GLENDALE — After snapping lengthy losing streaks at home and in conference earlier this season, the Glendale Community College football team had things moving in a positive direction going into its final home game of the year, hosting American Division Pacific Conference foe Los Angeles Valley College.
The Vaqueros picked up even more positive momentum Saturday afternoon, playing a strong first half and then cruising to 28-11 victory over the Monarchs. With the win, Glendale has now built a three-game winning streak in conference, finishes with a 4-1 record at Sartoris Field and is now guaranteed to finish .500 or better no matter what the result of its final two games.
“It started out a lot easier, but there at the end we made it a little bit of a nail-biter, but I guess not really at 28-11,” Vaqueros Coach John Rome said.
Glendale (5-3, 3-2 in conference) scored all of its points before halftime, spearheaded by the passing attack led by quarterback Sean Murphy and his three touchdown throws.
The Vaqueros got a quick stop from their defense to open the contest, then drove 82 yards in four plays for the game’s first points, capping the drive with a 47-yard touchdown throw from Murphy to Isaiah Bernard just 2:32 into the contest.
The defense scored next for the home team when Noche Nwofer, playing in his final game at Sartoris Field, sacked Monarch quarterback Emilio Rodriquez, causing a fumble that Marcus Tappan collected off the turf and returned 28 yards for a touchdown.
“Another great game at home, right?” Nwofer said. “We pulled it out though. We just hustled to the ball, did what we needed to do offensively. We just kind of took the foot off the gas in the second half, but we pulled it off.”
Late in the first quarter, Murphy, who had completions on his first six attempts, connected with running back Marquise McGuire on consecutive passes covering 25 yards and then 30 yards, the latter going for a touchdown with 3:50 to go.
The Vaqueros led, 21-0, after the first quarter, marking a 56-point swing from their game last season at L.A. Valley (3-5, 0-5) in which the Monarchs led, 35-0, after one quarter.
Murphy threw a 63-yard scoring pass to Bernard with 5:14 left in the second for what turned out to be Glendale’s final touchdown of the game to push the advantage to 28-0. The score came one play after a Dante Shipman interception that he returned 65 yards for an apparent score. But the play was nullified when a Vaqueros’ personal foul was called near midfield.
Monarch Bonifasio Rojas booted home a 21-yard field goal on the final play before halftime to get the visitors on the board. At the half, Murphy was 17 of 22 for 267 yards and the three scores, Bernard had five grabs for 120 yards and the two scores, and the Vaqueros led, 28-3.
“The first half was awesome,” Murphy said. “The second half was a little bit of trouble. But the first half was great.”
In the second half, Glendale’s offense fell silent and Bernard added just two more catches, ending with a team-high seven for 123 yards. Murphy’s production also waned, as the freshman was intercepted on the opening possession of the third quarter on the way to a final tally of 27 of 40 passing for 327 yards.
The Glendale defense stayed the course in the second half, however, keeping L.A. Valley out of the end zone until 7:39 left in the game when Rodriquez threw a 66-yard touchdown to Spencer Elrod (six catches and a game-high 139 yards).
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Glendale picked off the Monarchs quarterback twice. The first was the second pick for Shipman, after it was tipped by sophomore D’Angelo Blake, and the second was by Blake himself.
“It was just a thing we had to do when we saw the offense couldn’t go down and score [in the second half],” Shipman said. “So, we just had to make the best of it with defense. Defense wins games anyway.”
Next for the Vaqueros, who have feasted on the bottom tier of conference opponents, are the two teams at the top of the leader board. But riding a three-game win streak, their confidence is building and the future seems as bright as it has in several seasons.
“We’re trying to improve our football program,” said Rome, whose squad travels to Santa Barbara City College next week. “And one of the things we have to do is our saying, ‘win the down’ and the down is now.“