Bryce Strong carved out a leading role in the RCC football team’s high-powered offense – Press Enterprise



RIVERSIDE — There are aspects of justice and fairness about football that just make sense to Riverside City College sophomore Bryce Strong.

The game demands confrontation and sacrifice, penalizes cheaters and rewards teamwork.

“I like the concept of justice and I like fighting for what’s right,” Strong said. “In football, you have to grind and stay consistent and stay hungry to get to the promised land.”

The one true returning starter on either side of the ball this season for RCC (7-0 overall), the 5-foot-8, 170-pound running back worked to earn his niche in coach Tom Craft’s exacting offense and now is seeing the benefits.

“At RCC, it’s more of a best-man-plays situation,” Strong said. “It took me some time to get up there because I wasn’t that guy in the beginning but so far it’s been working out for me.”

Strong leads the team with 525 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season and will be counted on for more as the Tigers continue their hunt for a fourth consecutive Southern California Football Association championship.

FROM TITAN TO TIGER

Only one scholarship offer came following his senior year at Colony High School – to an NCAA Division III university in Kansas – so Strong made the usual recruiting trip to the Midwest.

“I took a visit. I didn’t like Kansas,” Strong said. “It’s different. I’m a California kid, so I didn’t really like that.”

Contacted first by Citrus College in Azusa, Strong credits their coaching staff for educating him about junior college football in California and what his options really were at that time.

“I considered Citrus College because they were the first ones to inform me about JUCO,” Strong said. “I didn’t really know about JUCO football but Citrus really opened my eyes to it.”

Invited by the RCC coaching staff to attend the Tigers’ summer practices before the 2022 season, Strong could quickly see the difference in offensive tempo at Riverside.

“I came to a couple of practices in the beginning, summer practices, to see how I liked it and to see how they moved, and it seemed like they moved with an efficiency, and they really moved differently than other colleges,” Strong said. “They moved like they were trying to win, and I was all for it.”

He played in 13 games as a freshman, leading the team with 112 carries and 772 rushing yards.

ACCEPTING LEADERSHIP

Strong describes himself as a “laid-back guy”, with a big smile that’s disarmed coaches, teachers and tense situations for years.

Alongside record-setting quarterback Jordan Barton – who transferred out following the 2021 season but returned this year – Strong has stood upright as one of the main contributors in the state’s top junior college offense averaging more than 540 yards per game.

“Bryce has been good. He’s been real consistent,” Craft said.

It cannot be overlooked how much the actual in-classroom work with Craft, a meticulous taskmaster, means to this process. Strong calls it, “Low-key the toughest class” he has at RCC.

“It’s quick in class,” Strong said. “You’ve got to be paying attention. If you’re not, you’ll get lost in the sauce (and) he knows what he wants so you have to be locked in whenever the film gets rolling in sessions.”

Consistency builds trust between players and his coaches. Strong has averaged a robust 6.9 yards per carry over his two-year career.

FOCUSED ON WHAT’S AHEAD

The Tigers are clicking after back-to-back victories over Grossmont (63-0) and Southwestern (61-0), respectively, and now host longtime rival Saddleback at Wheelock Stadium on Saturday.

“It feels good to score and have our offense be efficient,” said Strong, who has totaled just seven carries for 171 yards and four touchdowns over the last two weeks.

“I only got four carries (vs. Southwestern) so I’m feeling real good, ready for the big teams, the Saddlebacks and the Fullertons,” he said.

After Saturday, two more games – including a matchup with fellow unbeaten Fullerton (7-0) in Week 10 – remain on the regular season schedule before a presumed postseason berth, but Strong said he doesn’t like to look too into the future during the season.

“We’re prepared for the bigger matches coming up and trying to stay focused as far as bettering ourselves for when we get to the big games,” he said.

Still searching for the right fit at the next level, Strong, an administrative justice major, knows that he’s earned whatever opportunity is best for him, even if it’s in Kansas.

“If Kansas offers me again, I’d go to Kansas. I’d go to the Midwest,” Strong said. “I’ll do what has to be done.”



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