For the second straight week the Pirate football team raced out to a comfortable lead, only to let their opponent back into the game late. And for the fourth straight week, the Pirates were victorious, defeating Palomar 45-38 Saturday at the VC Sportsplex Saturday night. With the win to open the season 4-0 for the first time since 2012, No. 3-ranked Ventura has set up a showdown at No. 1 Fullerton next week.
Thomas Duckett had 157 yards from scrimmage, 88 rushing with a touchdown and 69 yards on four pass receptions, and Hayden Nease ran for 108 yards and a score on nine carries to lead the Pirates to the victory. Quarterback Jay Vanderjagt passed for 189 yards, completing 14 of 23 pass attempts. Meanwhile, Trevon Lambert led the defense with 10 tackles and Dondre Baker had eight. Cory Owens recorded seven stops with three for a loss, including a quarterback sack and Cross Tate had seven tackles and three pass break-ups.
After the Comets marched down for a field goal on their opening possession, VC answered with a pair of touchdown drives. Nease ran 10 yards around right end for Ventura's first score and Vanderjagt hit Brandon Jordan from 19 yards out to paydirt on the next drive. Kyle Continente's kicks after both scores put the Pirates ahead 14-3 after one quarter of play.
Palomar closed to within 14-10 at the beginning of the second quarter with a quick 70-yard drive. After the teams exchanged punts, the Pirates won the field possession battle, taking over at the Comets' 37-yard line. Three plays later, Duckett raced around right end for a 4-yard score. Continente's kick made it 21-10 with 8:25 left in the first half. The teams remained scoreless for the rest of the period and VC led at halftime.
Behind quarterback Brock Domann, the Pirates expanded their cushion early in the third stanza. VC took the second half kickoff and matriculated 63 yards down the firsl for a score in 10 plays. Domann rushed for 31 yards on the drive, including the final nine for the touchdown.
The Comets were on a drive to answer the score before Trennan Carlson intercepted a pass at the Pirates' 5-yard line, racing 95 yards back to the house for a pick-6 score. Following Continente's kick, the VC advantage was 35-10 with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Palomar took just 43 seconds to find an answer, scoring a touchdown on a 52-yard pass play. Ventura returned the favor, marching back down the field to the Comets' 2-yard line before they could not find the end zone in two tries. Continente came in to hit an 18-yard field goal and the Pirates led 38-17 at the beginning of the final period.
The Comets struck quickly, once again, scoring another touchdown in 1:13 to close to within two touchdowns, 38-14.
Ventura's offense held off the Comets for the time being, answering with a 6-play, 65-yard drive, aided by a pair of big penalties by Palomar. Domann punctuated the drive with an 8-yard run into the end zone off a broken play. Continente's kick gave VC a 45-24 edge with 11:29 remaining.
On the ensuing drive, Palomar moved down the field with ease, once again. But Cail Jackson appeared to come up with the big play to seal the game, an interception in the end zone. But Jackson brought the ball out of the end zone on the return before heading back across the goal line, and the Comets made the stop for the safety and two points. the Pirate lead was 45-26 with 9:04 on the clock.
The Comets took VC's free kick and marched back down the field, scoring a touchdown with 6:26 left. The PAT sailed left, however, and the Comets pulled to within 45-32.
Ventura was able to use almost three minutes of game time on the next possession, but punted the ball back to Palomar with 3:39 left. The Comets then sliced through the Ventura defense once again, moving 72 yards in three plays for another score. The kick failed once again, however, and the VC margin was 45-38 at the 2:47 mark.
The Comets then recovered an onside kick at midfield, setting up late-game tensions at the Sportsplex. Trailing by just a touchdown, Palomar moved the ball to the Pirates' 11-yard line before a pass break-up by Tate on a fourth-down play ended the threat and gave Ventura the win.