East County Sports


Palomar College sophomore Devin Nilson / Hugh Cox photo




By Tom Saxe

Palomar SID for EastCountySports.com


SAN MARCOS (8-29-2018) – Palomar College has some major reasons for optimism as the Comets prepare to kick off the 2018 community college football season this Saturday evening with a three-hour bus ride north to take on non-conference opponent Moorpark.


Palomar, following a big recruiting year, is talented, athletic, deep and used to playing a steady diet of some of the nation’s best junior college teams year-after-year-after year, the only community college in San Diego County to play in the state’s playoff-eligible top-level division every season since state playoffs were resumed years ago.


But Joe Early, a former Comet player in his 17th season as head coach after earning his chops as an assistant on all three of Palomar’s state and national championship teams, is nothing if he is not a realist. And he is well aware that this talented group, with only 10 returnees from 2017, will have to grow up in a hurry if it intends to reach live up to its extreme potential.


Coach Joe Early talks to the team after Thursday’s scrimmage. / Tom Saxe Photo

“We’re excited to get the season going,” says Early, whose team moves from the National Division South League to the National Division Central League, which includes defending J.C. Grid-Wire national champion Fullerton College. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism. But we don’t have a lot of college-level game experience. That’s an on-the-job training deal. The conference we’re going into is definitely one of the toughest in the nation, top-to-bottom.”


Along with Fullerton and the Comets, the National Central also includes Mt. SAC, El Camino, Cerritos along with San Diego Mesa, coming up to a state playoff-eligible conference from the non-playoff eligible American Division.


The Comets have had a highly competitive battle for the starting quarterback job raging since the summer between former All-CIF San Diego Section selection RODNEY THOMPSON (St. Augustine High School / Northern Arizona University), CONNOR CURRY (former Louisiana 5A Player of the year and a transfer from Division II power Ouachita Baptist) and University of Wyoming transfer ADAM CARR. Joe Early and his brother, Offensive Coordinator Dan Early probably won’t name a starter for the opener until game time.


Mikel Barkley catches a touchdown pass in the Comets’ intrasquad scrimmage. / Hugh Cox Photo

Palomar has what could be one of best big-play receivers corps, led by returnees DEVIN NILSON (Carlsbad High) and ZAC MOREL (Vista High), 6-foot-6 former all-state high school selection LOGAN GAMBLE (Long Beach Saint Anthony High) who is a transfer from Cal Berkeley, MIKEL BARKLEY (Temecula Great Oak High) who runs 4.3 in the 40, and the El Camino High duo of MALACHI RUSSELL and JOHNNY ARMENTROUT. The Comets also have another potentially outstanding receiving and blocking tight end in 6-foot-4, 230-pound WILLIAM GONZALEZ (Murrieta Valley High).


The leader to start at running back is Grossmont High All-CIF-San Diego Section selection SHEVELL STERLING, who is being pushed by DE’VION SNEED (Vista Murrieta High). The fullback is 6-foot-1, 260-pound U.S. Army Veteran ARNOLD YODER.


The offensive line is big and athletic, including returnee JOSH CASTRELLON (6’0, 300 pounds, La Costa Canyon High) and newcomers FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ (6’4, 300 pounds, Sickels High in Tampa, FL), BRIAN LINDHOLM (6’6, 290 pounds, Moses Lake, WA), WILL EOFF (6’6, 290 pounds, Vista Murrieta High), NIKOLAS OLERUSKI (6’3, 298 pounds, Mt. Carmel High) and QUINTON MAXWELL (6’3, 340 pounds, King High in Detroit).


Defensively, some of the key Comets figure to be cornerbacks CHRIS JONES (Lincoln High) and FALAMOE STEFFANY (Vista High), nickel back and converted running back JOSH BERNARD (Oceanside High) who was the Comets’ leading rusher two years ago, linebackers SPENCER KAOANGA (Oceanside High, Air Force Prep), QUINTON GAUDET (Escondido High) and JONATHON SEGI (Oceanside High) and down linemen MARTIN BONACCI (El Camino High), ISAIAH KALEOPA-TUISEE (Oceanside High), KOA EVALU-ROBINSON (Lahainaluna High, in Maui, HI), 300-pound Northeastern State transfer NICK SO’OTO, JAYSON PACE (Temecula Chaparral High), 280-pound VAAALOTASI IEROME (Radford High in Honolulu), YUSUF LEIGH (Temecula Linfield Christian High) and JORDAN DUSON (Oceanside High).


