The Pirate football team turned the tables on previously undefeated Canyons, turning a blocked punt and two turnovers into 21 points in their 21-13 Southern California Football Association semifinal victory over the No. 1-seeded Cougars Saturday night. Trennan Carlson (punt block, forced fumble), Dewayne Coleman (fumble recovery) and Jaylen Watson (interception) all provided key plays in the victory and Thomas Duckett ran for 137 yards on offense to lead Ventura (10-1) to the program's first ever football playoff victory.
The win brought a bit of redemption for the No. 4-seeded Pirates, as they had lost at Canyons on Oct. 27 31-7, giving up 24 points off turnovers in the game. That loss ended VC's 17-game conference winning streak and also ended the team's 3-year hold on the Northern Conference championship.
The Pirate defense was solid from the opening kickoff. On the initial drive of the game, CoC was limited to 20 yards on six plays before the Pirates forced a punt. Carlson broke through to get a hand on the kick, giving Ventura excellent field position at the Cougars' 37-yard line.
It took Duckett just five plays to cover the 37 yards on the ground to the end zone, and Kyle Continente's kick gave VC the early 7-0 advantage.
CoC came back strong,however, marching 86 yards down the field on 11 plays to find paydirt and tie the score at 7-7 with 6:49 left to play in the first quarter.
The defenses took over at that point, with both teams exchanging punts. Canyons seemed to gain the upper hand early in the second quarter on the heels of a 54-yard pass play, advancing the ball to the Pirate 15-yard line. VC's defense stiffened, and did not allow the drive to go any further, forcing the Cougars to kick a field goal for a 10-7 lead with 9:31 on the clock.
Ventura's ensuing drive stalled at the 45, but a 50-yard punt pinned the Cougars deep. Four plays later, Carlson came with a speed rush around the right end and forced the Cougars' quarterback to fumble, and Coleman was right there for the recovery for the Pirates at the CoC 9-yard line.
Duckett wasted little time, crossing the nine yards to paydirt on the next play for his second score of the game, Continente's kick made it 14-10 for Ventura with 5:50 left in the half.
The teams traded relatively quick three-and-outs, before the Pirate defense came up big again. Canyons had a 3rd-and-5 at the VC 47 when Watson picked off a Cougar pass, returning it 42 yards to the CoC 28. The Pirates wasted little time on the short field with a 14-yard Duckett run, a Canyons penalty and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Brock Domann to Brandon Jordan in the back corner of the end zone. Continente's kick put Ventura ahead 21-10 headed to the locker room.
Both defenses took control in the third period, with neither team able to get any offensive traction. Each team punted three times, but the Cougars' third kick could have proved costly for Ventura. With just over four minutes remaining in the stanza, the Pirates muffed a CoC punt at their own 33-yard line. Canyons recovered the fumble to gain the short field, but the VC defense held fast once again. They limited Canyons to a 32-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, and Ventura maintained a 21-13 lead.
In the final 15 minutes, Ventura's defense were tested, but they did not break. Canyons missed a long field goal try, and also turned the ball over after an unsuccessful 4th-and-11 at the VC 43-yard line. In the end, the Pirates were able to run the clock out to complete the program's first-ever playoff victory in six tried dating back to 1935.
Bradley Taylor led VC with nine tackle son the night and Trevon Lambert recorded eight stops. Carlson provided the big plays for Ventura, and was named the VC Player of the Game. Duckett was awarded the Most Valuable Player of the game as he upped his season rushing total to 986 yards.
With the win, Ventura advances to the SCFA Final on Saturday Nov. 24 at No. 2 Riverside. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 pm with a berth in the CCCAA State Championship on Saturday Dec. 8 in Sacramento on the line.
|Trennan Carlson (10) was named the VC Player of the Game and Thomas Duckett (3) was named the SCFA Semifinal MVP in awards handed out following Saturday's game.||Head coach Steve Mooshagian celebrates the Pirates' first-ever playoff victory.|