A conference title is hard to come by. Winning back-to-back conference titles is even harder. But the Pierce College football team did just that Saturday.
The 24-23 victory over the Valley College Monarchs, earned the Brahmas their second consecutive Pacific Conference title, the Victory bell and a spot in the American Championship Bowl.
Pierce head coach Efrain Martinez talked about what it took for his team to repeat as conference champions.
“A lot of hard work off season, great recruiting, great attitudes on the kids, a lot of tutoring going on in the classroom and finally coaching,” said Martinez.
The game couldn’t have started any better for the Brahmas, as Pierce jumped out to an early 17-0 lead.
A reoccurring theme throughout the game was the ability of Pierce quarterback Exavier Johnson to find wide receiver Damon Julian.
The Johnson-to-Julian connection resulted in an early touchdown and a 45-yard gain on the second offensive play of the game for the Brahmas.
“They were on fire,” said Martinez. “We kind of stepped away from them in the second half but you know what we ran out the clock we had to do what we had to do our defense stepped up and played well.” said Martinez.
Johnson finished the game with 268 yards passing and three total touchdowns. Julian meanwhile had eight receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown.
“Damon Julian is a great receiver,” said Johnson. “He is gonna be great at the next level.” “We just took the easy things, whatever they gave us easy we just took.”
Martinez had no hesitation in calling Johnson the Conference Player of the Year following the game.
Valley would get on the board early in the second quarter as Germi Morrison scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Brahmas would score what turned out to be their final points of the game when Johnson found Ty Harris alone in the middle of the field, with 2:40 left until halftime. With the score at 24-7, the game slowed from the frantic pace of the Brahmas no huddle offense and took a slow and methodical Monarch friendly pace.
Pierce had their best defensive showing of the year against Valley Saturday. Linebacker Brandon Reeves once again led the defense, Tallying tackle no.100 on the season in the second quarter. In his two-year Pierce career, Reeves now has over 200 tackles.
“We blitzed a lot,” Said Martinez. “He’s a heck of a player [Reeves], he’s a division 1 player, he’s a player that makes coaches look good.”
The game was special for one of Pierce’s Jersey boys, as fullback Mike Pearson had his family fly out for the game. Pearson’s mother, Carmen Santiago, a U.S. Army Veteran flew out on Veterans Day to see her son play.
“It means everything,” said Pearson. “Everything I did on the field today I did for my mom, she came 3,000 miles to see play and I had to do what I had to do.”
The Jersey boys are a group of 19 players from the state of New Jersey that are on the Pierce roster.
As play continued into the second, the Pierce lead dwindled as Valley was able to adjust and shut out the Brahma offense.
A reason behind the near Brahma collapse was their turnovers. Interceptions and fumbles have put a strain on the defense all season and caused games that should have been over at the half to be late field-goal thrillers. Johnson had three interceptions and a late fumble against the Monarchs.
The play of the game came late in the fourth quarter as Pierce sophomore defensive end Franky Anaya blocked a Monarch extra point attempt that would have tied the game.
“That’s what he [Franky Anaya] does all the time,” said Martinez. “That’s how he is going to earn his title, his scholarship,” said Martinez.
Martinez also gave credit to special teams coordinator Bill Coan and his schemes upfront that caused pressure on the Valley kickers.
“We noticed a few things on their punt team and we wanted to attack,” said Coan. “We had an extra week so we put in some shifting and it worked most of the time” “In the second half they attacked us with it and ran that fake punt, but other than that they had to punt real quick we had a good rush on it,” said Coan, who also coaches the linebackers.
Also in attendance was Pierce College President Kathleen Burke-Kelly. Burke-Kelly talked about the excitement surrounding the football team after the game.
“Its very exciting especially since I’m such just a big football fan myself,” said Burke-Kelly.
Burke-Kelly also confirmed she plans to attend the Brahmas bowl game.
The Brahmas will now play San Bernardino Valley College Saturday night. Kickoff for the American Championship Bowl is scheduled for 6 p.m. at John Shepard Stadium.
Martinez talked briefly about who he wanted to play next
“It doesn’t even matter,” said Martinez. “Because we are going to play them at home and that’s freaking exciting.”