On the Pirates longest road trip of the season, the team overcame an 11-point first quarter deficit to defeat Palomar College 45-38 in Escondido Saturday night. Juan Gaytan rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and had five tackles on special teams, and Alaka'I Yuen passed for 280 yards and two more scores in the victory for state No. 8-ranked Ventura (3-1). Wes Anusiem had eight tackles defensively to lead the Pirates.
It was not a pretty game with a combined total of seven turnovers and a pair of blocked punts. The Pirates did what they had to do, however, to pick up the victory on the road.
The Comets took the opening kickoff and promptly drove down the field to score a touchdown. VC answered in its opening possession, driving 31 yards in seven plays following Chris Atkins 40-yard kickoff return. Alberto Arroyo's 47-yard field goal made it 7-3 for Palomar early in the opening period.
Palomar came back with another long drive to paydirt as the Comets led 14-3 with 5:39 still left in the first quarter.
The Pirates had another answer as Yuen led a 9-play, 75-yard drive, completing all six of his pass attempts for 56 yards. Gaytan sealed the deal with a 2-yard run into the end zone and Arroyo's kick made it 14-10.
The Comets were knocking on the door early in the second quarter when they fumbled on the VC 3-yard line. Travis Calloway recovered the miscue to end the Comet threat, but the Pirates gave the ball back three plays later with their own fumble. Palomar turned the turnover into a field goal and led 17-10 with 8:00 remaining in the first half.
Yuen answered with a big play on the next drive, hitting Terrell Vaughn for a 68-yard touchdown pass play to tie the score in less than a minute.
Praise Villiamu's interception set up another VC score, an 11-yard run by Yuen, as Ventura went ahead for the first time in the game. The Pirates led 24-17 at the half.
After driving to the Comet 25-yard line before failing on a fourth down on their opening drive of the second half, the Pirates forced a Palomar punt to set up their next score. Gaytan had a 65-yard run on third-and-1 set up a 4-yard scoring pass from Yuen to Mark Ferrell and Ventura led 31-17 with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, a Palomar punt pinned Ventura on its own 1-yard line. two plays later, a VC fumble led to a defensive touchdown for the Comets, tightening the margin to a single touchdown.
Chris Reaves had the instant answer for Ventura, however, in a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Arroyo's kick restored the two-score advantage for Ventura.
After the teams exchanged fumbles, Palomar cut into the margin once again with another trip to the end zone.
Gaytan put the game away with a 60-yard touchdown run at the 3:42 mark of the fourth quarter, putting the Pirates ahead 45-31. A late touchdown by the Comets cut into the lead, but VC held on for the wild shootout win.
Vaughn totaled nine catches for 121 yards and a score and Christian Lancelotti had five receptions for 55 yards.
Ventura will complete its non-conference schedule on Saturday Oct. 5 at home against Fullerton. Kickoff against the Hornets is scheduled for 6;00 pm at the VC Sportsplex.