By Dave Rogahn
Brandon Jones passed for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Ventura took advantage of a series of catastrophic mistakes by visiting Fullerton and posted a stunning 31-0 victory Saturday in the season opener for both teams at the VC Sportsplex.
The game featured two of the four teams that reached the playoffs last season in Southern California, and Fullerton carried a lofty #3 ranking into the game. But the 8th-ranked Pirates took advantage of two fumbles, an interception and a blocked field goal to score touchdowns, and the result was a game that was played much more evenly than the final score makes it look.
Ventura's first touchdown came on a 12-yard scoring pass from Jones to Jordan Nunnery two plays after Jesse Lemonaire forced and recovered a fumble by Fullerton's Trey Tinsley, giving the Pirates the ball at the Fullerton 17.
Ventura's second touchdown came seven plays after Blayne Bennett recovered a fumble by Fullerton's Anthony Wood near midfield. Jones again teamed with Nunnery, this time on a 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 left in the first quarter to make it 14-0.
Fullerton put together a long drive in the second quarter, reaching the Ventura 7 yard-line on the 14th play of the drive. But the Hornets, when faced with a fourth-and-goal from the 12, elected to try a 30-yard field goal. And when Donte Dorris broke in from the edge and blocked Thomas Bouldin's kick, the Pirates extended their lead when Devonte Smith picked up the loose ball and carried it 81 yards for a touchdown that pushed the Ventura lead to 21-0.
Ventura's final touchdown came late in the third quarter after defensive tackle Tre Haynes, who was a visible presence on the line all night, intercepted a screen pass and headed towards the end zone. He lost the ball just before crossing the goal line, but teammate Mark Zavala fell on the loose ball for the Pirates, pushing their advantage to 28-0.
Ventura added one last score when Jake Lanski booted a 25-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. That made it 31-0, and after that both teams substituted liberally for the remainder of the game.
Jones finished 17 for 31 passing for 194 yards, one interception and two touchdowns, and he also carried the ball 7 times for 41 yards to lead Pirate rushers. D.J. Martin had 4 catches for 75 yards. Nunnery had 3 catches for 22 yards and two touchdowns, and also had a would-be 72-yard punt return for a touchdown shortened by a penalty near midfield.
For Fullerton, Tinsley completed 13 of 27 passes for 78 yards and an interception. Jake Brito led all rushers with 55 yards on 16 carries, and Pop Thomas had 50 yards on 10 attempts.
Remarkably, most of the statistics were relatively even. Ventura outgained Fullerton, 304-239 in total offense, but the Hornets had more first downs (18-15), fewer penalties (9 for 70 yards compared to 14 for 122 yards) and more time of possession (33:42 to 26:18). At one point Ventura held a 21-0 lead despite holding the ball for just 6:16 out of 25:11 played to that point. But the Pirates took advantage of the big play to come away with a most emphatic win.
Ventura Pirates 31, Fullerton Hornets 0
Saturday, September 5, 2015 – 6 pm – Ventura College Sportsplex
V – Nunnery 12 yd pass from Jones (Kelly kick) 9:26 (7-0)
V – Nunnery 7 yd pass from Jones (Kelly kick) 1:49 (14-0)
V – D.Smith 81 yd return of blocked field goal (Kelly kick) 4:49 (21-0)
V – Zavala recovered fumble in end zone (Kelly kick) 3:05 (28-0)
V – FG Lanski 25 yds 11:09 (31-0)
First Downs: Ventura 15 (4 rush, 9 pass, 2 penalty), Fullerton 18 (11 rush, 4 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Ventura 34-110, Fullerton 43-126
Passing Yds: Ventura 194, Fullerton 113
Comp-Att-Int: Ventura 17-32-1, Fullerton 17-38-2
Return Yds: Ventura 174, Fullerton 69
Sacks-Yds: Ventura 3-21, Fullerton 1-6
Fumbles-Lost: Ventura 2-0, Fullerton 3-3
Penalties-Yds: Ventura 14-122, Fullerton 9-70
Time of Possession: Ventura 26:18, Fullerton 33:42
Rushing: V 5-Jones 7-31, 22-Brown 9-30, 28-Lugo 4-18, 25-Martin 5-11, 3-Beeson 6-11, 33-Ramos 1-7, 30-Oto 1-3, team 1-(-11); F 21-Brito 16-55, 16-Thomas 10-50, 27-Sam 3-13, 33-Butler 3-12, 8-Wood 3-6, 13-Hodges 2-1, 10-Kearon 3-(-1), 12-Tinsley –(-10)
Passing: V 5-Brandon Jones 17-31-1-194, 2 TDs; 12-Gangi 0-1-0-0; F 12-Tinsley 13-27-1-78, 13-Hodges 2-6-1-24, 10-Kearon 2-5-0-11
Receiving: V 25-Martin 4-75, 2-Nunnery 4-30, 6-Rodriguez 3-29, 3-Beeson 3-22, 11-Taylor 1-25, 88-Wolcott 1-10, 13-Hill 1-3; F 7-T.Williams 4-19, 5-Gainey 2-22, 43-Holt 2-20, 15-K.Taylor 2-9, 89-Wilder 1-9, 17-Keel 1-8, 27-Sam 1-8, 2-Moss 1-6, 6-Lowery 1-6, 21-Brito 1-6, 9-Markush 1-0
Interceptions-Ret Yds: V 55-Haynes 1-22, 21-Blank 1-0; F 94-Lomeli 1-12
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: V 12-Bennett, 53-Lemonaire, 92-Weir-Soley; F none
Sacks-Yds: V 53-Lemonaire 1-16, 94-Franklin 1-3, 56-Zavala 1-2
Punters: V 80-Diorio 7-35.2 avg; F 64-Bouldin 7-46.6 avg
Kick Returns: V 25-Martin 1-7; F 25-Lacey 2-33, 2-Moss 2-21
Punt Returns: V 2-Nunnery 3-64
Misc Returns: V 4-D.Smith 1-81 (return of blocked field goal)
Missed FG: V 39-Kelly 27 yds (hit left post); F 64-Bouldin 30 yds (blocked)
Notes: A Stunner! Season opener for both teams but Fullerton entered ranked #3 in South and #5 in Calif in preseason poll; Ventura entered #8 in South and #14 in Calif. Lemonaire caused and recovered a fumble with his sack, recovering the ball at the Hornet 15 and setting up Ventura's 1st TD. Ventura's 2nd TD came after Bennett recovered a Wood fumble at the VC 47. 26-Dorris blocked the field goal that Smith returned for the TD. On VC's 4th TD Haynes intercepted the pass and fumbled just before crossing the goal line; Zavala recovered the loose ball in the end zone for the TD. Nunnery had what would have been a 73-yd TD punt returned shortened by a penalty.