Nick Arbuckle passed for 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 72-yard pass to Shaquan Hall, but the defense for Pierce (8-2, 6-1) was the difference as two different Brahmas returned interceptions for touchdowns, including a pivotal 100-yard pick-six by Bobby Baker on the final play of the first half.
Glendale (6-4, 4-3) trailed, 17-7, late in the first half, but drove to the Pierce 1 yard-line as time was winding down. On the final play of the half, Sean Murphy threw a pass into the end zone that Baker intercepted about two yards deep. Rather than take a knee and end the half, the 6-3 sophomore safety alertly brought the ball out of the end zone and ended up carrying it all the way up the right sideline for (officially) a 100-yard interception return (only the yardage between the goal lines is counted in college, unlike the NFL) that proved to be the pivotal play of the game.
Just a week ago on the same field, it appeared that Pierce had lost any chance of qualifying for the American Bowl after a 36-13 loss to Santa Monica. The Corsairs dominated the game and celebrated on the field afterwards. But after the game came the announcement from the SCFA that Santa Monica was on probation for a recruiting violation - according to The Roundup, the student-run newspaper of Pierce College, the violation was that Santa Monica coach Gifford Lindheim was part of a high school all-star game - and therefore ineligible for a postseason bowl berth. That meant this Saturday's game, which was for second place in the American-Pacific, was also for a bowl bid.
Pierce started the game strong, taking a 3-0 lead on a 24-yard field goal by Daniel Schlorf midway through the first quarter. Then fullback Zach Mumford scored on a 3-yard run with 2:12 left in the quarter, capping a 7-play drive on which Calvin Howard had broken off runs of 24 and 19 yards for the Brahmas. The lead reached 17-0 when Arbuckle threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Martinez early in the second quarter. That came after a bit of good fortune when offensive lineman Danny Smith picked up an Arbuckle fumble and not only retained possession but advanced it 3 yards.
To that point, the Brahma defense had allowed Glendale just one first down on offense. But the Vaqueros got on the board quickly when, on the next play from scrimmage, quarterback Sean Murphy threw a short pass to halfback Marquise McGuire that the speedy McGuire turned into a 69-yard touchdown play just 20 seconds after Pierce's last touchdown. That made it 17-7 and seemed to turn the momentum in Glendale's favor. Pierce drove deep into Glendale territory midway through the second quarter and tried a fake field goal play that came up just short. And then the Vaqueros got a break when linebacker Marcus Tappan intercepted an Arbuckle pass and returned it to the Pierce 46 with 2:03 left in the first half.
Glendale then drove deep into Brahma territory as the clock wound down, the drive kept alive thanks to a personal foul penalty against Pierce and aided on the next play by a pass interference penalty in the end zone that moved to the ball to the 2 yard-line. Then McGuire ran the ball to the 1. But on the next play, with the Vaqueros a yard away from cutting the deficit to just 3 points, with Glendale set to receive the second half kickoff, Baker grabbed the errant Murphy pass and took it the distance to make it 24-7.
And in the third quarter, Pierce took complete control of the game with 17 more points. Glendale had a chance to cut into the deficit with a field goal, but Dan Blackford's 27-yard attempt hit the left upright. Three plays later, Arbuckle threw a short pass to Hall that the speedy receiver turned into a 72-yard touchdown play that made it 31-7. Pierce took possession later in the quarter on an intercepion by Jay'Onn Myles, and on the next play reserve back Jacob Wims broke free for a 46-yard run. That set up a 41-yard field goal by Schlorf that made it 34-7. Then came Schooley's interception at midfield that the linebacker returned for his pick-six that made it 41-7 and assured the Brahmas of a victory and a bowl berth.
Glendale got a safety on a bizarre play midway through the fourth quarter. Pierce's Isaiah Anderson intercepted a Murphy pass in the end zone, tried to bring it out, and fumbled just after he crossed the goal line; Brandon Glass fell on the ball in the end zone for Pierce, and the officials brought the ball out to the 20. But before the Brahma offense could run a play, the officials huddled and decided that Anderson had indeed crossed the goal line and awarded a safety to the Vaqueros. After receiving the free kick, Glendale added another on a 14-yard pass from Murphy to William Fennessy to close out the scoring.
For Pierce, Arbuckle completed 21 of 36 passes for 337 yards, 3 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. Tight End Tyler Kolodny had a huge night with 8 catches for 117 yards, and Martinez had 6 catches for 33 yards and a touchdown. Hall had 3 catches for 97 yards including the 72-yard touchdown. Howard led Brahma rushers with 62 yards on 8 carries, and Wims had 50 yards on 4 carries. And of course the defense scored two touchdowns on the inteception returns by Baker and Schooley.
For Glendale, Murphy had a rough night, completing just 13 of 34 passes for 141 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. McGuire had a big night, however, leading all rushers with 72 yards on 21 carries and also catching 4 passes for 83 yards and a score. On defense, the standouts were Glendale's excellent set of linebackers as team MVP Noche Nwofer had 2 sacks, Chris Riley had 2 interceptions and Tappan had one interception and one quarterback sack.
