Ventura makes Royals pay for their mistakes

It is past cliche to talk about winning one game at a time. So Ventura High coach Tim Garcia put a lively spin on it after a 1-5 non-league football season.

The way Garcia has it figured, every remaining contest is worth a title.

“Congratulations, you just won the Channel League championship,” he told his Cougars after Friday night’s 30-25 win at San Marcos. “Now you get play for another championship next week.”

It’s an interesting concept, no doubt, but it took an outstanding all-purpose effort by Zak Crawford to make it happen against the Royals. Crawford, returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, ran for two touchdowns and intercepted two passes on defense. He had another 95-yard kickoff return wiped out by a penalty.

“It’s that time of year when we need to lean on our guys to make plays,” said Garcia. “Zak is a real football player and he showed that tonight.”

Crawford’s last score came with 11:16 left in the game and put Ventura ahead 30-19.

San Marcos, 5-2 overall, 0-1 in league, made it close with a 41-yard scoring pass from Wesley Ghan-Gibson to Austin Pugh with 5:39 to play. But Ventura eliminated any chance of a comeback with a 12-play, 68-yard drive that left the Royals on their own 7 with no time outs and a mere eight seconds on the clock.

San Marcos took a 19-14 lead into the locker room with three second-quarter touchdowns, including two set up by fumble recoveries. Esteban Alfaro scored on a 1-yard run after a recovery at the Ventura 30 by Josh Beasley and on 14-yard run by Ghan-Gibson after a recovery at midfield by Dillon Brown.

After a 5-yard touchdown run by Tyler Peralta, the Royals finished the first half scoring with a 66-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard pass from Ghan-Gibson to Tony Zuniga. A blocked PAT kick by Jason Diep and a failed 2-point PAT attempt by the Royals accounted for the 19-14 score but it took a holding call against Ventura to negate Crawford’s second kickoff return for a score.

“We felt going in that we could control the game,” said Garcia. “But we kept killing our momentum with penalties and fumbles in the first half. I told the guys at halftime to take a deep breath and then come back out and take over the game.”

The Cougars appeared to have, indeed, caught a second wind in the third quarter. After forcing a quick punt by the Royals, quarterback Tyler Smith led a 9-play drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal by Jack Peterson. San Marcos lost the ball on a fumble on its next play from scrimmage and Ventura marched in for the scored after consecutive pass interference calls put the ball on the 9. Crawford, taking a direct snap out the Cougars’ wildcat formation, scored from the 3.

Ventura then sucked the air out of San Marcos’ sails when it went 97 yards for a score on its next possession. Back-to-back passes of 40 and 33 yards by Smith to Colby Hays keyed the drive and Crawford ran 18 yards for the score.

“We knew we had to come out on fire in the second half,” said Crawford. “We came together like brothers.”

San Marcos coach Anthony Linebaugh, like Garcia’s view of the first half, saw mistakes as the ultimate mood killer for the Royals.

“We didn’t help ourselves with our penalties and fumbles,” he noted. “Ventura didn’t do anything different in the second half. They just executed and we didn’t. You just can’t make the kind of mistakes we made in a big game like this. This was like a playoff game and you can’t make those kind of mistakes and expect to win.”

Peralta led all ball carriers on the night with 114 yards on 23 carries, most of them coming in Ventura’s clock-killing drives in the fourth quarter. Crawford added 41 yards on seven carries while Smith passed for 197 yards.

Ghan-Gibson completed 14 passes for 201 yards to lead San Marcos. Inri Cortez added 50 yards on the ground.


Ventura    7   7   10   6 — 30
San Marcos   6   13    0   6   — 25

First quarter
  V_Crawford 95 kickoff return (Peterson kick) 11:46.
 SM_Alfaro 1 run (kick blocked) 10:46.
Second quarter
 SM_Ghan-Gibson 14 run (Coffey kick) 5:26.
 V_Peralta 5 run (Peterson kick) 4:00.
 SM_Zuniga 12 pass from Gahn-Gibson (pass failed) 1:11.
Third quarter
 V_FG Peterson 33, 4:44.
 V_Crawford 3 run (Peterson kick) 3:50.
 Fourth quarter
 V_Crawford 18 run (kick failed) 11:16.
 SM_Pugh 41 pass from Ghan-Gibson (run failed) 5:39.

TEAM TOTALS           V        SM
First downs        18          18
Rushes-yards    35-182  25-114
Passing yards     197         201
Total yards        379          315
Passes          11-17-0     14-25-2
Sacks               0-0          1-8
Fumbles           3-2          2-2
Punts              3-32        4-35
Penalties        10-86       6-80

   RUSHING_V: Peralta 24-114, Crawford 7-41, Smith 1-14, Gardner 2-9, Uribe 1-4. SM: Cortez 11-50, Alfaro 9-34, Whitney 3-16, Ghan-Gibson 2-14.
  PASSING_V: Smith 11-17-0-197. SM: Ghan-Gibson 14-25-2-201.
  RECEIVING_V: Sow-wine 2-41, Peterson 3-15, Crawford 2-9, Hurlbut 1-19, Gardner 1-30, Hays 2-73. SM: Cortez 2-24, Zuniga 3-40, Alfaro 4-48, Pugh 2-53, Whitney 2-25, Estrada 1-9.