It may be a bit if a stretch to conclude that the Glendale Community College football team’s 35-13 Pacific Conference American Division loss to West Los Angeles at Sartoris Field Saturday night came down to a blocked first-half extra-point attempt, particularly considering the Vaqueros were outscored, 21-0, in the second half after trailing by one at the break.
But if the missed point wasn’t quite that which the game turned on, it was certainly a harbinger of misfortunes to come, as it turned out to be the first domino in a special teams collapse that also included two game-changing Wildcats kick returns and a missed field-goal attempt to end the first half, all of which factored heavily in the Vaqueros’ seventh loss in as many games this season.
“We’ve given up big plays and that’s a big-play offense,” Glendale Coach John Rome said of West L.A. (5-3, 4-0 in conference). “But if we have a better execution on those special teams [plays], we’re better and it’s a different outcome.”
After falling behind, 7-0, after allowing a quick 40-yard touchdown drive on West L.A.’s opening possession, capped by LeAnd Thompson’s 18-yard toss to Henry Christian, the Vaqueros (0-7, 0-3) bounced back when Matt Lopez scooped up a Wildcats fumble and returned it six yards to the West L.A. 29-yard line with 13:24 left in the second quarter.
The turnover set up a six-play scoring drive ending with quarterback Anthony Carter’s two-yard keeper, but, after getting backed up 10 yards on consecutive procedural penalties, Helio Guerra’s extra-point attempt was blocked.
Glendale continued to build momentum anyway, forcing a three-and-out for West L.A. and countering with a 10-play, 89-yard drive that saw Joseph Wiggan give Glendale a 13-7 lead with a 19-yard rush with 3:30 to play in the half.
The Vaqueros gave the lead right back, for good, 12 seconds later when Travis Cabral ran the kickoff back 81 yards for a touchdown.
“We miss an extra point, which is always sort of disheartening,” Rome said, “but to immediately allow a kickoff return for six when we were up, at that point, what should have been 14-7, I think is a critical turning point in this game.”
Glendale would start at its own 40 with 3:18 left after the ensuing kickoff and drove to the West L.A. 16, where a 28-yard field goal attempt by Guerra was no good.
In that drive, as well as the Vaqueros’ first possession to open the third quarter, on which it reached the red zone only to go backwards and end up punting from the Wildcats’ 45, the Glendale offense was limited by its predictability.
For the third straight week, the Vaqueros played without starting quarterback Kevin Hunter and were able to compliment their 267 rushing yards – led by Wiggan’s 145 yards in 23 carries -- with a meager 77 passing yards.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to be so one-dimensional in a game that we need to be as multi-dimensional as we possibly can,” Rome said. “Defense stops more by recognition than by their design. They see plays, they see the way we lean, they see what’s working and pretty soon the defense just naturally adjusts and stops it.”
Glendale’s first punt of the third quarter pinned West L.A. back at its own two-yard line, but the Wildcats completed a 21-yard pass play on third down and never looked back, marching 68 yards over the next five plays and taking a 21-13 lead on a 36-yard shot from Thompson to Donald Drisdom with 32 seconds left in the third.
The knockout punch came once again courtesy of a special teams lapse, as Cabral returned a Glendale punt 51 yards to the Vaqueros’ 15, setting up Dominic Cooper’s two-yard run for a 28-13 lead with 11:32 left in the game.