The Comets have had a string of outstanding punters, including two that went on to the NFL, and must replace Australian TYSON DYER, now starting at the University of New Mexico who arguably was the best punter in community college football last season. It appears JACOB VOSE (El Camino High) is ready to step into his Dyer’s very large shoes.


The Comets will host Southwestern a week from Saturday evening, on Sept. 8, at Escondido High’s Chick Embrey Field at Wilson Stadium, in their home opener.


PALOMAR FOOTBALL ROSTER 2018 (As of Aug. 28 – 7:05 p.m.) 

No. Name Pos Yr Ht Wt Hometown/High School/Previous School
1 Jay Craft DB Fr 5’10 170 Cherry Creek, CO/Cherry Creek/Kansas State
2 Mikel Barkley WR Fr 5’11 165 Temecula, CA/Great Oak
3 Zach Goodkin RB So 5’9 200 Carlsbad, CA/La Costa Canyon
4 Adam Carr QB So 6’4 215 Sherman Oaks, CA/Notre Dame/University of Wyoming
5 Shevell Sterling RB Fr 5’10 190 El Cajon, CA/Grossmont
6 Logan Gamble WR Fr 6’6 200 Long Beach, CA/St. Anthony/Cal Berkeley
7 Bryce Walker WR So 6’0 180 Jacksonville, FL/Bartram Trail
8 Shea Morales QB Fr 6’4 210 Carlsbad, CA/Carlsbad
9 Jihad Hightower DB Fr 5’9 171 St. Johns, FL/Creekside
10 Connor Curry QB Fr 6’2 200 Shreveport, LA/Evangel Christian/Ouachita Baptist
11 Johnny Arzola WR So 6’0 195 Oceanside, CA/Oceanside/Dixie State
12 Rodney Thompson QB So 6’2 185 San Diego, CA/St. Augustine/Northern Arizona
13 Devin Nilson WR So 6’0 187 Carlsbad, CA/Carlsbad
14 Johnny Armentrout WR Fr 5’10 175 Oceanside, CA/El Camino
15 Zach Morel WR So 6’2 193 Vista, CA/Vista
16 Isaiah Gonzalez DB Fr 5’9 175 Oceanside, CA/El Camino
18 Malachi Russell WR Fr 6’0 160 Oceanside, CA/El Camino
19 JonPaul Patton DB Fr 5’11 195 San Marcos, CA/Mission Hills
20 Kameron Bullock DB Fr 5’11 195 Oceanside, CA/El Camino
21 Louie Flores DB Fr 5’10 180 San Marcos, CA/Mission Hills
22 Chris Styles WR Fr 5’9 190 Modesto, CA/Modesto
23 Adrien Robinson RB Fr 5’10 204 Temecula, CA/Great Oak/Mt. San Jacinto CC
24 Damon Wigand RB Fr 5’10 180 San Marcos, CA/Mission Hills
25 Emeka Anyanwu DB Fr 6’3 205 San Diego, CA/Westview
26 Maxwell Milner DB Fr 6’3 205 San Marcos, CA/Mission Hills
27 Chris Jones DB Fr 5’11 170 San Diego, CA/Lincoln
28 Lamar Raboteau RB Fr 5’8 165 San Diego, CA/Mira Mesa
29 Josh Bernard DB So 5’11 205 Oceanside, CA/Oceanside
30 Falamoe Steffany DB Fr 6’2 170 Vista, CA/Vista
31 Jonathon Segi LB Fr 6’2 205 Oceanside, CA/Oceanside
32 DeVion Sneed RB Fr 5’9 Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta
33 Giovanni Herrera DB Fr 5’9 155 San Diego, CA/Mira Mesa
34 Quinton Gaudet LB Fr 6’2 200 Escondido, CA/Escondido
35 Keith Vasquez DB Fr 5’9 160 Valley Center, CA/Valley Center
37 Andre Meiers DB Fr 6’4 175 San Diego, CA/Torrey Pines
38 Quest Smith DB Fr 5’8 170 Valley Center, CA/Valley Center
