“We fought,” said head football coach John Rome after the 43-23 loss to the number two nationally ranked College of the Canyons Cougars.
Despite the lopsided score, the Vaqs gave the undefeated Cougars all they could handle on Oct.18 at Sartoris field. The loss drops the Vaqs to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play on the season.
The Cougars pass rushing ability gave Vaq quarterback Dylan Martinez problems all game long. Martinez was sacked five times and completed under 50 percent of his passes, but still was able to throw for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for another score.
The running game that the Vaqs have relied heavily on all season was unable to gain consistent yards against a stout front seven of the Cougars. Willie Youngblood was the leading rusher for the Vaqs, carrying the ball 17 times for 66 yards. Lavelle Peterson carried the ball 11 times for 46 yards.
Euedell Clayton was the leading receiver for the Vaqs with 49 yards on just one catch that resulted in a touchdown. Nick Bryant had four catches for 31 yards and Jason McNeil had one grab for 41 yards.
J.P. Curvey led the defense with 10 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an on-side kick recovery. Max Williams had eight tackles. Andres Reynoso, Jesse Halberstadt, Victor Lopez, and Devin Swoope each combined to have two sacks.
In spite of a 14-0 score at the end of the first quarter, the Vaqs fought back to tie the game just before the end of the first half when Martinez connected with Kenny Suber on a 16-touchdown strike.
However, the Cougars began to flex their muscles again in the third quarter, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions of the half.
The Vaqs came clawing back on their next drive, capping off an eight-play drive with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to a wide-open Clayton. After the point after touchdown attempt cut the score, Cougars lead to seven points with three minutes and 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then the momentum shifted back in favor of the Cougars. After forcing a punt, the Vaqs were unable to move at all against an inspired Cougars defense. The Cougars blocked the Vaq punt on fourth down and recovered the ball on the 20-yard line. They were also able to capitalize on the blocked punt on the very next play, scoring a touchdown.
After a two-point conversion by the Cougars, the head- scratching decisions continued for the Cougars, who attempted an on-side kick. Although they were unable to recover the ball, they did score on their next possession putting the game out of reach for the Vaqs 43-21.
The Vaqs final score of the game came on a botched snap that went over the head of the Cougars punter, leading to a safety.
“That’s a good football team,” said Rome after the game. “It’s the best team we will play all year. I’m proud of [my players], that they kept fighting and kept hitting back. But in the end [the Cougars] were a better football team, better athletes, but I wouldn’t trade my athletes for anyone.”
The Vaqs return home to player what will likely be their final game at Sartoris field this year Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. where they will take on Hancock College.