past four years," Mojarro said. "All three of our quarterbacks--Schroeder, Norton and Kade Wentz--played their hearts out and gave us much-needed yards and time of possession to help us win the game. On special teams, our kicker made valuable field goals and our punter was able to flip the field on them. We have our work cut out for us this week because our next opponent Glendale has one of its better teams on film we've seen a long time."
The Lancers will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Robinson Stadium when they play on the new artificial turf surface (first since 2006) in the home opener next Saturday, Sept. 14 against Glendale College. Kickoff is 6 p.m.