Somerville Saves Palomar

QB Josh Somerville, who entered the game late in the third quarter, threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Graham Middleborn with 3:12 to play, capping a remarkable comeback by Palomar (1-0) in a 37-34 season-opening win over host West Los Angeles (0-1). 

The 6-3, 230-pound Somerville, who entered the game when the Comets trailed 34-14, also ran for a pair of scores.

It was a topsy-turvy game for both squads, and the direction of the game changed as Somerville entered.  On the previous play, starter Chase Kelly had thrown an apparent interception to West LA's Ryan Hulbert, who returned the ball deep into Palomar territory with 2:47 left in the third quarter and West LA already leading by 20 points.  But the play was negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty.  Then Somerville came into the game.  His first pass was a 26-yard toss to WR Louis Hall, and on the next play Somerville scored from the 1-yard line to begin the rally.

West LA had taken control of the game with a 28-point second quarter, in which Palomar had struggled mightily.  During that second quarter, Palomar committed three turnovers and suffered a safety.  And the Comet offense continued to struggle in the third quarter with three punts and an interception until Somerville entered the game.  Once Palomar began scoring, however, West LA began to make mistakes, and the lack of a running game kept the Oilers from running out the clock and holding the lead.

Palomar scored the game's first touchdown late in the first quarter on a 2-yard pass from Kelly to RB Isaiah Crawford.  The touchdown came one play after K Joey Lopez had missed a 22-yard field goal attempt as his kick hit the left upright.  However, an off-sides penalty gave the Comets another chance, and they went for the touchdown.  The big play on the drive had been a 46-yard pass from Kelly to Jermaine McQueen that got the ball to the West LA 10-yard line.  That would be the only scoring in the first quarter.

The second quarter belonged to West LA.  The Oilers tied the game when RB Andre Bouvay capped a 9-play drive with a 1-yard scoring run.  Then, after a Palomar punt, West LA took a 14-7 lead on a 14-yard TD pass from QB Tye Butler to WR Jacorey Laws.  An interception by DB Matt Walker moments later got the ball back for the Oilers at the Palomar 18-yard line.  An apparent TD pass to Baird Steptoe was negated by an illegal substitution penalty, but that was one mistake the Oilers overcame; Bouvay scored from 2 yards out just three plays later to make it 20-7.  And then it just got worse for Palomar when MLB Jerome Johnson recovered a Comet fumble on the very next play from scrimmage.  Moments later, Butler connected with WR Chris Medows for a 9-yard TD pass that made it 26-7.  One of the few positives for Palomar was that at least LB Adam Townes had blocked the last two West LA extra point tries.

Then it got a little sloppy as each team fumbled on consecutive plays.  Return man Darrick Jackson lost the ball on the ensuing kickoff, and Steve Sherrod recovered for the Oilers.  On the next play, Butler threw to Leonard Hernandez, who took the ball deep into Comet territory.  But while struggling for the final few yards needed for the score, he lost the ball, and Palomar's Adam Tenney recovered at the 2-yard line.  Following a 12-yard run by Crawford, however, Palomar made another mistake as a bad snap rolled past Kelly and into the end zone.  Kelly managed to grab the ball, but was snowed under by a host of Oiler defenders for a safety, making it 28-7 in favor of West LA.

Palomar got a little closer late in the half when Kelly threw a 19-yard TD pass to McQueen with 22 seconds left in the half.  That came two plays after an Oiler pass interference penalty had negated what appeared to be an interception by Loronzo Bursey.  That made it 28-14 at intermission.

In the third quarter, West LA extended its lead to 20 when Jerome Johnson intercepted a Kelly pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown just 1:20 into the period.  Though the extra point try by Sergio Ochoa sailed wide left, it looked like West LA had full control of the game.  And when Hulbert appeared to intercept Kelly late in the quarter and return the ball inside the Palomar 30, it looked like West LA had the game well in hand.  But then came the roughing the passer call, and on came Somerville to rescue the Comets.

