Days before Saturday's Orange Coast College intrasquad scrimmage, Pirates' first-year football coach Kevin Emerson said freshmen quarterbacks Alec Dombkowski and Aaron Crone were in a battle for the starting job. He also noted that both would likely see game action early, until the situation sorted itself out.
Dombkowski, who played high school football in Virginia, took advantage of an injury that relegated Crone to a spectator by producing the kind of performance that may keep Crone sidelined for longer than anyone suspected.
After misfiring on his first pass attempt, Dombkowski completed his final 17 passes, amassing 238 yards and three touchdowns against defensive backups in a format that loosely resembled the flow of two quarters of play.
Dombkowski also rushed for 50 yards on four attempts in Emerson's diversified no-huddle offense that approximated the shotgun spread.
Receiver Mark Munson, a sophomore newcomer from Texas, had four receptions for 51 yards and one touchdown, while Darrel Watts, a freshman out of Long Beach Poly High, had three catches for 52 yards, including a 14-yard scoring delivery from Dombkowski.
Davasyia Hagger, a freshman from Oregon, had two catches for 51 yards, while freshman fullback Ian Pogue and sophomore AJ Holman, a returning receiver, also had two catches apiece.
Tailback Daniel Rodriguez, a freshman from Elsinore, carried six times for 47 yards, including two five-yard touchdowns, as the starting offense scored five touchdowns, all against reserves.
The scrimmage was an opportunity to unveil not only a largely new coaching staff, but also a roster that includes only a dozen returners. Only three OCC players started last season and only one of whom, sophomore left offensive tackle and Estancia High product Zach Bateman, appears to have retained his starting job.
The starting defense played basically 12 players, while the five-man offensive line and the quarterback played throughout. Only the running backs and receivers were substituted in and out with any regularity with the first unit.
"We pretty much have our core guys now," said Emerson, who steps in for Mike Taylor. Taylor remains on staff as an assistant after 15 seasons at the helm. "We've identified [our starters] and now its just a matter of making them all better."
Crone, who said he has a pinched nerve between his neck and throwing shoulder, said he would be undergoing an MRI early next week to determine how long he will be out.
Paul Swanson, a sophomore outside linebacker who saw playing time as a freshman, returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.
Cornerback Esdras Simervil, a sophomore from Florida, broke up three passes, two of which he nearly intercepted.
Emerson said he was pleased with the continuity displayed by the offense and the aggressiveness and abandon with which the defense played, also exclusively against backups.
But he stopped short of a definitive review.
"We're going to watch the videotape with a magnifying glass," Emerson said. "There are a ton of little things we have to fix, as well as some big things. We know there are going to be a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, but that's what the video is for."
There appeared to be no major injuries for the Pirates, who are coming off a 3-7 season and are preparing to open the season Saturday at home against Chaffey at 6 p.m.