SANTA MONICA — After one half of Glendale Community College's football game on the road facing Santa Monica City College, the Vaqueros held a one-point advantage and were two quarters away from ending a double-digit losing streak in American Division Pacific Conference play.
But it was not to be, as the offense went dormant in the second half and the Vaqueros were once again plagued by mistakes on special teams, leading to a 44-28 victory Saturday afternoon for the host Corsairs. The loss extends the Vaqueros' American Division Pacific Conference losing streak to 11 games and puts them under .500 for the first time this season.
"We quite frankly gave the game away with special teams mistakes again," said Glendale Coach John Rome, whose squad allowed two kickoff return touchdowns a week prior.
GCC (2-3, 0-2) was up, 21-20, at the break, following a first half that saw the teams exchange the lead five times. However, in the second half, the Vaqueros struggled to get first downs, including on their first four possessions of the third quarter. The fourth possession, which followed a Corsairs fumble, did have the possibility of ending in points and extending the lead. Kicker Dan Blackford lined up for a 42-yard field goal, but he never got to make his attempt, as the snap sailed high and off the holder's fingertips.
Santa Monica (3-2, 2-0) then drove the ball the other way, ending the possession with a successful 23-yard field goal for the host's first lead since early in the second quarter. Special teams gaffes bit the Vaqueros again on the ensuing kickoff. The ball first bounced between two returners and, once it was picked up, was promptly stripped by Santa Monica and returned by Tyler Hasty six yards for a touchdown, stretching the Corsair advantage to 30-21 as the home team scored 10 points in seven seconds.
"All those types of mistakes, they add up," Rome said. "We play well enough to win the game, score 28 points, run the ball pretty well, control the clock, but we give up the big play. Our worst enemy is ourselves."
Glendale answered immediately with a 55-yard, four-play drive capped by a 47-yard touchdown run up the middle by Vaquero Joshua Martinez. The Vaqueros trailed, 30-28, after three quarters.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Glendale defense took the ball away from the Corsairs on a strip and fumble recovery, but the Vaquero offense followed with a punt. Santa Monica then drove 75 yards, ending with a three-yard touchdown run by Melvin Davis.
Davis ran for a second fourth-quarter score from one yard out with 3:15 left to seal the victory for the defending conference champions. It capped an 85-yard drive that followed a long Glendale drive that stalled out in the red zone when the Vaqueros turned the ball over on downs.
Glendale had a strong start to the game, but later in the first caused its own undoing. On their opening possession, the Vaqueros used a seven-play, 67-yard drive, finishing with a pinballing 25-yard touchdown run up the middle by Marquise McGuire, to take an early 7-0 lead. But then another special teams miscue by Glendale, in the form of a blocked punt, set up a touchdown through the air for Santa Monica. However, Jaelan Rising-Barnwell burst through the line to block the extra point attempt to make the score 7-6. Less than a minute later, the Corsairs took the lead for the first time on another touchdown through the air, coming two plays after Oujuan Flyod intercepted GCC quarterback Sean Murphy. The home team led, 13-7, after one.
"Special teams killed us a lot," McGuire said. "On offense, we pushed the ball. Our defense made some stops. It's just special teams; we need to regroup. We have a bye week, so we need to get back on track."
Glendale won the second quarter, 14-7, to take the one-point lead into the break. Murphy threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Brock Kap on the second play of the quarter to take the lead. Santa Monica then answered immediately with a 33-yard scoring run by Eric Kyle (16 carries for 107 yards) to take the lead back. But the Vaqueros had their own answer by way of a one-yard scoring plunge by Martinez. Glendale's Noche Nwofer had an interception on the ensuing Corsairs possession and the halftime score was 21-20.
Lost in the defeat was the strong running attack put forth by the Vaqueros. McGuire led the way with 30 carries for 157 yards and the one score. Martinez, also a freshman, ran for 78 yards on 13 carries and the two scores.
"The linemen did it all themselves," McGuire said. "They held their blocks long enough for me to get to the holes."
One mystery was solved Saturday afternoon after the Vaqueros held tryouts for a new player to kick off during the week. The winner was quarterback Murphy, who handled that duty against Santa Monica.
"[Murphy] did a good job," Rome said. "He placed the ball well. Kickoff wasn't our problem today."