Pierce Uses Big Plays to Vault Past Ventura

Thomas Herringshaw passed for 370 yards and TDs of 53 and 69 yards as host L.A. Pierce (1-4, 1-2) used a series of big plays to topple Ventura (3-2, 2-1) and post their first win of the season October 2nd in Woodland Hills. Ramon Perry finished with 7 catches for 207 yards, including the 69-yard TD toss from Herringshaw and a 75-yards reception that set up another score for the Brahmas. 

And short-yardage RB Will German came through each time, scoring 3 TDs on short runs.

It was a hard-hitting game, and tempers occasionally flared.  Each team fed off the emotion and had a number of big plays, but Pierce simply had more of them.  Their speedy trio of Danny Burney, Eddie Hunter and Perry proved to be too fast to be contained, and they were responsible for either scoring or setting up all four second-half touchdowns for the Brahmas. 

In the beginning of the game, however, it looked like Ventura had a considerable advantage because of their size.  On their opening drive, the Pirates covered 57 yards on just 6 plays as Alex Garfio used his huge offensive line – all five starters weigh at least 300 pounds – and gained 26 yards on his first 4 carries.  Then QB Jimmie Griffin completed a short pass to Nick Pierson, followed by a 17-yard TD toss to Charles Dillon to give Ventura a lead less than 3 minutes into the game.  Jonathan Johnson's extra point try went wide left to keep it 6-0.

But that would be Ventura's last extended scoring drive of the night, and once Pierce got the ball they quickly erased the early deficit with a drive that featured, appropriately enough, a pair of big plays, both of which were passes from Herringshaw to Mike Guevara.  The first, a 29-yard play, got the ball into Ventura territory.  The second, a 38-yard strike, got the ball to the 1-yard line.  On came Pierce's short yardage team, led by QB Roland White and RB Will German.  One play later, German plowed into the end zone to put the Brahmas on the board less than 5 minutes into the game.  The extra point was blocked by Ventura's Andrew Henggeler, keeping the game tied, 6-6.

After that, both defenses stiffened and neither team could move the ball until Pierce put together a 14-play drive midway through the second quarter, by far their longest drive of the game.  A 24-yard Herringshaw pass to Perry got the Brahmas near midfield, and a 15-yard toss to Melvin Johnson moved the ball to the Pirate 23.  One play later, Herringshaw hit Burney for a 19-yard gain that got the ball to the 1-yard line.  On came the short-yardage unit.  The Ventura dug in for the goal line stand, turning German away twice and White away once, setting up a 4th and goal from the 1.  But the fourth time proved to be the right time as German powered across the goal line from a yard out to make it 12-6.  Pierce just missed extending its lead another 2 points when on the conversion DT-turned-TE Mark Sutton wasn't able to control a Herringshaw pass in the back of the end zone before falling out of bounds.  This 6-1/2 minute drive was the only scoring of the second quarter, giving Pierce a 6-point lead at intermission.

In the second half, every scoring play for both teams either came on or immediately after a big play.  The fireworks began on Pierce's first series when Perry got behind the Ventura defense.  Herringshaw spotted him and lofted a beautiful spiral, which Perry ran under and carried into the end zone for a 69-yard TD play.  And after a Venture punt, Pierce extended its lead to 25-6 when Herringshaw connected with Burney on a 53-yard pass play.  Burney, like Perry a transfer from College of the Canyons, burst through the Ventura secondary and, like Perry, got behind the defense.  At this point it looked like Pierce was in control of the game.

But they would soon lose control of their emotions, and that threatened to let Ventura back into the game.  On the ensuing kickoff, Ventura's Laydell Shelton took the kick up the left sideline near midfield.  Emotions had been running high on both sides, and after the play there was a bit of a dust-up in front of the Pierce bench.  Coaches and officials moved in quickly to prevent a melee, but on the next play the fired-up Ventura squad came up with a big play of their own when Griffin found Chris Brewer near the goal line.  He was covered by a pair of Pierce defenders, but the 6-3 Brewer leaped into the air and grabbed the ball a la Randy Moss, and then stepped into the end zone.  Johnson's extra point made it 25-13 exactly 4 minutes into the second half.

