The Pirate football team raced out to a 24-7 first half lead over visiting East Los Angels College Saturday night, then made it hold up in their 45-42 victory over the Huskies. Jayden Vargas rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and Chuck Wick had two more rushing scores while Terrell Vaughn had 10 pass receptions for 110 yards and two trips to the end zone. Ventura's win, combined with Long Beach's defeat of Canyons, brings the Pirates (7-2, 3-1) back into the Northern Conference title hunt with one game left visiting LBCC next week.
Ventura was dominant early, scoring on all three of their possessions in the first quarter. They took the opening kickoff 72 yards in five plays, with a 48-yard Vargas run setting up Dino Maldonado's 5-yard touchdown pass to Vaughn. Alberto Arroyo's kick made it 7-0 early.
After an East LA punt, Maldonado directed another scoring drive with Arroyo kicking a 37-yard field goal.
On VC's third possession, they went 92 yards in just five plays, with Vaughn taking a 62-yard pass and run to paydirt. Arroyo's kick made it 17-0 for VC before the end of the first period.
VC's run ended early in the second quarter with a missed field goal, and they had an interception on the next possession. But the defense held fast and forced five ELAC punts on the Huskies' first five possessions of the game.
Then midway through the quarter, Ventura was driving in for another score when the game turned. Alaka'I Yuen's pass was intercepted at the goal line and brought back 99 yards by East LA, a 14-point swing that cut VC's lead to 17-7.
But despite the turnover, Yuen led VC back down the field. The 7-play 52-yard drive was punctuated by Wick's run to the end zone from four yards out and Arroyo's kick restored the 17-point advantage, 24-17.
Early in the third quarter, Ventura's defense returned a favor to the Huskies as Wes Anusiem intercepted a pass in the end zone, ending an ELAC scoring threat. The teams traded punts in the following possessions until the Huskies scored a touchdown with 5:56 left on the clock, cutting into the Pirate lead once again.
When play resumed for the Pirates, lightening struck twice. The Huskies took a VC fumble on the first play from scrimmage and ran it all the way back for another defensive touchdown. The PAT made the score 24-21 for VC with 5:38 remaining in the stanza.
After a short kick-off, Ventura needed just three plays to get untracked. Set up by a 15-yard penalty on the Huskies, Wick ran 19 yards for a touchdown, and Arroyo's kick added the PAT. Ventura led 31-21 setting up a wild fourth quarter.
The Pirates were driving for another score early in the final stanza when the Huskies pulled in another interception at the goal line. ELAC then drove 87 yards in seven plays for a touchdown, bringing the margin back the three points.
Another big return from Vaughn, and another 15-yard penalty on the Huskies, set up the Pirates with great field position. That was all Vargas needed as he took the ball on the next play, racing 45 yards to the end zone for another touchdown. Arroyo's PAT made it 38-28 for the Pirates at the 9:56 mark of the final period.
But East LA kept up the fight. They staged another long drive, moving 92 yards in 16 plays for another touchdown, cutting the the Pirate margin back to three points, 38-32, with 3:23 remaining.
Ventura was not done, either, and wanted to rebuild their advantage. Set up by a 36-yard pass play from Maldonado to Mark Ferrell, Vargas made another trip to the end zone with a 22-yard run punctuating a six-paly, 80-yard drive over 1:38. Arroyo's kick restored the 10-point advantage with 1:39 remaining in the game.
The Huskies had one final push for another score with 26 seconds remaining, but VC recovered the ensuing onsides kick to complete the wild finish. The Pirates prevailed 45-42.
With his 10 pass receptions, Vaughn broke the Pirates' single season receptions record set in 2017. Kendric Mallory had 70 catches that season and Vaughn now has 76 with at least two games remaining.
Maldonado was 23-38 in the air for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the game and Ferrell recorded 124 receiving yards on seven catches.
Ventura's win and Long Beach's defeat of Canyons sets up a big-time match-up in the season finale. VC travels to play the Vikings on Saturday Nov. 16 and with a win, can claim a share of the Northern Conference championship. Kickoff is set for 6:00 pm at Long Beach's Veteran's Memorial Stadium.