NORTHEAST GLENDALE â€” The picture in the Western State Conference Pacific Division just got a bit clouded.
Entering Saturday’s matchup with Ventura, the Glendale Community College football team sat alone atop the division standings and appeared to be the front-runner for a conference crown.
That is no longer the case.
The host Vaqueros lost to the Pirates, 27-21, and in the process dropped into a three-way tie for first place.
With one game left on the schedule, a win against Citrus would still guarantee Glendale college (6-3, 5-1 in conference) at least a share of the division title with Ventura (6-3, 5-1) and/or Moorpark.
â€œWe are still in control of ourselves,â€ Glendale college Coach John Cicuto said. â€œWe are in a great spot.â€
But, the Vaqueros missed a great opportunity on Saturday, when a victory would have wrapped up no less than a share of first place. The team could not overcome the 27 points it surrendered in the first half, despite allowing no points in the second.
â€œIf we would have played this way in the first half, we would have shut them out,â€ Cicuto said.
Despite trailing by a 27-14 margin heading out of halftime, the Vaqueros didn’t back down.
Their opening possession of the second half â€” a methodical 13-play drive, which included 12 running plays â€” resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Donald Oliver to get within 27-21.
Then the normally dominant defense came alive.
The unit forced two interceptions â€” both by Ray McDonough, who had three for the game â€” and two punts on the Pirates’ first four possessions after halftime to halt any offensive momentum that had been built up during their 20-point outburst in the second quarter.
â€œ[The Vaqueros] have some really good defensive players,â€ Ventura Coach Jon Mack said. â€œThey rose up and played some really good defense in the second half.â€
With the defense doing its part, the Vaqueros’ offense would be slowed itself after the Oliver score.
They had to settle for punts on the next four possessions, largely do to failed third-down conversion. The team converted only one of five third downs during that span
â€œThat’s just how it goes sometimes,â€ said Cicuto of coming up short on third down. â€œSometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.â€
Still, Glendale college had one last shot to win the game, taking possession at its own 27 with 2:57 remaining in the game after a missed Ventura field goal.
A roughing the passer call and an 11-yard run by quarterback Mike McDonald were the most fruitful plays of the drive, as four straight incompletions at the Ventura 47 effectively ended the game.
With the passing attack limited, the Vaqueros were paced by a strong running game.
Shaun Kermah finished with 82 yards on 16 carries and Brandon Torres had 64 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Oliver added 42 yards on 12 attempts.
Ventura, on the other hand, did most of its damage through the air, as quarterback Lee Mondol completed 13 of 25 passes for 236 yards and three total touchdowns.
Two of Mondol’s passes proved to be back-breakers for Glendale college.
On the game’s opening play, Mondol took a flea-flicker and connected with Jordan Cameron for 58 yards. Two plays later the Pirates held a 7-0 lead.
Then late in the second quarter, following a McDonald interception, Mondol found Donavon Estes for a 79-yard strike and 24-7 advantage. The play highlighted a hectic final 3:39 in which Ventura scored 17 points heading into halftime.
â€œEvery single point was necessary,â€ Mack said.
The Vaqueros got on the scoreboard on Torres’ three-yard run to knot the score at 7 on their first possession in the opening quarter. With 0:18 in the second quarter, McDonald hit Chris Marshall for a 16-yard touchdown to get within 24-14.
â€œWhat I judged our team on was the second half,â€ Cicuto said. ‘A lot of teams would have laid over.â€