Fullerton College ended the regular season in impressive fashion, clobbering Palomar 42-14 at Mission Stadium in Escondido Saturday afternoon.
The Hornets put together a nearly perfect first half, taking a 35-7 lead into the half thanks to contributions from multiple players at each skilled position and a swarming defense.
“I think we put a full game together finally with offense, defense and special teams— that’s what we should have done all year,” said Tim Byrnes, Fullerton head coach.
Unfortunately, the impressive performance offers little consolation after last week’s heartbreaking loss to Saddleback in the final seconds, which supplanted the Hornets from playoff contention.
Hornet quarterback Trey Tinsley got the deep ball working and stretched the field early. Tinsley hooked up with receiver Katavious Taylor for a 59-yard pass on the opening drive that setup Tinsley’s 1-yard touchdown.
The true-freshman quarterback impressively passed for 241 yards and two touchdowns in about two quarters of work, as Byrnes made a concerted effort to find playing time for all three quarterbacks.
Tinsley said he was pleased with the team victory but admitted it was bitter sweet, considering the team played one of its best games of the season one week after being eliminated from playoff contention.
“I’m happy we got the W, but obviously it’s disappointing because we planned on making the playoffs and making a run at the state title,” Tinsley said. “Hopefully we get a bowl game and we get one more week to go out and play one more time.”
Backup quarterback Tanner Hodges saw action in the second quarter for the Hornets and did not disappoint, completing all three pass-attempts for 40 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown.
Taylor and fellow wide receiver Justin Walker both made big plays down the field for the Hornets.
Taylor had best performance of his freshman campaign, finishing with six catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown came on a 32-yard leaping grab over a Comet defensive, taking out the pylon.
“The coaches were talking to me all week and telling me to go out there and make a play, so that’s what I did,” Taylor said.
According to Taylor, he makes those types of plays in practice all the time, so it was nice finally seeing it translate on game day.
“He [Taylor] made some really great plays today,” Byrnes said. “I think he’s got all the talent in the world, it’s just a matter of him putting it all together each week.”
Walker had two catches for 72 yards, all coming in the first half and was the recipient of Hodges 29-yard touchdown pass.
Kentavious “Pop” Thomas had an explosive first half, rushing for 72 yards on just seven carries. He and backfield mate Anthony Wood each helped setup scoring drives with their relentless running in between the tackles.
The Hornet defense got in on the scoring action too. Defensive back Deryck Fletcher jumped in front of Palomar quarterback Austin Early’s pass, taking it 40 yards for the Hornets final score of the game with only 3 seconds on the clock in the third quarter.
Reiterating sentiments he has shared all season, Byrnes said that his team has the talent to play this well every week, but their struggles stem from staying focused mentally on a consistent basis.
The Hornets (6-4, 3-3) finish the season in fourth place in the National Southern Division.
Victories over three of the top teams in the state, Cerritos, Mt. SAC and Riverside, who was ranked #1 in the State at the time, highlighted the Hornets season.
Fullerton built early leads against eight of its 10 opponents this season but failed to hang on down the stretch in pivotal losses to Orange Coast, Golden West and Saddleback.
The Hornets are hoping to host a bowl game on Saturday, Nov. 21, but Byrnes made it clear that they are willing to go anywhere and play anyone. The bowl game opponent and location will be announced by the SCFA next Saturday.