For the second consecutive week, a slow start and early deficit did not keep Pierce football (5-5, 3-2) out of the win column, scoring 22 unanswered points to erase a 17-0 halftime score against Antelope Valley College (5-5, 3-2).
“We made a lot of mistakes early,” interim head coach James Sims said. “But that Santa Barbara game set us up for this. We know that we can be down and still come back and win. This team is amazing.”
The Marauders came out quick, driving 78 yards in under four minutes to start the game with a touchdown and early 7-0 lead.
Antelope Valley added a touchdown in the second quarter and a field goal as time expired in the half, heading into the locker room up 17 points.
The Brahmas started the season with three quarterbacks, but none were available heading into the final game of the season. Jhakari Harrison was ineligible, while Jonathan Saavedra and Steven Frost were out with injury.
Receiver Quentin Palmer was the emergency quarterback against Santa Barbara, and entered the game when Frost went down with a torn MCL.
Strep throat kept Palmer out of practice for the majority of the week, and receiver Wesly Touze was thrust into the starting quarterback spot, however Palmer entered the game in the second quarter, splitting time with Touze and played throughout the second half.
“John August, the offensive coordinator, did a great job switching everything and kind of making the offense fit for Wes,” Blake Word, offensive line coach and run-game coordinator, said. “But, we just couldn’t get a rhythm and we put Q in and Q just stepped up. It’s like Michael Jordan’s flu game, just stepped up and won it for us.”
Last week’s hero, running back Kyshawn Richards, praised Palmer for doing what was needed.
“He stepped up and played a role that nobody else on this team could have played,” Richards said. “So for him to do that and come out of a position he usually plays and help us win the game that was big for him and big for the team, so we are nothing but supportive for him.”
The Brahmas offense woke up on the second drive of the third quarter when Palmer connected with receiver Damaris August for a 22-yard score.
Late in the third quarter, the Pierce defense forced a fumble, recovering on the Antelope Valley 26-yard line.
Running back Sterling Salguero took it into the endzone on the first play of the drive.
Early in the fourth quarter, the defense came through again for the Brahmas with a safety off of a forced fumble, bringing the score to 17-16.
The Brahmas quickly took the lead on the first play of the drive following the punt. Richards went 50 yards on the first play to give Pierce a 22-17 lead.
“My whole mindset coming out into the second half was I just need to make a play,” Richards said. “And that 50-yard touchdown was the play we needed to get the game back in order.”
With just over two minutes left in the game, the Marauders offense made its way into the redzone, getting to the Pierce 14.
The defense looked to put the game away on the next play when defensive lineman Eric Mateo forced a fumble that the Brahmas recovered.
The Brahmas were unable to move the ball, and with one minute remaining, the punt team came out on the field, but a Marauders roughing the kicker penalty gave Pierce a first down. Two kneel downs later the Brahmas came home with a 22-17 victory.
The win ends the year on a high note for the Brahmas, who had an emotional ride throughout the season.
“I can not say enough about this group of kids,” Word said. “It’s tough to put into words, especially after a win like this and what this season has been, the firing of coach Sabolic and just all the stuff this team has been through.”