VENTURA -- Despite dominating several areas of an unexpectedly close game, the Pasadena City College football team was forced to settle for a pat on the back Saturday evening.
The Lancers came agonizingly close to a monster upset, but fell late to Southern California second-ranked Ventura, 27-14, in National Division Northern Conference action at the Ventura College Sportsplex.
With the defeat, the Lancers dropped to 1-8 overall and 0-5 in conference, while the state third-ranked Pirates (10-0, 6-0) concluded the school’s first-ever undefeated season in the program’s 88-year history.
“Another moral victory, awesome,” PCC second-year Coach Fred Fimbres said in a wry fashion. “I don’t think there was really much difference between Ventura and ourselves other than that last score at the end. We were in the game until that last touchdown.”
The Lancers trailed, 20-14, with 9:53 remaining in the fourth, when they marched 64 yards on eight plays in reaching the Pirates’ 11 at the six-minute mark.
On the cusp of taking the lead, Pasadena’s fortunes instead soured on a second and goal from the 11 when quarterback Zeek Julian (14 for 24 for 175 yards and one touchdown) was flushed from the pocket and flung a pass into the end zone just before being pummeled.
The toss bounced off the hands of leaping receiver Mitchell Crockom in the end zone and was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Scott Wong.
The critical turnover sparked a Pirates drive in which Ventura reached the Lancers’ nine-yard line for a fourth and two with 1:54 remaining.
Rather than kick a field goal, Ventura instead handed off to sophomore running back Kendall Worth, who broke two tackles behind the line of scrimmage in picking up three yards and a first down.
Three plays later, Worth scored from three yards, which allowed Ventura to exhale as the Pirates led, 27-14, with 1:14 left.
The touchdown was the second of the half for Ventura, which outscored PCC, 14-0, and took the lead for good, 20-14, on a four-yard scoring run from backup quarterback Chase Smith with 4:49 left in the third.
Pasadena dominated in nearly every statistical category in picking up eight more first downs than Ventura, rushing for 99 more yards, passing for an 105 additional yards, while converting two more third-down chances, three more fourth-down tries and yet still losing.
The defeat also spoiled a brilliant effort from sophomore running back Zach Sinclair, who set season highs in carries (26) and rushing yards (171), while also turning in the longest rush for a team running back (42 yards) this season.
“We didn’t capitalize, I guess,” Sinclair said. “I just did my best and really wanted to win, but it just didn’t happen.”
The Lancers owned the first half, except in the scoreboard, as they only led Ventura, 14-13.
Pasadena led in time of possession, 22:47 to 7:13, in first downs, 13-5, and total offensive yardage, 205-72.
The Lancers took their largest lead of 14-6 when Julien connected on a fade to the corner of the end zone to Crockom with 4:42 remaining in the second quarter.
The touchdown capped an eight-play, 48-yard drive that spanned 3 minutes, 26 seconds.
Despite having not picked up a first down to that point, Ventura launched its best offensive series in driving 79 yards on 10 plays, while scoring on a 16-yard pass from Smith to Worth on a fourth and eight with 1:55 remaining.
Chase, who entered late in the second quarter after Pasadena knocked out starting quarterback Ebahn Feathers on a late hit, brought the Pirates within a point.
Ventura’s fourth down success mirrored that of Pasadena, which was five for six on fourth down attempts, including when the Lancers picked up two fourth-down conversions on their second drive that ended on an 11-yard touchdown run from Julien on a fourth and one with 2:09 left in the first.
While Ventura’s offense struggled early, its defense kept it close when sophomore free safety Matt Arve recovered a fumble and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown with 35 seconds left in the first.
Ventura missed the extra point and trailed, 7-6.
Pasadena’s defense turned in a few defensive highlights, including an interception from freshman defensive back Earl Glinton.
Pasadena closes out its season next Saturday at Bakersfield in a 4 p.m. contest.