NORTHWEST GLENDALE — It took the Glendale Community College football team three attempts just to get the opening kickoff to stay in bounds — an ominous start to a first half that ended on an even more sour note with a Vaqueros fumble returned more than half the field for a touchdown with zeros on the clock.
Not much of the action sandwiched between those two points went Glendale's way either, as the host Vaqueros took a three-touchdown deficit into halftime and never recovered in a 41-6 Pacific Conference American Division loss to West Los Angeles College on Saturday at Sartoris Field.
"It sure looked like there was rust," said Glendale Coach John Rome, whose team, which was coming off its bye week, lost its third straight to fall to 2-4 and 0-3 in conference. "But [West L.A.] had a bye, too. Maybe they had better Rust-O-Leum than we did. We just looked a lot more rusted."
West L.A. (2-4, 1-2), which snapped a three-game losing streak of its own, put the finishing touches on the victory with three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 99-yard interception return for a score at the 7:26 mark and a 92-yard drive orchestrated by its backup quarterback in the final three minutes. Glendale's own backup quarterback, freshman Ki Bae, ran up the middle for 16 yards for the Vaqueros' only score with 1:59 left in the game after leading a 45-yard drive.
Bae replaced starter Nick Blackmon after Blackmon threw his second interception of the game that was returned 99 yards by Will Lacy for a 35-0 West L.A. lead with 7:26 to play. Blackmon completed 11 of 24 passes for 88 yards, as the Wildcats defense keyed on the Vaqueros' rushing game. Collin Keoshian, who entered the game leading the conference in rushing yards with 700, was held to 93 yards on 24 carries, while Walter Moctezuma added 59 yards in 10 carries.
"We didn't play a very complete game," Rome said. "They loaded up on the run against us and when we can't throw the ball to keep pressure off of us, it puts a big strain on our offense."
Glendale turned the ball over four times, including two for scores, but its Achilles Heel was its inability to convert in the red zone and finish its few solid drives. That point was crystallized in a six-minute span at the tail end of the third period where the Vaqueros got a big break on the heels of a bad breakdown, but still couldn't capitalize.
With Glendale inside the Wildcats' 40-yard line and moving, Blackmon had a pass tipped off the hands of his intended receiver and straight to Lacy at the Wildcats' 20-yard line for a 33-yard interception return.
Bobby Baker got the ball right back for Glendale when he intercepted Wildcats quarterback Dallas Lopez at the Glendale 45-yard line and gave the offense a gift wrapped opportunity by returning the play all the way to the West L.A. 11-yard line with 3:10 remaining in the third.
The ball would reach the Wildcats' three-yard line, but on third and two, a Keoshian run attempt went horribly wrong resulting in a 17-yard loss. Glendale then went for it on fourth down and turned the ball over on an incomplete pass. It marked the third time in the game that Glendale went for it on fourth down from inside the Wildcats' 30-yard line rather than attempt a field goal.
"We weren't in [kicker Helio Guerra's] range," said Rome, as Guerra's only appearance of the day came on a missed extra-point attempt.
West L.A. turned around and drove the ball 80 yards for a touchdown run from Semaj Lindsay for a 28-0 lead at the 11:42 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats marched down the field briskly in their game-opening drive, covering 60 yards in 13 plays, mostly on medium yardage passes out of their four-receiver sets with quarterback Lopez finishing the drive with a bootleg run around the right side at the 9:28 mark of the first.
Glendale fumbled the ball away to West L.A. near midfield on the second play of its opening drive, but held the Wildcats to a punt. The Vaqueros' first trip into the red zone followed, but the ball went back to West L.A on downs when Glendale's drive, which began all the way back at their own 15, lost traction on third down at the Wildcats' 13-yard line on third and three and ended on fourth and six on an incomplete pass with less than 30 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Red zone woes continued for Glendale on its first possession of the second quarter, as a 22-yard run from Keoshian got the ball into Wildcats territory and a 10-yard run by Moctezuma put the ball on the West L.A. 13 before negative rushing and penalty yardage once again got the Vaqueros moving backward.
Once again, Guerra was passed over as Glendale elected to take a shot at the end zone on fourth and long and gave the ball back to West L.A. on downs. The teams would go on to exchange punts once more before West L.A. was able to stretch its lead to 13-0 with 5:03 left in the first half on a quick release to slot receiver Rahkeem Holland, who blew by the only Vaquero in his way after the catch for a 50-yard touchdown on the second play of a drive that originated at the Wildcats' 45-yard line.
"Bottom line, we have to finish," Rome said. "We can't make colossal mistakes. We can't run backwards 20 yards or fumble the exchange or anything else like that.
"We drove the ball in the beginning of the third, got it down there and then, of course made a colossal error."