One of the recurring themes in football is the winner of the turnover battle wins the game. That philosophy held true Saturday night as the Pirate football team turned the ball over six times, including three that were returned for touchdowns, in their 55-29 loss at Mt. San Antonio College. The fifth-ranked Pirates fell behind 27-0 in the first quarter, and had a second half comeback bid foiled by a pair of defensive touchdowns by the No. 8-ranked Mounties.
A year ago, the Pirates fell behind the Mounties 17-0 in the first quarter before mounting a comeback victory. Saturday, Ventura once again dug a big early hole, falling behind 20-0 in the final minute of the opening period. Then, the turnover monster reared its ugly head. On Mt. SAC's kickoff following a field goal, the Pirates fumbled the ball on the return. Mt. SAC picked up the ball and ran it back 10 yards for a touchdown and the Pirates trailed 27-0 before the end of the first period.
After a series of punts in the second quarter, the Mounties extended their lead to 34-0 on a touchdown with 4:43 on the clock. VC responded, finally, with an 8-play, 72-yard drive over the next three-plus minutes to get on the board. Quarterback Jake Constantine completed three passes to start the drive, and rushes by Tyrese Gholar, Thomas Duckett and Constantine set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Duckett. Cooper Garcia's extra point was good and VC trailed 34-7 at halftime.
The Pirates gained some momentum in the third quarter, taking the kickoff and driving 75 yards on seven plays to paydirt. The drive was capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Constantine to Kezio Snelling, and Garcia's kick brought Ventura back to within three touchdowns, 34-14.
The VC defense forced a 3-and-out on the ensuing Mountie drive, building more momentum for the Pirate cause. But the turnover monster reappeared two plays later as Constantine's pass was intercepted and returned to the end zone for a Mt. SAC score.
Midway through the third quarter, VC defensive back Alvin Pacheco forced a Mt. SAC fumble, recovered by the Pirates at the Mounties' 47-yard line. Four plays later Constantine hit Kendric Mallory for an 8-yard scoring strike. Garcia's PAt attempt was good once again, and Ventura trailed 41-21 with 6:26 left in the period.
On the next Mt. San Antonio drive, Jesse Lemonaire intercepted a Mt. SAC pass, giving VC another short field. Following a Mt. SAC offsides penalty, Constantine cashed in on the short field, hitting Sam Flowers for a 27-yard touchdown pass on the next play. The Pirates pulled off the fake kick on the PAT with Connor MacArthur passing to Jared Thomsen for the 2-point conversion and a 41-29 deficit.
The momentum had most definitely swing in favor of the Pirates, and it continued when Steven Nolasco intercepted a Mt. SAC pass deep in Pirate territory. On the resulting drive, Constantine led VC to mid-field before the Mounties picked off another pass, returning it 44 yards to the house, killing the Ventura surge at the end of the third period, 48-29.
Ventura took the next drive, early in the final stanza, inside the red zone before it stalled out and turned over on downs. The Mounties subsequently drove down for another touchdown, using five minutes of the clock, and led 55-29 with 6:25 left in the game. That was the final nail in the Pirates' coffin on this night as Mt. San Antonio defeated Ventura.
Ventura actually outgained the Mounties on the night, 392-381, but VC's six turnovers, including three returned for Mt. SAC scores, loomed large in the outcome. Constantine passed for 311 yards and three touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. 11 different Pirates recorded a pass reception in the game, led by Mallory's seven cateches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Duckett also had seven receptions for 53 yards and Flowers had four catches for 60 yards and a score.
Lemonaire led the Pirates defense with 11 tackles and Lavan Alston had seven stope, including VC's only quarterback sack.
Ventura will attempt to regroup in preparation for their home opener on Saturday Sept. 16. VC will host the Orange Coast College Pirates at 6:00 pm at the VC Sportsplex. The game will also be broadcast live on the VC Sports Network.