On a special Thursday Night Edition of Pirate football, VC scored three touchdowns in the first seven minutes of play en route to a 45-30 victory over College of the Canyons to open Northern Conference play at the Sportsplex. Running back Gil Scott Jackson had two rushing touchdowns and another on a pass reception, and quarterback Jake Constantine was 24-32 for 382 yards and four scores to lead SCFA No. 8 Ventura (4-2, 1-0), as the three-time defending Northern Conference champions opened their title defense.
On the third play from scrimmage, Constantine connected with Thomas Duckett over the middle on a 3rd-and-13 play. Duckett did the rest of the work with his legs, racing the rest of the 76 yards to paydirt. Cooper Garcia added the extra point and Ventura led 7-0 less than a minute into the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Cougars returned the ball to midfield, setting up a short field. On their first play from scrimmage, however, VC defensive lineman Jarryl Taylor forced a fumble recovered by he Pirates' Chris Henry at the 50-yard line. After a 37-yard run from Duckett, Jackson raced around right end the final 13 yards to the corner pylon and another VC score. After Garcia's PAT, the Pirates led 14-0 with 13:46 remaining in the opening period.
The Cougars got on the board with a field goal on their next possession, and after a Pirate punt, the VC defense forced another turnover. Deep in Pirate territory, the Cougar quarterback mishandled the ball, and defensive back Alvin Pacheco ended up with the ball and the turnover for VC at the 19-yard line.
Four plays later, Constantine hooked up with Kendric Mallory on a quick slant for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Garcia's kick made it 21-3, still with 8:10 remaining in the first quarter.
Things settled in after that, with neither team able to get much going offensively. The VC defense bent but did not break, as Jaylen Watson had an interception on the VC 1-yard line. On their next possession Canyons missed a field goal on the second play of the second period.
Early in the second quarter VC's offense seemed to get untracked behind Ricky Town at quarterback. Ventura drove 54 yards in nine plays before Town had a pass intercepted at the CoC 15-yard line. The Cougars broke tackles and returned the ball all the way back for a score, shrinking the Ventura advantage to 21-10.
With the Pirates' early momentum in shambles, they looked to Constantine to bring them back. On the next possession, however, he had a pass tipped and intercepted for VC's second turnover in as many possessions. The Cougars took the opportunity down the field for another score, making it 21-17 with 7:11 remaining in the half.
The Pirates righted the ship on the next possession, beginning with a 34-yard kick return by Savion Simms. Constantine led a 5-play, 66-yard drive, capped by a 41-yard pass and run to Sam Flowers, outracing defenders across the field for the score. Garcia's kick made it 28-17 for VC, and that's where it stood at halftime.
The teams traded punts to open the third quarter before Canyons drove to the VC 2-yard line. On four consecutive running plays the Pirate defense held fast, with two stops by Taylor inside the 1, and VC kept the Cougars out of the end zone, turning the ball over on downs.
Ventura took the ball all the way to the CoC 29-yard line on the ensuing drive before they were also stopped on a 4th down-and-1 play. The teams then traded punts, remaining scoreless for the third period.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ventura got back on the board with a 19-yard field goal by Garcia for a 31-17 advantage.
Action returned n the fourth quarter with both teams marching up and down the field. Canyons took the ensuing possession 85 yards in 12 plays to cut their deficit in half with another trip to the end zone. Ventura responded, however, beginning with a 37-yard Simms kickoff return. The Pirates then took just six plays to cover 60 yards to paydirt. Completions from Constantine to Flowers and Mallory of 16 and 14 yards, respectively, and a 15-yard penalty on the Cougars were all key during the drive. Jackson put an exclamation mark on it with a 4-yard scamper. Garcia's kick stretched the lead back to two touchdowns, 38-24.
Canyons had one last gasp, driving back to the end zone in 1:31 for another score. They missed the extra point, however, and the Pirate lead was 38-30 with 5:15 left to play.
The Pirates added one more score for good measure. They matriculated down the field 61 yards in six plays, including a 40-yard pass completion to Kezio Snelling to the Cougar 15-yard line. Jackson sealed the deal, taking in a 10-yard pass from Constantine to set the final margin at 45-30.
Nine different receivers caught passes for the Pirates, led by Mallory's eight catches for 111 yards and a score. Duckett hauled in two passes for 73 yards and a touchdown while Flowers had three catches for 72 yards and one touchdown. Naquis Caldwell had six catches for 62 yards for VC.
VC will next travel to Santa Monica for a 1:00 pm kickoff on Saturday Oct. 21. That game can be seen live on the VC Sports Network.