On the opening drive of the third quarter, VC quarterback Dino Maldonado hit Mark Ferrell for a 25 yard touchdown giving the Pirates a 35-21 lead. Unfortunately it was all Canyons from that point as CoC scored 27 of the final 30 points of the game in defeating Ventura 48-38 in a pivotal Northern Conference battle. Maldonado was 21-33 for 257 yards and two scores and running back Jayden Vargas had 19 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown to lead VC (6-2, 2-1) in the contest.
It was a smash-mouth match up early, worth of the Pirates' (No. 3) and Cougars' (No. 4) Southern California rankings. After CoC missed a field goal and VC went three-and-out to begin the game, Canyons got on the board first with a touchdown at the 3:56 mark of the opening period.
Chris Atkins set up the next Pirate possession with a 29 yard kick return, and Vargas had a big 21 yard run to set up some VC trickery. On a first down play at the CoC 27, Terrell Vaughn took a lateral pass, then threw a 27 yard scoring strike to Juan Gaytan. Alberto Arroyo's extra point evened the score at 7-7 with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second, the Cougars scored again to make it 14-7 before Vargas reached paydirt from six yards out midway through the period.
Ventura's defense came up big on the ensuing possession as Dom Brown intercepted a Canyons pass at the 15-yard line, returning the ball to the house for a 21-14 Ventura advantage with 5:35 on the clock.
Canyons responded with a 75 yard drive for a touchdown, tying the score at 21 with 1:09 remaining in the half.
The 2-minute drill was cut in half for the Pirates on the ensuing possession, and Maldonado worked it to perfection. He hit Atkins for a 51 yard pass four snaps into the drive to set up a six yard tuchdown pass to Vaughn with 11 seconds remaining. Arroyo's kick made it 28-21 for Ventura heading into halftime.
VC took the opening possession of the second half 77 yards in just three plays to extend their lead. Maldonado hit Ferrell for the 25 yard touchdown and the Pirates seemed to be in control with a 14-point lead.
Canyons had other ideas, however, marching 85 yards in 10 plays, taking 3:25 off the clock in the process, crossing into the end zone with a three yard run. Their kick was wide and VC led 35-27.
After a Ventura punt pinned the Cougars deep, Jarell Knight recovered a Cougar fumble at the CoC 24 yard line, setting the Pirates up with a short field. Three plays later Maldonado ran six yards to the 1-yard line, and appeared to cross the goal line, but he was ruled down just short. The Pirates could not convert on second down and lost yardage on third down before Arroyo's 34 yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Two plays later the Cougars fully captured the momentum with a 62 yard pass and run to the end zone. The PAT made it 35-34 for VC with 4:47 left in the third period.
Arroyo made a 28 yard field goal gave the Pirates a brief respite at the 13:37 mark of the final stanza, but two Canyons touchdowns on the next two possessions sealed Ventura's fate.
Vaughn had 10 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, leading seven Pirate receivers with a reception.
The Pirates host East Los Angeles on Saturday Nov. 9 in their final regular-season home game. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 pm at the VC Sportsplex.