For half a football game Saturday, Valley College appeared poised to provide the upset of the week in the Western State Conference.
Then the reality of running a single-minded offense hit hard and victory passed through the Monarchs' hands like an incomplete pass in a 34-17 Southern Division loss to host L. A. Southwest.
"It really comes down to the bottom line," Valley Coach Jim Fenwick said after his team's 17-7 second-quarter lead evaporated against the state's 17th-ranked team. "The quarterback runs the offense and we're hurting there."
The pain showed Saturday as the Monarchs' beleaguered quarterback corps failed to complete a pass for the second game in a row and the team's ground-oriented game plan could not compensate despite two touchdowns and 189 yards in 22 carries by running back Terrance Brown.
By the time the game ended Valley's quarterback situation was in disarray--and there aren't many signs of improvement for the immediate future.
With first-string quarterback Chris Gadomski in street clothes nursing a separated shoulder, backup Michael Wynn suffered a bruised knee on Valley's second possession. Wynn, clearly hindered by the injury, did not return until the fourth quarter and subsequently threw two interceptions in four attempts, which represented the Monarchs' total number of passes in the game.
Valley's next option at quarterback should have been third-stringer Phil Parker. But Parker did not show for the game and Fenwick did not know why.
The Monarchs (3-4, 3-3 in conference play) moved running back Nigel Bostic to quarterback, a position he had not played since high school. The plan worked for a while, but Southwest (5-1-1, 5-0-1) rallied from a 17-14 halftime deficit with 20 unanswered points behind quarterback Jesse Wallace and running back Takim Brown.
After moving back to running back, Bostic suffered a hard hit in the fourth quarter and was removed on a stretcher and transported to Robert F. Kennedy Medical Center in Hawthorne after the game. He later was transferred to Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. A Centinela spokeswoman said Bostic was in stable condition and would remain at the hospital overnight but she would not disclose the nature of the injury.
According to Mark Borgognoni, Valley's sports information director for football, Bostic experienced numbness in his hands and had difficulty breathing.
Southwest finished with one yard less than Valley in total offense, 270-269, but the Cougars used an element in their offense that Valley has lacked the past two games--balance.
Wallace, a mobile 5-foot-10, 210-pound sophomore from Monroe High, completed only four of 12 for 114 yards, but two went for touchdowns. Wallace also rushed for 59 yards and two touchdowns in 11 carries.
"We started slow, but after a while, we knew what we had to do and we did it," Wallace said. "We knew we could beat them."
He was supported by the 6-foot, 240-pound Brown, a bruising ballcarrier who carried 22 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. Brown gave Southwest the lead for good at 21-17 with a two-yard burst with 4 minutes 19 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Wallace added a 16-yard touchdown scramble early in the fourth quarter and a one-yard scoring run with 11:15 remaining to make it 34-17.
"It just seemed like they came out a little harder in the second half," Terrance Brown said. "They adjusted really well."
Trailing, 7-0, nine minutes into the game after Wallace and receiver Chad Irving had hooked up on a 66-yard touchdown pass, Valley responded on its next possession with a determined 15-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with a seven-yard run by Terrance Brown.
Valley maintained momentum on the ensuing kickoff when linebacker Woon Park recovered a Wallace fumble at the Southwest 25-yard line. WSC kicking leader Cuneyt Karacuha booted a 38-yard field goal three plays later to give Valley a 10-7 lead.
Terrance Brown completed a 145-yard first half roughly seven minutes later when he broke through the right side of the Southwest defense for a 45-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 lead.
But Southwest refused to buckle and Wallace and Takim Brown keyed an 84-yard drive to get the Cougars within three points at halftime. Wallace capped the drive when he scrambled out of the pocket and threw across the field to a wide-open William Jarrett on a 25-yard pass as the gun sounded.