39 Cedric Black LB Fr 6-0 190 Mira Mesa, CA/Mira Mesa/Southwestern
40 Tyrone Hickson RB Fr 5’8 177 Escondido, CA/Orange Glen
41 Efrain Contreras RB Fr 5’11 204 Twin Falls, ID/Twin Falls
42 Kaaianoyuikalai Lewis DB So 5’9 180 Hilo, HI/Hilo
43 Chris Calhoun LB Fr 6’1 210 San Marcos, CA/Mission Hills
44 Arnold Yoder FB So 6’1 260 Toledo, WA/Toledo/U.S. Army
45 Spencer Kaoanga LB Fr 6-1 220 Oceanside, CA/Oceanside/Air Force Prep
46 Kobe Dominguez LB Fr 6-2 205 Valley Center, CA/ Valley Center
47 Chris Murray LB Fr 6-2 195 Dallas, PA/Dallas
48 Danzalle Hollingsworth RB So 5’9 190 San Marcos, CA/San Marcos
49 Orion Diaz DB So 6’0 160 Escondido, CA/Escondido
50 Adam Gunther LB Fr 6’0 205 Escondido, CA/Classical Academy
51 Yusuf Leigh DL Fr 6’4 220 Temecula, CA/Linfield Christian
55 Donovan Pati DE Fr 6’3 260 Vista, CA/Vista
56 Anthony Escalante C Fr 6’2 240 Vista, CA/Rancho Buena Vista
57 Ryan McCowan LS Fr 5-8 170 Valley Center, CA/Valley Center
58 Edwin Vorachack LS Fr 5-10 175 Escondido, CA/Escondido 
61 Jacob Vose Punter Fr 6’2 195 Oceanside, CA/El Camino
69 Kevin Lopez OL Fr 6’2 252 Escondido, CA/Escondido
70 Quinton Maxwell OL Fr 6’3 340 Detroit, MI/King
71 Brayton Lindholm OL Fr 6’6 290 Moses Lake, WA/Moses Lake
72 Zyon Coplin OL Fr 6’2 240 Herriman, UT/Herriman
73 Stephan Samuels OL Fr 6’3 240 Carlsbad, CA/Carlsbad
75 Francisco Rodriguez OL Fr 6’4 300 Tampa, FL/Sickels
77 Nikolas Oleruski OL Fr 6’3 298 San Diego, CA/Mt. Carmel
78 Josh Castrellon OL So 6’0 300 Carlsbad, CA/La Costa Canyon
79 Will Eoff OL Fr 6’6 290 Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta
80 Brandon Montes WR Fr 5’9 170 Escondido, CA/Orange Glen
81 Chase McNelly WR Fr 5’10 165 Seattle, WA/Chief Sealth
82 Troi Fryson WR Fr 5’7 170 Poway, CA/Poway
83 James Palmer WR Fr 6’0 175 San Diego, CA/Maranatha Christian
84 Mark Meader K Fr 5’8 147 San Diego, CA/Del Norte
86 William Gonzalez TE Fr 6-4 230 Murrieta, CA/Murrieta Valley
87 De’Von Traylor TE Fr 6’4 236 Carson, CO/Fountain
88 Justin Coria WR Fr 5’10 160 Murrieta, CA/Murrieta Mesa
89 Jacob Stepanek Punter Fr 6’3 205 Lake Elsinore, CA/Temescal Canyon
90 Isaiah Kaleopa-Tuisee DL Fr 6’2 290 Oceanside, CA/Oceanside
91 Jayson Pace DL Fr 6’3 260 Temecula, CA/Chaparral
92 Koa Evalu-Robinson DL Fr 6’3 275 Maui, HI/Lahainaluna
93 Martin Bonacci DL Fr 6’1 230 Oceanside, CA/El Camino
94 Nick So’oto DL Fr 6’2 300 Bossier, LA/Parkway/Northeastern St.
95 Peter Higgs DL Fr 6’2 240 Vista, CA/Rancho Buena Vista
96 Jordan Duson DL Fr 6’1 240 Oceanside, CA/Oceanside
97 Vaaalotasi Ierome DL Fr 6’0 280 Honolulu, HI/Radford
98 Mason Simeta DL Fr 6’3 240 Lacey, WA/Tinberline
99 Isaac Tuia DL Fr 6’1 295 Las Vegas, NV/Bishop Gorman

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