Palomar pulled to within 7 early in the fourth quarter after a horrible mistake by the West LA punting team.  Facing fourth down at their own 44, the Oilers lined up in punt formation.  But a bad snap sailed high over punter Travis Berg's head and rolled down the field.  Berg finally managed to catch up to the ball inside his own 5-yard line.  However, rather than simply carry the ball through the end zone for a safety, Berg tried to circle towards the left sideline and run with the ball.  Before he could get turned around, he was buried under a sea of Palomar tacklers at his own 1-yard line.  Somerville scored on a QB sneak on the very next play to bring the Comets within a score at 34-27.

When West LA got the ball back, they were unable to move the ball or even work on the clock.  Three incomplete passes burned just 26 seconds off the clock, and the Oilers were forced to punt.  And the Comets drove all the way to the West LA 1-yard line in an attempt to tie the score.  However, on 4th and goal from the 1, RB Ronnie Steele tried to dive over the pile only to be turned away.  That gave the Oilers the ball back at their own 1.  Though they were able to get the ball out of the shadow of their goalposts, thanks to Butler completions to Laws and Hernandez, the drive stalled at the 25 and the Oilers had to punt again with just under 10 minutes left.  And though the Oiler defense forced a Palomar punt moments later, once again the West LA offense was unable to move the ball or run out the clock and had to punt again without gaining a single first down.  That gave the ball back to the Comets at the West LA 49 with just under 7 minutes left.

But the Oiler defense wouldn't allow Palomar to take the lead just yet.  A pair of Somerville passes - 12 yards to McQueen and 5 yards to WR Tyler Fenton – got the ball to the 32, but then the drive stalled.  On came Lopez, who booted a 49-yard field goal through the uprights to make it 34-30 and give Palomar the chance to win the game should they be able to score another touchdown.  And they got the ball back quickly when West LA had to punt yet again without gaining a single first down.  A 41-yard punt by Berg gave the Comets the ball at their own 45 with 4:28 on the clock.

And it would take just 5 plays for Palomar to take the lead for good.  A 9-yard toss from Somerville to Hall got the ball into West LA territory.  After a pair of incomplete passes, Somerville converted a 4th and 1 by throwing to TE Kyle Thomas for a 7-yard gain to the Oiler 39.  Then, on the very next play, Somerville connected with Middleborn on the game-winning touchdown.

West LA had one last chance, as 3:12 remained on the clock, and Butler completed passes to Hernandez, Laws and Laws again to get the ball to the 46.  But on the next play, Palomar DE Blaine Jackson burst through the line and sacked Butler for a 13-yard loss.  That effectively ended the West LA momentum and the Oilers turned the ball over on downs after an incomplete pass two plays later, giving the Comets the win.

For Palomar, Somerville completed 8 of 17 passes for 131 yards and a TD, while starting QB Kelly went 11 of 25 for 142 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions.  McQueen led Palomar with 6 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.  Crawford led all rushers with 40 yards on 10 carries.  With West LA relying almost solely on their passing game, the Palomar pass rush had an absolute field day, registering an incredible total of 10 sacks.  Chris Mino led the way with 2-1/2 while Uumo Sulaunoa, Zack Hamideh and Blaine Jackson had 2 each.

West LA's Butler had a big game, completing 23 of 35 passes for 267 yards for 2 TDs and no interceptions.  Laws was his favorite target, hauling in 8 passes for 83 yards.  But the running game was a disaster:  the Oilers finished with minus-86 yards on 33 attempts.  Even factoring out the 10 sacks and a pair of bad snaps that made the statistics particularly ugly, West LA managed just 39 yards on 21 carries.  Most of those came on Bouvay's first carry of the day on which he gained 23 yards.  But the Oilers were unable to gain a single rushing first down in the second half as they tried to protect their lead.

