The VC football team's defense has been solid all season long. However, it is sometimes difficult to see when the team came into the contest against Bakersfield averaging 54 points per game. The "D" left little doubt after Saturday, stopping the Renegades on a number of key possessions down the stretch to preserve a 23-17 victory, moving No. 2-ranked Ventura to 7-0 on the season.
The Renegades came out of the gates strong, and for the second straight week, VC's opposition scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game.
Ventura's first attempt at an answer ended in a missed field goal, but they hit on the second. The Pirates drove 78 yards in 11 plays to paydirt with Brady Sturdivan catching a pair of passes from quarterback Jordan Pachot for 35 total yards in the series. Alex Tili punctuated the drive taking an 11-yard check-down reception from Pachot 11 yards to the right side for the score. Alberto Arroyo's kick tied the score at 7-7 with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
The Pirates looked more normal in the second period. An interception by Donyai Dixon in the end zone stopped a deep Renegade threat, and Pachot led the offense 55 yards in 12 plays for a 42-yard Arroyo field goal at the 10:00 mark.
After a Bakersfield three-and-out, the Pirates drove 65 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown, an 11-yard scoring strike from Pachot to Mark Ferrell deep in the end zone for a 17-7 advantage with 3:02 left until halftime.
Bakersfield had a response, however, and the VC defense was forced to bend, but it did not break. The Renegades converted a key third-down play early in the drive and advanced to the Pirates' 12-yard line. BC missed a 29-yard field goal, but a special teams penalty on Ventura gave them another chance with a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line. The Pirate defense buckled down with their backs against the goal line, including a big third-down sack by Joe Hernandez to force another Bakersfield field goal in the closing seconds of the half. Ventura led at intermission 17-10.
The turnover bug bit the Pirates in the second half. On their first drive, Pachot had a tipped ball intercepted at the Renegade 30-yard line, and after the teams traded punts, Bakersfield scored a touchdown to tie the game at 17 with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter.
The Pirate offense responded with a ball-control 14-play drive for a score. James Miles had 29 yards rushing in the drive, including an 8-yard scamper on a fourth-and-two, and Arroyo's 31-yard successful field goal put VC ahead 20-17 at the end of the third.
The Ventrua defense forced another punt on the ensuing drive, and the offense responded in kind with another scoring drive. Julian Kelly handled the running duties this time with 38 yards to set up a first-and-goal an the BC 8-yard line. The Pirates went backward at that point, losing 13 yards and settling for a 36-yard Arroyo field goal to make it 23-17 at the 10:12 mark of the fourth.
Bakersfield was able to land a counter punch however, intercepting a Pachot pass four plays later at the BC 1-yard line, breathing life back into the Renegades.
BC then drove 48 yards on 13 plays, converting two fourth down plays before the Pirate defense again made the big play. Daquan Benjamin picked off a Renegade pass at midfield with 1:51 on the clock, seemingly clinching the game for Ventura.
VC lost six yards on two rushes, but forced two Bakersfield timeouts, and then converted a big 15-yard pass reception from Pachot to Ferrell to set up 4th-and-1 and forcing the Renegades to use their final timeout. On a 4th-and-1 when a conversion would essentially end the game, the Pirates had a fumbled pitch recovered by Bakersfield at the BC 46-yard line.
With 1:08 remaining, all that stood between the Renegades and a major upset was 64 yards and the Ventura defense. After a close pass interference call on third down gave BC a 1st-and-10 at the VC 35, the defense forced four incomplete passes to secure the victory for the Pirates.
Travis Calloway and Ralph Navarro led the defense with 10 tackles each and Cam Williams recorded eight stops. Hernandez had five tackles, including a pair of quarterback sacks and Adrian Soracco had five tackles.
Offensively, Pachot was 29-41 for 258 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions. Kelly led the rushing corps with 71 yards on 15 carries and Miles raced for 45 yards on seven attempts. Terrell Vaughn had six catches for 33 yards to lead the receivers and Sturdivan had three catches for 53 yards. Chris Atkins had five receptions for 43 yards and Kevin Tate grabbed four passes for 44 yards. Ferrell also hauled in four receptions for 37 yards and a score. Pachot completed passes to 11 different receivers in the game.
Ventura (7-0, 2-0) continues Northern Conference play on Saturday Oct.30 at Allan Hancock College. Kickoff in Santa Maria is scheduled for 2:00 pm.