NORWALK â€” Against the Mission Conference's most generous defense, Orange Coast College quarterback Kekoa Crowell came out confident.
With his arm, as well as with his feet, he had little to be insecure about.
Crowell (12 for 17) efficiently passed for 155 yards and rushed for 64 more, helping the Pirates to a 17-7 win at Cerritos College on Saturday night.
The Pirates' defense, which has now given up just 13 points in its last two games, had a similar state of mind. Freshman Shaun Mohler, a Corona del Mar High product, had two quarterback sacks and also forced a fumble.
It all added up to an important victory for the Pirates (7-2, 2-2 in the National Division), who were looking to stay in the hunt for a bowl game and can finish above .500 in their division with a win against rival Golden West on Saturday at OCC.
They started the scoring on their second drive of the game, going 80 yards in nine plays on the Cerritos (3-6, 1-3) defense. The drive was capped when Crowell hit A.J. Moskus on a seven-yard screen pass with 3:58 left in the first quarter.
After Brock Jaramillo's extra point, it was 7-0, Pirates. Jaramillo added a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter, upping the OCC lead to 10-0 with 12:41 left until the half.
But Cerritos quarterback Chad Manis, whose first four passes were incomplete, soon got a rhythm going. He completed three successive passes â€” two to receiver Brennan Houston â€” to get the ball to the OCC 13.
Two plays later, running back Rylon Thomas found the end zone from 15 yards out, cutting the lead to 10-7.
It stayed that way until the fourth quarter, with the Pirates unable to capitalize on cornerback Chris Holmesly's interception with 11:42 left in the third quarter.
But, after getting the ball back with 1:54 left in the third, the Pirates went on their longest drive of the night (6:57). After Crowell's 14-yard completion to Craig Villalpando, OCC kept it on the ground for eight straight plays. Using runs by Andrew Banks, Raul Ballas and Crowell, the Pirates scored when Banks ran it in from two yards out with 9:57 left in the game.
Cerritos switched quarterbacks to freshman A.J. Toscano, but the Pirates kept the pressure on. Orange Coast strong safety Chris Assily stuffed the Falcons' next drive by playing center field on a long pass, catching the interception at the OCC 10 with 5:14 to play.
The Pirates then ran the clock all the way to 1:20, helped by four of Banks' game-high 25 carries. They included a 22-yard scamper â€” his longest of the season.
Cerritos got the ball back but, on fourth-and-10 from the Falcons' 26, a pass play that came up inches short of a game-extending first down.
The win marks the Pirates' first seven-win season since 1993, and also snaps an OCC eight-game losing streak against Cerritos.
OCC receiver Nathan Barnett was hit hard returning a second-quarter punt. After he lay on the field, he walked off under his own power and was later seen with crutches on the Pirates sideline.
Please see statistics, page A17