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter:
P – Crawford 2 yd pass from Butler (Lopez kick) 2:41 -- 7-0          

2nd Quarter:
W – Bouvay 1 yd run (Ochoa kick) 13:39 -- 7-7
W – Laws 14 yd pass from Butler (Ochoa kick) 10:44 -- 7-14
W – Bouvay 2 yd run (kick blocked) 7:20 -- 7-20
W – Medows 5 yd pass from Butler (kick blocked) 4:46 -- 7-26
W – Safety – Kelly tackled in end zone 3:52 -- 7-28
P – McQueen 19 yd pass from Kelly (Lopez kick) 0:22 -- 14-28

3rd Quarter:
W – J.Johnson 64 yd interception return (kick wide left) 13:40 -- 14-34
P – Somerville 1 yd run (kick wide left) 2:02  -- 20-34 

4th Quarter:
P – Somerville 1 yd run (Lopez kick) 14:48 -- 27-34
P – FG Lopez 49 yds 5:33 -- 30-34
P – Middleborn 39 yd pass from Somerville (Lopez kick) 3:12 -- 34-27 

Team Statistics: West LA Palomar
First Downs 16 (3 run; 11 pass; 2 penalty) 18 (5 run; 11 pass; 2 penalty)
Rushes – Yards 33-(-86) 34-71
Passing Yards 267 273
Comp - Att – Int 23-38-0 19-42-2
Return Yards 195 73
Sacks – Yards 0-0 10-72
Fumbles – Lost 7-2 6-2
Penalties – Yards 11-73 6-65
Time of Possession 32:01 27:59

Individual Statistics:

Rushing: W:  30-Bouvay 8-31, 7-B.Johnson 3-8, 11-J.Johnson 2-3, 21-King 1-(-1), 10-Collins 1-(-2), 9-Butler 15-(-70), team 3-(-55) P:  32-Crawford 10-40, 35-Hibdon 2-13, 9-Kelly 8-12, 8-Somerville 4-11, 5-Jackson 1-8, 23-Steele 4-8, 34-Kerri 1-(-4), team 4-(-19)

Passing: W:  9-Butler 23-35-0-267, 2 TDs; 7-B.Johnson 0-3-0-0 P:  9-Kelly 11-25-2-142, 2 TDs; 8-Somerville 8-17-0-131, 1 TD

Receiving: W:  22-Laws 8-83, 5-Medows 5-56, 82-Hernandez 4-77, 21-King 2-12, 30-Bouvay 2-11, 87-Steptoe 1-18, 10-Collins 1-10 P:  1-McQueen 6-94, 82-Hall 3-38, 83-Cardenas 2-38, 19-Hogue 2-31, 32-Crawford 2-1, 4-Middleborn 1-39, 88-Thomas 1-7, 26-Fenton 1-5

Int-Ret Yds: W:  11-J.Johnson 1-64, 32-Walker 1-22 P:  none

Fum Rec: W:  11-J.Johnson, 42-Sherrod P:  2-Tenney, 81-A.Johnson

Sacks: P:  91-Mino 2½, 11-Sulaunoa 2, 51-Hamideh 2, 97-B.Jackson 2, 90-Fleming, 98-Kalone ½

Punters: W:  14-Berg 9-35.6 avg P:  14-Lopez 6-33.2 avg

Kick Ret: W:  5-Medows 4-63, 21-King 2-43, 6-Bursey 1-3 P:  5-D.Jackson 4-67

Punt Ret: W:  29-White 2-0 P:  86-Weiner 2-6

Notes:  Season opener for both teams and first game on the new field turf.  Somerville entered for Palomar after Kelly threw an int to 25-Hulbert that was negated by a roughing the passer penalty; he scored PC's 3rd TD 2 plays later.  Lopez missed a FG off the left post in the first qtr; an offsides penalty negated the play and Palomar scored its 1st TD on the next play.  PC scored its 2nd TD moments after a PI penalty negated an int by 6-Bursey.  PC's 4th TD came after a bad punt snap gave it the ball at the West LA 1.  B.Jackson's 2nd sack of the day clinched the win.


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