A night that began with reflection and remembrance ended with celebration Saturday at the Ventura College Sportsplex. The Pirate football team honored the memory of alumnus and former assistant coach Brenden Daley who died in the off season before the game, then proceeded to rack up 246 rushing yards in their 34-19 victory over visiting Saddleback. Running back Thomas Duckett led the ground offensive with 152 rushing yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Jay Vanderjagt threw for 203 yards and two more scores in the Pirate victory.
After the teams traded punts to open the game, the Gauchos took a 7-0 lead with a touchdown with 8:14 remaining in the opening quarter. Ventura (2-0) came back to tie the score when Vanderjagt came off the bench to direct a seven-play, 69-yard drive for a score. the quarterback's 32-yard pass play to Lavan Alston set up a 2-yard run to paydirt by Duckett. Kyle Continente's extra point was good to tie the score with 2:22 remaining in the opening period.
After the Pirate defense held Saddleback on a 4th-and-3 play at the VC 26-yard line, Vanderjagt directed another scoring drive for Ventura. He passed for 44 yards on the 74-yard drive wit hthe touchdown coming on a n 11-yard pass play from Vanderjagt to Gil' Scott Jackson. The PAT was no good and Ventura led 13-7 at the 11:31 mark of the second quarter.
The Gauchos answered on the ensuing drive, however, marching down the field for a touchdown. Bradley Taylor broke through the line to block the extra point attempt, the special teams' second PAT block in as many weeks, and the game remained tied at 13-13 through halftime.
The teams traded possessions to begin the second half, with each moving down the field only to fail on fourth-down attempts. Vanderjagt's first interception of the year could have turned the tide, but the Ventura defense came up with a big three-and-out to give the ball back the Pirates with good field possession.
The defensive stop was all VC needed to capture momentum as Duckett's 1-yard run punctuated a 60-yard drive to put the Pirates ahead for good. Continente's kick made it 20-13 with 1:05 left in the third period.
After another Gaucho drive ended with a punt, Vanderjagt directed another Pirate advance, ending in an 20-yard touchdown pass completed with a circus catch in the end zone by Brandon Jordan. Another Continente kick gave the Pirates a two-touchdown lead, 27-13, with 11:13 left in the game.
Saddleback had one more answer, however, moving 84-yards in eight plays to climb back to within a touchdown. A missed extra point kept the margin at eight points, with VC holding on to a 27-19 advantage with 8:34 remaining.
After a quick VC punt, the Pirate defense stiffened, forcing another three-and-out punt by the Gauchos. The Pirates were then able to control the ball with the ground attack, and Hayden Nease's 28-yard scamper at the 54-second mark put the game out of reach. The Pirates went on to post the 34-19 victory.
Ventura dominated the game statistically, outgaining the Gauchos 476 yards to 310. VC also had 30 first downs compared to 16 for Saddleback and the Pirates outgained the Gauchos 246-101 on the ground.
Duckett and Nease led the ground offensive with 152 and 81 yards, respectively, while Vanderjagt had a solid night off the bench with 203 yards in the air on 19-33 passing. Alston led the Pirate receivers with five catches for 80 yards while Jordan hauled in five throws for 62 yards and a score.
Prior to kickoff, the Pirates honored the memory of Brenden Daley, a football alumnus and former assistant coach who passed away suddenly just after the end of the 2017 season. Members of his family were honorary captains for the coin toss, and Daley's jersey number 27 was retired as well.
Ventura will next head to Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria for a 2:00 pm game on Saturday Sept. 15.