The win puts Pierce in the American Bowl against the top-ranked team in the American Division, Chaffey, with the game expected to be played in Rancho Cucamonga next Saturday. Glendale finishes 6-4 overall and 4-3 in conference but can take pride in posting the first winning season for the program since 2007.
L.A. Pierce Brahmas 41, Glendale Vaqueros 16
Saturday, November 16, 2013 - 7 pm - John Shepard Stadium - Woodland Hills
American Division - Pacific Conference
P - FG Schlorf 24 yds 7:21 (3-0)
P - Mumford 3 yd run (Schlorf kick) 2:12 (10-0)
P - Martinez 3 yd pass from Arbuckle (Schlorf kick) 10:08 (17-0)
G - McGuire 69 yd pass from Murphy (Blackford kick) 9:48 (17-7)
P - Baker 100 yd interception return (Schlorf kick) 0:00 (24-7)
P - Hall 72 yd pass from Arbuckle (Schlorf kick) 6:18 (31-7)
P - FG Schlorf 41 yds 1:27 (34-7)
P - Schooley 50 yd interception return (Schlorf kick) 0:47.7 (41-7)
G - Safety - ball downed in end zone 7:47 (41-9)
G - Fennessy 14 yd pass from Murphy (Blackford kick) 6:08 (41-16)
First Downs: Pierce 22 (6 rush, 16 pass), Glendale 18 (5 rush, 6 pass, 7 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Pierce 39-160, Glendale 32-104
Passing Yds: Pierce 365, Glendale 141
Comp-Att-Int: Pierce 23-38-3, Glendale 13-34-4
Return Yds: Pierce 269, Glendale 239
Sacks-Yds: Pierce 2-9, Glendale 3-18
Fumbles-Lost: Pierce 4-0, Glendale 1-0
Penalties-Yds: Pierce 12-136, Glendale 6-40
Time of Possession: Pierce 35:04, Glendale 24:56
Rushing: P 3-Howard 8-62, 34-Wims 4-50, 2-De.Jones 6-20, 20-Clayton 6-20, 47-Mumford 4-16, 64-Schlorf 1-9, 12-Ahmadi 1-5, 57-Smith 0-3, 4-Arbuckle 7-(-15), team 2-(-20); G 22-McGuire 21-72, 16-Martinez 8-38, 54-Sanchez 1-3, 12-Murphy 2-(-9)
Passing: P 4-Arbuckle 21-36-3-337, 2 TDs; 12-Ahmadi 2-2-0-28; G 12-Murphy 13-34-4-141, 2 TDs
Receiving: P 44-Kolodny 8-117, 81-Martinez 6-33, 8-Hall 3-97, 35-Shamburger 2-41, 87-K.Jones 1-45, 82-Torres 1-17, 21-Davis 1-8, 9-Nelson 1-8; G 22-McGuire 4-83, 2-Bernard 4-31, 81-Mays 2-17, 19-Fennessy 2-7, 8-Kap 1-3
Sacks-Yds: P 11-Johnson 1-7, 93-Morgan 1-2; G 9-Nwofer 2-12, 6-Tappan 1-6
Interceptions-Ret Yds: P 7-Baker 1-100, 58-Schooley 1-50, 5-Myles 1-0, 28-Anderson 1-0; G 65-Riley 2-22, 6-Tappan 1-40
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: none
Punters: P 64-Schlorf 2.40.5 avg; G 48-Ascarrunz 8-36.3 avg
Kick Returns: P 21-Davis 1-40, 2-De.Jones 1-25, 86-Reddick 1-16; G 5-Weston 3-76, 7-McKinnon 2-47, 2-Bernard 1-28
Punt Returns: P 17-Lyons 2-37, 5-Myles 1-(-1); G none
Return of Blocked FG: P none; G 21-Rising-Barnwell 1-26
Missed FG: P 64-Schlorf 56 yds (short), 54 yds (blocked); G 47-Blackford 40 yds (short), 27 yds (hit left post)
Notes: LA Pierce entered #5-American and improves to 8-2 overall, 6-1 in conference; Glendale entered #6-American and falls to 6-4 and 4-3. Smith recovered an Arbuckle fumble for Pierce and advanced it 3 yards; Martinez' TD came 2 plays later. The key play of the game was when Glendale had the ball at the Pierce 1 late in the 1st half and Baker intercepted Murphy's pass in the end zone and returned it 100+ yards for the score with the clock at zeroes. 27-McClain blocked the field goal for Glendale. The safety came when Anderson intercepted a pass in the end zone, brought it across the goal line and fumbled; 38-Glass recovered the fumble in the end zone for Pierce. A berth in the American Bowl was on the line as well as 2nd place in the American-Pacific (1st-place Santa Monica is not bowl eligible).