GLENDALE — A third-quarter battle in an American Metro Conference football game between Glendale Community College and Santa Ana College Saturday saw the Vaqueros surge back into the game at Sartoris Field.
In what would be John Rome’s final home game as head coach for the Vaqueros, the hosts battled back to cut the Dons’ lead to two scores. However, the visitors had a response to every Glendale touchdown.
Santa Ana scored twice in the final quarter to pull away, handing Glendale a 63-34 loss in the penultimate game of the season.
“We knew we could score, we just didn’t have enough of the ball,” Rome said. “We had, what, 15 plays in the first half? We took the opening drive and went down and scored, but then we had a fumble and went three-and-out. One of the hardest things in football is when you sit for a long time. It was hard. You sit and you lose your edge.”
The Vaqueros (2-7, 2-3 in American Metro Conference) stopped the Dons (4-5, 3-2) early in the third quarter and scored on the second play of a 68-yard drive on a passing connection from quarterback Jorge Amaya to Jalen Lawrence to cut the Santa Ana lead to 35-20.
Santa Ana answered right back with a seven-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Cross Faletoi to receiver Indiana Taylor before Glendale again cut the lead with another touchdown catch of 28 yards from Lawrence for a 42-27 score.
Faletoi found Donald McKinney for a 47-yard touchdown through the air to take a 49-27 lead with 47.4 seconds left in the third. A 21-yard run from Vaqueros running back Elijah Washington again cut the visitors advantage to 49-34 at the start of the fourth.
“We can run the ball and be physical, and we do have speed,” Rome said. “If we need you to commit to stop the run, we will run past you, which we did today.”
The Dons scored on a 13-yard touchdown catch from Joshua Rice and a 45-yard run from Noel Posey to finish the scoring for the visitors.
Amaya finished 10-of-13 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown to go along with a 10-yard touchdown run. The sophomore played until 6:17 in the third quarter when Nathan Eldridge replaced him to, completing five of 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Lawrence caught nine passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while Washington ran the ball 10 times for 62 yards and two scores.
“I think just knowing that we’re coming up toward the end of the season means giving everything you have on the field and not holding back,” said Eldridge of the Glendale rally. “I think it was a good mindset from the guys coming out today.”
Faletoi threw for five touchdowns and 268 yards passing on a 20-of-33 effort, as well as scoring on a 10-yard run. Dons running back Cole Nequette carried the ball 15 times for 167 yards and a touchdown and McKinney led the receivers with seven catches, 113 yards and two touchdowns.
“It comes down to running the ball,” Santa Ana coach Adam Nyssen said. “When you run the ball, you get an opportunity to open up the pass game. We were able to churn out yards and I think they got a little tired there [in the third quarter].”
The Vaqueros went into a lull after scoring on their game-opening drive via a one-yard run from Washington for a 6-0 Glendale lead after the missed extra point.
The Dons shed off nearly seven minutes on their ensuing drive to score on a two-yard run from Nequette to take a 7-6 lead with 2:56 left in the first.
Santa Ana took advantage of a fumble from Glendale with 1:52 left in the first and scored on a 10-yard run from Faletoi to take a 14-6 lead.
While the Vaqueros had consecutive three-and-outs to start the second quarter, the Dons added an eight-yard touchdown throw and a 16-yard touchdown catch to take a 28-6 lead with 5:13 left in the half.
The Glendale offense finally woke up and sliced the Santa Ana lead to 28-13 with a 10-yard run from Amaya. But another touchdown throw to Taylor set up a 25-yard score for a 35-13 halftime lead.
Rome will step down after 12 years at the helm following the Vaqueros’ season finale at Los Angeles Southwest College next Saturday.
“I sure enjoyed my career here with this team, with this administration and the people of Glendale,” Rome said. “With all the things that we sometimes have to work uphill with here at Glendale, you will never find a better group of people to be with. That’s a fact.”