The stage was set. With the Pirates ahead 41-31 with just inside three minutes remaining, a VC field goal would force Bakersfield to score two touchdowns to complete a miraculous comeback. Ventura would be close to clinching the game and their fourth straight SCFA Northern Conference title. But close was not good enough. As Cooper Garcia prepared for his 44-yard field goal, Ventura head coach Steve Mooshagian had something else in mind.
On the snap of the ball, right end Trevon Lambert ran across the formation, receiving a shuffle pass from holder Connor MacArthur. He sprinted around the left end and raced untouched 27 yards nto the end zone for a Pirate touchdown, sealing the 4-peat for VC. The Pirates had secured their conference title, but the visiting Renegades made Ventura work for it.
Early on, it looked as if securing the 4-peat would be easy for VC. They took the opening kickoff 70 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown. Quarterback Jake Constantine connected for 51 yard sin the drive and Thomas Duckett ran for 22 yards, including a 4-yard scoring run. Garcia's extra point put Ventura ahead 7-0 with 9:05 still remaining in the first period.
The Pirate defense held Bakersfield to one first down and four net yards on the ensuing drive, and the offense responded with another scoring drive. Garcia punctuated the drive with a 30-yard field goal and VC was ahead 10-0.
VC's defense forced another punt on a three-and-out on the next possession, and once again, the Pirate offense took over from there.
Late in the first period through early in the second, Constantine led Ventura 76 yards on 11 plays for yet another score. He finished the drive with a 22-yard pass to Tony Daggett, with the big play on the drive being a 26 yard quarterback draw. Garcia's kick made it 17-0 with 11:23 remaining before halftime.
The teams traded punts before BC finally got on the board with a 31-yard field goal at the 7:10 mark.
After a 29-yard kickoff return by Kezio Snelling, Ventura appeared to be on the march again, but they could not convert a 4th-and-2 at the Renegade 39, handing the ball back to Bakersfield on downs.
BC took full advantage, driving 58 yards in five plays for a touchdown, trimming the Pirate advantage to 17-10 just before halftime.
After intermission, the renegades took the kickoff and drove 74-yards for the game-tying score. With 10:15 left in the third quarter, it was a new game with the Pirates and Renegades knotted at 17.
On their first possession of the second half, the Pirates responded with their own scoring drive. Constantine threw for 60 yards, including a 24-yard pass to Daggett to set up a 1-yard run by Duckett to paydirt. Garcia continued his perfect season with another made PAT and Ventura was back on top.
That VC lead was short-lived, however, as Bakersfield brought the ensuing kickoff back 96 yards for a score to tie the game at 24-24.
The Pirates wasted little time climbing back ahead. Constantine connected with Sam Flowers for 36 yards and with Daggett for 37 yards to set up Gil Scott Jackson's 2-yard scoring run. Garcia converted the extra point for a 31-24 Pirate advantage with 4:34 left in the third period.
On the ensuing drive, BC appeared to be driving for another score when the Pirate defense came up with the big stop. With the renegades facing a 3rd-and-9 at the VC 33, Trennan Carlson came up wit the quarterback sack for a 7-yard loss, forcing a fourth down and pushing Bakersfield out of field goal range. They were forced to punt, ending the threat.
The Pirates responded with an 8-play, 55-yard drive culminating with a 43-yard field goal by Garcia. The Pirates claimed a two-score advantage over the Renegades, 34-24, with 11:11 remaining in the game.
Thats when the fireworks really began.
After the teams traded punts to whittle the clock down to 8:42 remaining in the game, Bakersfield used just 2:26 to march 69 yards to paydirt, trimming the Pirate advantage to 34-31.
The Pirates answered in kind, taking advantage of a 62-yard Snelling kick return to march 35 yards in seven plays, using 2:55 of the clock before Duckett scored from two yards out. Garcia's kick reestablished VC's 10-point lead at 41-31.
Needing two scores in the final 3:10, the renegades took to the air four straight plays, to no avail, and VC took over on downs. The Pirate offense ran three plays, with two Bakersfield timeouts in between, setting up the late-game trickery on the fake field goal, clinching the victory and the 4-peat.
The Renegades scored an inconsequential touchdown with six seconds left, but the result was set. the Pirates claimed the 48-38 victory, extending their season record to 7-2 and their conference mark to 4-0. The Pirates clinched at least a share of the Northern Conference championship for the fourth year running, and secured the conference's automatic bid to the SCFA playoffs in two weeks.
The win also marked VC's 14th consecutive Northern Conference victory dating to September, 2015.
Constantine led the offense with 349 passing yards, completing 22 of 35 attempts with one touchdown. Duckett rushed 26 times for 80 yards and three scores while Constantine ran the ball seven times for 72 yards. Daggett led the receiving corps with seven catches for 105 yards and one visit to the end zone.
The Pirates will complete the regular season on Saturday Nov. 11 with a home date against Cerritos. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 pm at the VC Sportsplex and the game can also be seen live on the VC Sports Network.