And on the next play Ventura got a big break when Pierce return man Hunter muffed the kickoff.  Ventura's Dante Jackson recovered the loose ball at the Brahma 8-yard line, putting the Pirates in prime position to erase nearly all of Pierce's one-time 19-point lead.

But then the Pierce defense regained control, standing strong and maintaining their 2-score lead.  A pair of Griffin passes fell incomplete, and on 3rd down Pierce's Kevin Thomas sacked Griffin for a 2-yard loss back to the 10.  So on came Johnson, who kicked a 27-yard field goal to make it 25-16.  But that allowed Pierce to maintain a comfortable lead, and by the time Ventura scored again, the game's outcome would no longer be in doubt.

On their next series, Pierce drove to near midfield and faced a 4th and 9 from the Ventura 47.  On came the punting team, but instead of kicking the ball away the Brahmas tried a pass play, centering the ball to up-man Roland White.  But Ventura's Marcus Bradley leaped high into the air and knocked White's pass out of the air to give the Pirates the ball on downs.  A pair of personal foul penalties on Pierce – one after the fake punt and one on the next play – got Ventura to the Brahma 23, but the drive stalled moments later.  On came Johnson for another field goal, but his 38-yard try was well short, keeping the score 25-16.

And two plays later, Pierce got the big play it needed to put the game away when Herringshaw passed to Perry for a 75-yard play.  It was a mid-range pass, but Perry's burst of speed made it a long-gainer.  Finally, as Perry weaved back and forth through the Ventura defensive backfield, the Pirates closed in on him and managed to knock him out of bounds before he reached the goal line.  But that just allowed German & company one more short yardage situation, and German scored on a 2-yard plunge moments later to make it 31-16. 

When Ventura got the ball back, they gained one first down on an 11-yard pass from Griffin to Pierson, but then they were forced to punt, which allowed Pierce's Eddie Hunter to atone for his muffed kickoff and get on the scoresheet.  Taking the kick at his own 22, Hunter burst down the right sideline untouched for a 78-yard TD, making it 38-16 and basically sealing the win for the Brahmas.  Though after a series of heartbreaking losses this season, Pierce had to wonder if they could really count this one as a win just yet.

And actually, it got a little interesting in the game's final minutes.  Following a Ventura punt, Pierce got the ball near midfield when Herringshaw tried a pass, but Ventura's Rudy Velasquez snatched the ball away from the Brahma receiver for an interception.  A 20-yard pass from Griffin to Garfio got the ball into Pierce territory, and a 17-yard pass to Brewer got the ball inside the 20.  But then Pierce's Alain Karatepeyan, who was a terror on defense all night, threw Griffin for a 7-yard loss, Karatepeyan's third sack of the game.  And on the next three plays, all incomplete passes, Karatepeyan was pressuring Griffin on each play.  That turned the ball back to Pierce, who ran three plays and then lined up to punt with just under 3 minutes left.

But the punt proved to be a big play for Ventura as Nick Pierson broke through and blocked the kick, giving the ball to the Pirates at the 18.  Moments later, Griffin connected with Brewer on a 10-yard TD pass to make it 38-22.  And on the conversion attempt, Griffin threw a short pass to Pierson, who just barely got the ball across the goal line before being tackled to make it 38-24.

With just over a minute left, Pierce tried to run out the clock but Ventura used their timeouts to force another punt.  And for a moment it looked like Ventura could have a miraculous comeback working when the punt snap bounced past punter Fullerton down inside the 10-yard line.  But there was a flag on the play; Pierce was called for a personal foul on the play, negating the bad snap and giving the Brahmas a first down.  And after that, they could finally run out the clock and claim their first victory of the season.

