The season opener for the Vaquero’s Saturday began with a sadly familiar tune, they let a 14-0 lead slip away in the second half to lose 18-14 to the Orange Coast Pirates at Moyse Stadium.
“It’s really frustrating, we played so well in the first half,” said head coach John Cicuto after the game. “But we made so many mental mistakes in the second half, and that cost us the game.”
The penalties seemed to hurt the Vaqueros, especially in the second half when they swung all the momentum to the Pirates. Sophomore quarterback David Parker threw an interception intended for Wide Receiver, Riley Thomas who then retaliated with a penalty on the Pirates defender.
That play put the stamp on the Vaqueros’ loss of control over the game. “We had some critical fouls that kept us from winning,” Cicuto said.
The game began strong for Glendale with an array of inspiring defensive and offensive plays that lit a fire under the team.
The first offensive drive for the Vaqueros was aided with a series of penalties against the Pirates. The Pirates turned in a total of 15 penalties in the game that gave 128 yards to the Vaqueros, while the Vaqueros’ 10 penalties cost 78 yards.
Justin Smith of the Vaqueros rushed the ball in for a 1-yard touchdown with 9:20 to go in the first quarter. Daniel Mazal completed the kick to make the score 7-0.
In the second-half with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter, Smith took a hand-off, broke two tackles and ran down-field and was tackled midway by Pirates defender Kelvin Beatty.
Sheer determination and some creativity prompted Smith to flip the ball laterally to teammate, Getro Eliza, who ran it into the end zone. Mazal kicked another point making the score 14-0 and giving the Vaqueros the last hurrah of the game.
Pirates quarterback Kevin Higa took advantage of the Vaqueros shortly after with an array of short passes against the secondary of Glendale, which included three passes for touchdowns.
Higa finished the game with a total of 199 passing yards, but not all was lost in the first game for the Vaqueros.
A strong performance by the punter, Rony Zelaya, had the coaching staff very excited and was one of the positive aspects of the game. Zelaya punted 10 times for a total of 359 yards with an average of 35.9 yards a punt.
“This is the first time that we could walk off the field with some pride,” Cicuto Said. ” We could never do that last year. They (Pirates) have to feel real lucky to get out of this with a win.”
The Vaqueros offense managed to give the defense of the Pirates some trouble with a good mixture of rushing and passing in the first half, but seemed to lose their step defensively in the latter stages of the second half.
This slow down allowed three Pirates touchdowns in a span of 8 minutes.
The Pirates had better control of the game with eight more first downs than the Vaqueros and a total of 367 yards compared to 192 yards from the Vaqueros. Vaqueros had two more plays attempted in the game.
The problem may have come from the uncertainty of who the starting quarterback is going to be for the Vaqueros.
Both Adam Freeman and David Parker got substantial minutes and the coaching staff is still uncertain who will get the bulk of the playing time for the rest of the season.
The Vaqueros only completed 30 percent of their passes compared to 58 percent by the Pirates.
The Vaqueros weren’t able to produce anything in the final stretch of the game, struggling to get past their own 25-yard line, which resulted in two sacks during their final drive.
The Vaqueros defense did force three fumbles but only recovered one in the second quarter by Leon Walker.
The game was winnable for the Vaqueros, but in the last minutes the Pirates held out and gave the Vaqueros their first loss of the year making them 0-1.
Despite the loss, Glendale is looking forward to a better season.
The Vaqueros went 4-6 in conference play last season and are boasting an improved roster this season.
The Vaqueros will face San Diego Mesa College Saturday in San Diego and will play at home on Sept. 27 against West Los Angeles College.