The Brahmas’ 2017 football season kicked off Saturday night inside Griffin Stadium at Moorpark College with a 36-34 defeat against the Raiders that came down to the final minutes.
Pierce starting quarterback Jonathon Saavedra went nine of 16 for 189 yards, two scores and an interception. One of those touchdowns went to receiver Wesly Touze, who also ran for one.
The defense forced four turnovers, three in the first half. Defensive back Lawrence Coleman had an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery, while linebacker Blaze Aldridge scooped up two more fumbles for the Brahmas’ defense.
The offense started out slow, backed up in their own territory on the first two possessions, leading to some conservative play calling to start the game.
“You’re really cautious, don’t want to throw a pick in that area and give the defense a short field,” head coach Jason Sabolic said.
The third possession for the Brahmas started at their own 42 and allowed for Sabolic to open the play book a little more. Throwing on first down, Saavedra hit receiver Joseph Branch down the sideline for a 40-yard gain. Three plays later, Saavedra found Touze for an 11-yard score.
On the second play of Moorpark’s next drive, Coleman picked off quarterback Tanner Darling’s pass and returned it for a 35-yard touchdown, putting the Brahmas up seven.
Moorpark would tie the game at 13 right before the end of the half when running back Edyon Batta scored his first of three touchdowns to go along with his 137 yards rushing on 15 attempts. Batta would score again on the first possession of the second half to put Moorpark up.
“We got caught a little bit with our pants down,” Sabolic said. “We gave up some big plays that we shouldn’t have. We couldn’t get them off the field on third down.”
The teams would trade scores back and forth until the Brahmas took a 34-30 lead with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter on a Marquise Mickens four-yard run.
After a Darling fumble on the next Moorpark possession, the Brahmas had the ball and the lead with 4:38 to play. However, a three-and-out on three incomplete passes only killed 41 seconds off the clock before giving the ball back to the Raiders.
“I gotta do a better job,” Saavedra said. “Rolling out and threw it away, I should have just taken a sack and kept the clock moving. But that’s something we’ll learn from and get better.”
Moorpark would drive down the field and take a 36-34 with 1:16 to play, when Darling found receiver Vincent Corso from 12 yards out for what proved to be the winning score of the game.
Despite the result, Torry Hughes, the defensive coordinator, was proud of the team and accepted the blame.
“Our young men fought, they did everything that they could to win,” Hughes said. “This one lies on us as a staff.”
Preparation may have been an issue heading into the game. The recent heatwave limited practices for the team.
“A lot of people would say no, but I’d say it had an effect,” Saavedra said. “We only had one-and-a-half, two practices this week.”
The Brahmas next game is Saturday, Sept. 9, when they host Los Angeles Southwest College at 6 p.m.