It was a tough loss for Ventura, leaving Canyons as the only unbeaten team in division play in the WSC-North.  Griffin completed 18 of 38 passes for 213 yards and 3 TDs, while Garfio led Pirate rushers with 82 yards on 15 carries.  Remarkably, Ventura didn't commit a turnover the whole game (while forcing two Pierce turnovers) and still lost.


1st Quarter:
V – Dillon 17 yd pass from Griffin (kick wide left) 12:10 -- 0-6
P – German 1 yd run (kick blocked) 10:04 -- 6-6                            

2nd Quarter:
P – German 1 yd run (pass failed) 5:34 -- 12-6

3rd Quarter:
P – Perry 69 yd pass from Herringshaw (Fullerton kick) 12:59 -- 19-6
P – Burney 53 yd pass from Herringshaw (kick failed – bad snap) 11:18 -- 25-6
V – Brewer 46 yd pass from Griffin (Johnson kick) 11:00 -- 25-13
V – FG Johnson 27 yds 9:17 -- 25-16

4th Quarter:
P – German 2 yd run (run failed) 13:27 -- 31-16
P – Hunter 78 yd punt return (Fullerton kick) 10:55 -- 38-16
V – Brewer 10 yd pass from Griffin (Pierson pass from Griffin) 1:19 -- 38-24


Rushing: P:  26-R.Davis 14-32, 43-Wilson 6-26, 13-Herringshaw 6-15, 31-German 6-7, 12-White 1-0, 5-Perry 2-(-6), team 4-(-9) V:  22-Garfio 15-82, 6-Pierson 1-2, 12-Michael White 4-(-2), 3-Griffin 8-(-22)

Passing: P:  13-Herringshaw 13-25-1-370, 2 TDs; 12-White 0-1-0-0 V:  3-Griffin 18-38-0-213, 3 TDs

Receiving: P:  5-Perry 7-207, 10-Guevara 3-76, 2-Burney 2-72, 18-M.Johnson 1-15 V: 2-Dillon 6-40, 7-Brewer 4-91, 22-Garfio 3-33, 6-Pierson 3-27, 25-McCulley 2-22

Int-Ret Yds: P:  none V:  33-Velasquez 1-0      

Fum Rec: P:  none V:  37-D. Jackson 

Sacks-Yds: P:  4-Karatepeyan 3-25, 92-Tharps 1-7, 95-K.Thomas 1-2 V:  99-L.Garcia 1-6

Punters: P:  16-Fullerton 3-34.7 avg; 82-Barrera 1 blocked V:  11-Johnson 7-38.1 avg

Missed FG: P:  none V:  Johnson 38 yds (short)

Kick Blocks: P:  none V:  78-Henggler (extra point), 6-Pierson (punt)

Kick Ret: P:  5-Perry 2-51, 3-Hunter 2-0, 2-Burney 1-31 V:  2-Dillon 3-82, 5-Shelton 2-73, 24-Walker 2-52

Punt Ret: P:  3-Hunter 2-72, 5-Perry 2-13 V:  2-Dillon 2-14

Notes:  Pierce entered 0-4 while Ventura entered 3-1 and ranked #11 in South.  Perry also had a 68-yd punt return for TD called back on a penalty.  Herringshaw played most of the way at QB for Pierce but in goal line situations White played QB and German played RB.  Ventura's last TD came after the punt block.

Team Statistics: LA Pierce Ventura
First Downs 17 (3 run; 11 pass; 3 pen) 14 (4 run; 10 pass)
Rushes – Yards 39-65 28-60
Passing Yards 370 213
Comp - Att – Int 13-26-1 18-38-0
Return Yards 167 221
Sacks – Yards 5-34 1-6
Fumbles – Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties – Yards 11-105 7-89
Time of Possession 31:34 28:26


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