The Pirates seemed to be able to move the ball through the air early behind 6-5 quarterback Gregory Jiminez' arm, but as they drove the ball down the field, the Bulldogs started blitzing and throwing the tempo of the Pirate passing game out of whack. In came the elusive Antavius Simms to try to rescue the drive, but the Pirates ended up missing a 45 yard field goal. Hancock also moved the ball but neither team could punch it in and the 1st quarter remained scoreless.
The Pirates had no answer for the running duo of Thomas Sua (134 yds ) and Ryan Anglin (105 yds). Both backs are hard runners who are able to make quick cuts behind the effective blocking of a very good offensive line. Sua was able to give the Bulldogs a lead of 7-0 early in the second quarter on a 5 yard run. The Pirates tried to respond, but a Jiminez pass was picked off from about 8 yards away as linebacker Malcolm Chichester stepped into the lane and miraculously held on to the short, hard pass. More Hancock running with an occasional effective pass from Gunnar Jesperson drove them back down the field again. Jesperson was effective on roll outs sometimes keeping the ball himself. He fired up the Hancock faithful on one play when the 5-11 185 pounder ran over a Pirate Linebacker that had him by 60 pounds. The Bulldogs were so confident in their running game, that on a 3rd and goal at the Pirate 15, they simply handed it off to Sua who evaded tackles and ran it in for a 14-0 lead. Hancock had a chance to put a nail in the coffin when Sua once again ran for a long game, but he coughed up the ball right at the three yard line and VC dodged a bullet. The halftime score remained 14-0.
In the second half the Pirates started moving the ball much better. A succesful fake punt followed by a strong run by Dominic Morris, along with a spearing penalty gave VC the ball inside the Hancock 12 yard line. From their Morris finished the job cutting the lead in half at 14-7. But the Hancock offense responded quickly and drove down the field behind their talented backfield very easily and Sua gave them a 21-7 lead. Sims then hit his favorite receiver Nick Karam on a post play that split the defenders in the endzone and the lead was back to 7 at 21-14.
But once again Hancock responded quickly with a 47 yard strike from Jesperson to Marquelo Suel to the 9. From there Anglin took it to the one yard line where Sua once again punched it in. The Bulldog D wasn't playing as well in the second half as it seemed that the elusiveness of Simms was getting them a bit tired. But the Dogs were able to hold on for a 28-21 victory and locked up second place in the Northern Conference and a playoff berth.
For Ventura, it was a painful last two weeks as they have now been knocked out of the playoffs with two straight losses. They should however garner a bowl bid. All three teams they lost to are top 8 teams. They went into this game banged up with a lot of defensive injuries. Antavius Simms reminds me of former Reedley QB Robert Johnson, who won the state title a few years back, and for good reason. Not only are their games similar, they both come from Americus Georgia. Johnson was such a good athlete, he ended up playing receiver for Texas Tech, and still holds the single game reception record there. Simms may end up a receiver too, but he'll have one more year for the Pirates to hone is QB skills. Simms ended the game 16 for 22 and 176 yards passing along with close to 90 yards rushing. Ventura coach Jon Mack seems to be winning over some players who might normally go over to Moorpark or College of the Canyons. They will be a force to be reckoned with over the next several years.
Hancock ended it's season with a 9-1 record, the best it's had in 10 years. Coach Dutra attacked the Pirate defense knowing where hurt Pirate defensive players were missing. The lone Bulldog loss was to a powerful Bakersfield squad and it went down to the last play. The offensive line of Jacob Farley, Tyler Vogt, Riley Gauld, Patrick Gibbons, and massive 6'5 372 pound Tackle James George is very effective at opening cracks for Ryan Anglin and the human pin ball machine, Thomas Sua. The team that gets Hancock in the playoff opener, their defensive line and linebackers better bring a lunch pail. The ground game accounted for over 300 yards in this game, and that opens up an occasional pass to keep the defenses honest. The Bulldogs get a much needed bye in the last week and will await their seeding in the playoffs. They will go into the playoffs without talented defensive end Falealii Tausaga who went down with an ankle injury.