On an afternoon when things seemed to piling up against the Ventura College football team, the Pirates found a way to pull out the victory. Running back Thomas Duckett took a swing pass from quarterback Brock Domann, broke a pair of would-be tackles, and sprinted 62 yards down the sideline with 1:07 left in the game, and kicker Ian Henzi converted the extra point kick to give VC (3-0) a 29-28 victory over Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.
The comeback came despite an steady tide of negative plays coming at the Pirates including inopportune penalties on offense and defense, blocked and missed kicks, turnovers, apparent fumbles blown dead, and an apparent fumble ruled a touchdown. Through it all, VC made the plays it had to make to come away with he win over a physical and scrappy Bulldog team in its home opener. The Pirate move to 3-0 for the third time in the nine-year tenure of head coach Steve Mooshagian.
Ventura appeared to be rolling early. On their opening possession, they moved 75 yards down the field, finding the end zone on a 21-yard pass play from Domann to Hayden Nease. The extra point kick was blocked, however, and the Pirates led 6-0 just four minutes into the game. On the ensuing Hancock drive, the Pirate defense forced a three-and out. However, a running into the kicker penalty gave the Bulldogs new life, and they took full advantage driving down the field. On a third-and-goal at the 1-yard line, the Pirate defense appeared to force a fumble, but the officials ruled the play a touchdown, and AHC took the 7-6 lead with the extra point kick.
The Pirates seemed to have the answer as they drove right back down the field. A 24-yard touchdown pass from Domann to Brandon Jordan was called back due to an offensive pass interference penalty, however. and the drive stalled three plays later with a missed field goal.
On the ensuing drive, the Pirate defense held fast, and facing a fourth-and-two, the Bulldogs set up in punt formation. The kicker was unable to handle the snap, fumbling the ball before Ahmad Jalloh recovered the ball and sprinted 35 yards to paydirt. The PAT kick sailed wide left and VC led 12-7 with 12:44 remaining in the second quarter.
After the teams traded possessions, A 50-yard punt return by Jaylen Watson set up a 26-yard field goal by Henzi just before halftime. The Pirates led 15-7 at the break.
After both teams punted to open the second half, Ventura asserted some control. They drove 80 yards in 11 plays with the big play coming on a 28-yard pass from Domann to Jared Thomsen. The drive was punctuated by a 10-yard touchdown reception by Stevie Houston, and Henzi's kick made it 22-7 for VC with 6:23 remaining in the third period.
Two possessions later, Hancock took advantage of a short field, driving 48 yards in five plays to cut the Pirate lead to 22-14.
After another VC punt, the Bulldogs drove to the Ventura 1-yard line before their drive stalled. The Pirate defense held on a fourth-and-goal in the shadow of the end zone to stop Hancock's scoring threat. However, just three plays later, AHC turned the tables with an interception and touchdown. Their 2-point conversion was successful to tie the score at 22-22 with 9:07 left in the game.
The Pirates were unable to gain traction on their next possession, managing just one first down before being forced to punt. The kick was a good one, though, pinning the Bulldogs at their own 2-yard line with 5:42 remaining in the game. Eight plays and 98 yards later, Hancock found the end zone once again. The PAT kick missed wide left, however, and th Bulldogs held a 28-22 advantage with 1:44 on the clock.
Ventura took over at their own 20-yard line following the kickoff needing a touchdown for the win. A Domann pass to Jordan for seven yards, and a Domann run for 11 set the stage for Duckett's heroics. Duckett took a swing pass from Domann on the left side, broke a pair of tackles, and raced 62 yards to paydirt. Henzi's extra point gave the Pirates a 29-28 lead at the 1:07 mark.
Domann passed for 264 yards, converting 21 of 33 pass attempts, with three touchdowns. Duckett, who has been the Pirates' leading rusher this season, was held to just 30 yards on the ground on eight carries, but he led the VC receiving corps with three catches for 86 yards, including the game-winning score. Nine different receivers recorded a catch for VC.
Ventura will return home on Saturday Sept. 22, hosting the Palomar Comets at the Sportsplex. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 pm.