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No. 5 Ventura downs Vaqueros in opener, 44-6

Isaac Brown, left, and Russell Enholm put the clamps on a Ventura runner. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Isaac Brown, left, and Russell Enholm put the clamps on a Ventura runner. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Ventura College scored on six straight possessions in the first half and built a 34-0 halftime advantage on Saturday on the way to a 44-6 season-opening football win over SBCC at La Playa Stadium.

The Pirates, ranked No. 5 in the state preseason poll, took a 14-0 lead after one quarter on a 78-yard punt return by Alvin Pacheco and a 2-yard run by quarterback Ricky Town that capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive.

Cooper Garcia booted a pair of field goals wrapped around a 16-yard TD run by Thomas Duckett. Garcia's 32-yard field goal gave the Pirates a 27-0 lead with 2:07 to go in the second quarter.

Gerald Hickson started at QB for Santa Barbara and completed 6-of-11 passes for 59 yards with two interceptions. Joshua Evans relieved him early in the second quarter. Less than two minutes before halftime, an Evans' pass was tipped by Steven Nolasco right into the hands of teammate Jaylen Watson.

Watson returned the ball to the SBCC 29, then the Pirates got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Jake Constantine hit Kendric Mallory on a 33-yard wide receiver screen and two plays later, Constantine ran it in from the six to make it 34-0.

"I'm proud of the way our guys played," said SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos. "Our guys got after it and never chucked it in. We knew there was going to be some growing pains.

"We were planning to use several quarterbacks, though I think we ended up playing four guys. We have some young guys and it's important to see who can manage the game."

Hickson, Evans, Jeremiah Nicholson and Bradley Kleven all saw time at quarterback for the Vaqueros. Nicholson, a former Santa Barbara High star, was hit from behind on a scramble early in the fourth quarter and fumbled. He suffered an injury in the battle for the ball.

Duckett ran 17 times for 145 yards (8.5 average) and a TD to lead the Pirates. They used their big offensive line to pile up 317 yards on 41 tries for a 7.7 average. The visitors won the total yardage battle, 496-200.

Chayvis Curry, a 6-3 defensive lineman from Fresno, led the Vaquero defense with 11 tackles and a forced fumble. Lucas Olgiati intercepted a Town pass on Ventura's first series and recovered a fumble early in the third quarter and returned it 53 yards to the VC 15.

SBCC got to the 2-yard line on a pass interference before a fumble and an intentional grounding moved the ball back to the 10. Watson made his second interception on a pass in the flat on third-and-goal and returned it 88 yards for an apparent TD. The play was called back due to a block in the back at midfield.

The Vaqueros found the end zone on their last drive of the day. Kleven engineered a nine-play, 77-yard march, capped by a perfect eight-yard TD pass and leaping grab by Seth Fletscher.

"We're young and this was a learning experience," said Moropoulos. "That's why you play non-conference games, to learn about yourself and find out where you need to improve. We have to take care of the ball in the red zone."

 The Vaqueros will play their next two on the road, starting Saturday with a 1 p.m. game at West L.A.