Turns out that the 51st edition of the "Big Game" for Ventura College's football team at Santa Barbara wasn't all that big. The Pirates dominated from the beginning, and despite some opening-day mistakes, came away from SBCC's La Playa Stadium with a 44-6 victory and the traveling trophy. Freshman running back Thomas Duckett had an outstanding day with 145 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown while the VC defense held the Vaqueros scoreless for nearly 58 minutes of football in the win.
After stopping the Vaqueros on a 4th-and-1 on the SBCC 44 yard line on the first possession of the game, the Pirate defense forced a Santa Barbara punt on the second. Alvin Pacheco fielded the Vaquero kick off a bound at the VC 22-yard line, gave a shake, and raced 78 yards down the sideline for Ventura's first touchdown of the season. Cooper Garcia's extra point made it 7-0 with 9:38 left in the opening period.
Santa Barbara threatened to answer the Pirate touchdown, using a roughing the passer penalty to help them move to the VC 4-yard line before the drive stalled. The Vaqueros' 22-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right and Ventura preserved the advantage late in the first quarter.
VC took the ball at the 20, and behind quarterback Ricky Town and the Pirate offensive line, they matriculated down the field in impressive fashion. Duckett had five rushed on the drive for 57 yards, and also caught one pass for nine yards, helping set up Town's 2-yard touchdown run. Garcia's kick made it 14-0 for VC with 0:47 remaining in the opening period.
Three plays into the ensuing Santa Barbara drive, the Pirates had a chance to break their backs before the end of the quarter. Ventura defensive back Jaylen Watson jumped an out route, intercepting the SBCC pass and returning it to paydirt. A Pirate penalty brought the touchdown back, however, and Santa Barbara retained possession of the ball.
Early in the second quarter, the Pirates did get the ball back on a Jarryl Taylor interception. VC drove to the Vaquero 3-yard line before the drive stalled, resulting in a 25-yard field goal from Garcia and a 17-0 Pirate advantage.
After another Santa Barbara punt, Jake Constantine took over for Ventura at quarterback, and promptly completed his first two passes for 38 yards. This set up a 16-yard run to the end zone by Duckett, and Garcia's PAT made the score 24-0 with 5:54 left in the first half.
The Pirates were not done, however, as the defense forced a SBCC 3-and-out. Following the Vaquero punt, the Pirates moved to the SBCC 15-yard line to set up another Garcia field goal, this one from 32 yards out, making the score 27-0 with 2:07 on the clock.
Feeling the game slipping away, the Vaqueros tried to make something happen before halftime, and it did, for the Pirates. Watson grabbed another interception, and this one stuck, allowing Constantine to lead a 3-play scoring drive with a 33-yard pass completion and two rushes, the final one for six yards and a touchdown. Garcia added the point after to put Ventura ahead 34-0 at halftime.
After recovering their own fumble on the second half kickoff, Ventura drove to the SBCC 37 yard line before a fumble turned the ball over. The Vaqueros ran the fumble back all the way to the VC 15-yard line to threaten to get on the board. On a 3rd-and-8 at the 12-yard line, the Pirates were flagged for pass interference in the end zone, moving the ball to the 2. The Pirate defense bent but it did not break, tackling SBCC for a loss on the next two plays before Watson picked off another pass. His 88-yard return ended in the end zone, but a penalty brought he ball back to mid field, but the Pirates dodged the Vaquero threat.
With Town back behind center, the Pirates moved from their own 40 to the Vaquero 24-yard line before the drive stalled. Garcia came on and hit a 41-yard field goal to make it 27-0 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
Midway through the final stanza, Constantine led the Pirates on a 6-play, 72-yard drive, taking the ball into the end zone himself from four yards out. Garcia remained perfect on PAT attempts, putting the Pirates ahead 44-0 with 5:36 left in the game.
Santa Barbara did manage to prevent the shutout with a late touchdown, but the PAT was blocked making the final score 44-6.
Combined, the VC quarterbacks were 14-23 for 179 yards, but the ground game was where VC dominated. After Duckett's 145 rushing yards, Tyrese Gholar had 73 yards on just five carries. Marcus Chambers totaled 70 yard on six carries as VC ran for a combined 317 yards on the ground with four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Pirates forced four turnovers and went nearly 58 minutes without giving up a score. Jesse Lemonaire led the way with 13 tackles, including four for a loss, and Jarryl Taylor added 11 tackles and an interception. Dondre Baker recorded eight stops on the day and Kenny Turnier had six tackles.
Things get real quickly for the Pirates, who entered the game ranked No. 5 in the JC Athletic Bureau state pre-season poll, will next travel to No. 8 Mt. San Antonio. It looks to be a much tougher test for Ventura, whose schedule includes three of the next four games against teams ranked in the top-eight in the state.