SANTA ANA — Glendale Community College kicker Chris Wood put his football team on the board with his first field goal of the game, and settled the affair with his last field goal.
The Vaqueros traveled to Santa Ana College for an American Metro Conference battle at Santa Ana Stadium on Saturday. With an incredible defensive display in the first half, to go along with an even better offensive showing in the second half, the game came down to the wire with 2.4 seconds left.
Wood’s 34-yard field goal in the waning moments gave Glendale its second win of the season in a 27-24 victory over Santa Ana.
“I knew we had the high school uprights, not the college uprights,” said Wood, a Crescenta Valley graduate. “I had room to kick the kicks. We had some gutsy holds that got to my head, but I just had to do my job to get the ball through the uprights for them.”
Wood also nailed a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter to cut the Santa Ana lead to four points, 7-3, before the Vaqueros (2-7, 2-3 in conference) fended off the Dons late in the contest.
Glendale college coach John Rome credits the team’s fighting spirit to something defensive back Christian Alvarez said to the team prior to the game.
“He said that ‘I have to own the responsibility that it’s me that’s not making the plays,’” Rome said. “He said it in front of the team and it was pretty emotional. It got everybody fired up. So now he’s coaching the team.”
Glendale and Santa Ana college (3-6, 2-3) experienced turnovers and scoring spurts in the second half that vastly differed from the opening two quarters, as the Vaqueros put up 24 points and the Dons tallied 17.
Glendale quarterback Nathan Eldridge completed 15 of 31 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns and running back Adayus Robertson led the rushing contingent with 19 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown.
The Vaqueros defense put up a strong effort in the first frame as it forced two punts, a turnover on downs and recorded a sack all in the first 15 minutes of play.
“Our defense has been so enigmatic,” Rome said. “They’re good one week and give up plays [the next], but it was just great feeling to have a complete game. I thought we had some special teams gaffs, and I think those are corrections we can make, but also corrections maybe, physically, we can’t.”
The Dons were the first to get points on the board after Eldridge muffed a snap and Santa Ana back Skylar Finley picked it up and returned it for a touchdown and the 7-0 lead with 1:01 left in the first.
The Vaqueros got on the board thanks to Chris Wood’s 31-yard field goal at the 10:24 mark in the second quarter to cut the Santa Ana deficit to 7-3.
Despite some big plays on offense, the Vaqueros struggled to build momentum. Glendale suffered two sacks in the first half, both of which followed first-down conversions.
The struggles on offense continued through the second quarter as Glendale punted on every drive in the frame.
Regardless, the Vaqueros defense balanced it all out as it forced three punts and shut out Santa Ana in the quarter to keep the deficit at four.
The Dons recovered an onside kick to start the second half to set up field position at the Vaqueros’ 30. But the Glendale defense came up big to force Santa Ana to settle for a 30-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide left early in the third quarter.
The Vaqueros capitalized on their opening drive of the second half.
Robertson punched it in from the one yard out to give the Vaqueros their first lead of the game, 10-7, following an 80-yard, 10-play drive with 8:07 left.
Santa Ana set itself up with good field position on its next drive after an 81-yard kick-off that was returned to the Glendale 19. The Dons’ settled for a 23-yard field goal that tied the score at 10 with 6:58 remaining in the third.
Santa Ana regained the lead early in the fourth on a 40-yard run down the middle for a 17-10 lead.
The Vaqueros tied it up once again at 17 with a 17-yard touchdown pass down the middle from Eldridge to Luciano Borrelli with 11:38 left.
Things went awry soon after, as both teams fumbled the ball twice in a span of nearly three minutes, and it was Glendale that came out on top with the fourth turnover at the 8:23 mark.
Receiver Christopher Lee (two receptions for 54 yards) scored seven plays later on a 28-yard touchdown reception for a 24-17 Vaqueros’ lead with 5:30 remaining.
The game of tug-of-war continued as the Dons tied it up five plays later, responding with their own touchdown reception, an 18-yard score to knot the score at 24 with 3:40 left.