CULVER CITY — Elation turned to heartbreak for the Glendale Community College football team in a matter of seconds on Saturday afternoon.
Ten seconds, to be exact, or the amount of time it took host West Los Angeles College to convert a make-or-break first down with a highlight-reel catch at the Vaqueros' two-yard line on fourth and long and kick a field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter to steal a 26-24 Pacific Conference American Division win.
"Nothing we could have done better on that one," Glendale Coach John Rome said of the 33-yard pass from Wildcats quarterback Spencer Phillips that receiver Tanqueray Towns somehow was able to pull down after out leaping the pair of Vaqueros defenders draped all over him. "Great catch."
The play set up West L.A. at the two with five seconds left, where Phillips spiked the ball to set up a 20-yard game-winning chip shot for Eduardo Montoya — his fourth field goal of the game — no more than a minute and a half after the Vaqueros had taken their first lead of the second half on a 30-yard field goal by Crescenta Valley High graduate Arian Abghari.
It's just been that kind of season for the Vaqueros, who dropped to 0-7 and 0-3 in conference and have lost their last two games by a combined four points.
"We came within one play of a victory [Oct. 9 against L.A. Pierce College] and we came within one play of a victory this week," Rome said. "At some point, we'll get one."
Glendale's defense — led by nine tackles from Ra'Shon Harper, seven from Jermaine Shamburger and five from Alex Saenz, who also had two sacks and a forced fumble — held the Wildcats without a touchdown in the second half.
After West L.A. opened the half with a scoring drive to go up, 20-7, on a Montoya field goal, the Vaqueros offense stepped up, as well.
Glendale answered with a 12-play, 70-yard drive on its first possession of the second half to cut the lead to 20-14 at the 4:59 mark on a 17-yard touchdown run by Joshua Nakamoto, whose 58 rushing yards in 12 carries were second on the team to Omar Sanchez-Berrera's 75 yards in 15 carries.
Holding West L.A. to consecutive three-and-out possessions, the Vaqueros looked to be swinging control of the game back in their favor.
But on the first play of the fourth quarter, a West L.A. punt from its own 21-yard line was fumbled on the return and recovered by the Wildcats at the Vaqueros 38-yard line, ultimately leading to another field goal and a 23-14 lead with 12:41 to play.
The teams then exchanged punts, with Glendale finally mounting a nine-play, 46-yard drive to pull within 23-21 on a one-yard Nakamoto run with 3:48 left in the game.
Once again, the defense did its job, forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back with starting field position at midfield with 2:40 remaining.
"The defense played outstanding in the second half," Rome said. "I think it was a team effort. They tackled well, they ran to the ball, they did a great job."
In just three plays, Glendale was inside the red zone, but had to settle for the field goal and a two-point lead after three straight incomplete passes from quarterback Steven Batista (16 of 25 for 221 yards and a touchdown).
West L.A.'s winning drive, which began with 1:26 on the clock, came down to two big plays — a 20-yard scramble by Phillips on fourth down and three that moved the ball inside the 30-yard line and the improbable last-gasp completion on fourth down and 15 to Towns that ensured the Vaqueros yet another tough loss.