Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for Valley.
For the fourth year in a row, the cross-town rivalry for the Victory Bell ended with LA Valley College on top.
Saturday’s game was an emotional rollercoaster, with the Brahmas coming back from 16 points down in the fourth quarter to take the lead, only to see the Monarchs retain the crown in the final seconds of a 46-43 game.
“They played their heart out. It’s just, things happen,” assistant coach John Austin said. “They’re a relentless group of guys. One of the toughest I’ve been around in my five years here.”
Pierce struggled to move the ball in the first quarter, totalling only 38 yards on three drives, and quickly found themselves down 13.
At the start of the second quarter, the Pierce defense once again had their backs to the wall with Valley on the Brahmas 25-yard line. However, cornerback Dimetri King gave the Brahmas life with his conference-leading third interception of the season down at the two-yard line.
After a one-yard loss, the Brahmas offense finally showed life when quarterback Jonathan Saavedra hooked up with receiver Christian Graves on a 99-yard touchdown pass, a school record.
“It happened all in the blink of an eye,” Graves said. “As soon as I caught it I just took it. I thought I was going to get hawked, but I just kept pushing.”
Valley answered back, driving 63 yards on eight plays in under three minutes, extending their lead to 20-7.
Energized by the long touchdown on their previous drive, the Brahmas came out and responded. The 75-yard drive was capped off by running back Doma Morris driving two Monarch defenders into the endzone on a 12-yard touchdown run.
The offense didn’t have to wait long to try again. The Brahmas defense picked off Valley quarterback Patrick Gonzales on the first play of the drive, giving the offense the ball back at the Monarch 11.
Three plays later quarterback Cam Perry took it in from four yards out, and the extra point tied the game at 20.
Valley answered back with a field goal at the end of the quarter, and the teams headed into halftime with the Monarchs up 23-20.
The third quarter went much like the first for the Brahmas. Valley scored twice, upping their lead to 36-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
With 9:19 left in the game, the Brahmas had the ball still facing a 16-point deficit. It looked as though Pierce was set to turn the ball over on downs, but an unsportsmanlike penalty against Valley on fourth down kept the drive alive.
Running back David Kates responded with a 50-yard run on the next play, taking the ball down to the Monarch two-yard line. Saavedra finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown, and connected with Graves on the two-point conversion, cutting the Monarch’s lead to eight.
“We were just trying to make plays,” Saavedra said. “That’s really what it was I told the guys we don’t have to look at the scoreboard. We just keep on making plays and we’ll get something going.”
The defense came out and shut down the Valley offense, forcing a three-and-out. A bad snap and fumble on the punt attempt gave the Brahmas the ball down at the three-yard line.
One play later Kates plunged into the end zone, and Marcus Johnson took in the two-point conversion to tie the game with 4:29 to play.
Head coach Carlos Woods attributed the fourth quarter comeback to the attitude on the sideline.
“We had that whole mentality that we’re going to play for 60 minutes,” Woods said. “I told them there’s no such thing as an on/off switch, you’ve got to give 100 percent every single snap.”
With the momentum in their favor, the Brahmas defense came out looking to make a play, and on third down Jayme Vicente-Colon did. Vicente-Colon intercepted Gonzales and took it back 44 yards to give Pierce its first lead of the game at 43-36 with 2:25 left in the game.
On the next drive, the defense came up with their fourth interception, this time by Jermaine Williams.
The offense moved backwards, losing 21-yards on the drive, and forced to punt from their own 11.
With under one minute to play and a seven-point lead, and already having two kicks blocked in the game, Woods chose to eat the safety and put the game in the hands of his defense.
“No second thoughts whatsoever,” Woods said. “I’m always playing a play ahead. Eric was doing a really good job kicking off. And there were a couple times when we didn’t have the best protection in certain situations when they brought pressure. So I felt like in that type of situation I don’t want to give up a quick score.”
A good kick return put Valley near midfield, and two plays later the Monarchs were on the Brahmas 12-yard line with 10 seconds left to play.
Gonzales made up for his three interceptions, finding Kareem Miles in the endzone for his third passing touchdown of the game, giving Valley a one-point lead with four seconds to play.
The two-point conversion made it 46-43, and a last ditch kick return by the Brahmas came up short.
“Take a picture of that,” said receiver Cherrod Joe as he left the field, pointing to the scoreboard. “It won’t look like that next year.”
This is the second year in a row that the game has come down to the final seconds. Last year’s contest ended 7-6 after a failed two-point conversion and a blocked field goal at the end of the game.
“Same feeling with the same result,” Saavedra said. “It’s just different because this game was a shootout.”
While the Brahmas will have to wait another year to try and ring the Victory Bell, they won’t wait long to get back on the field. They travel to College of the Desert this coming Saturday to take on the Roadrunners at 7 p.m.