Santa Barbara secures the advantage over Moorpark College football

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Moorpark sophomore defensive back Jacob Vallejo celebrates with his fellow Raiders’ after a game changing punt block. Vallejo’s punt block would not win the game for the Raiders as they would go onto lose the game against Santa Barbara 27-24 on Nov. 6 in Moorpark, California. Photo credit: Hunter Deniaud

By Hunter Deniaud

Moorpark College football went into their highly anticipated Sophomore Night match against Santa Barbara City College with a record of 3-4, coming off of a huge victory against LA Valley College 21-20, the week prior.

Sophomore Night, a final home game event honoring the players moving on from the program, was extra special this year. Many of the players had an extra year with the program due to the COVID-19 season, and a total of 13 sophomores were given a special moment before the game.

Santa Barbara came out of the gates hot, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. But, Moorpark bounced back in the second quarter, scoring 10 unanswered points of their own.

Going into the second half with Santa Barbara up 14-10, both teams continued to battle for a crucial victory that would help each of them secure a bowl game.

Moorpark’s defense played at a mediocre level, allowing Santa Barbara some big plays but also completing crucial tackles for loss and one key interception by sophomore cornerback Mike Lopez.

Moorpark Raiders freshman quarterback Trevor Jungman rushes for positive yards against Santa Barbara in the game that took place on Nov. 6 in Moorpark, California. The Raiders would lose this game 27-24.
Moorpark Raiders freshman quarterback Trevor Jungman rushes for positive yards against Santa Barbara in the game that took place on Nov. 6 in Moorpark, California. The Raiders would lose this game 27-24. Photo credit: Hunter Deniaud

Lopez has been a lockdown corner for Moorpark this season, with 24 tackles and two interceptions on his 2021 season record.

“I just stuck to my assignment and did what I do best. I put myself in the best position possible to make a play, and our linebacker had a huge hit on the quarterback and I just happened to be in the right position to make the play,” said Lopez.

Moorpark sophomore quarterback Trae Johnson completed 16 of 36 pass attempts, two of which made for touchdowns and two of which resulted in interceptions that came back to haunt Moorpark later in the game.

Santa Barbara’s front seven shut down the Moorpark rushing attack completely as the furthest rush, by freshman running back Donovan Davis, accounted for a measly 23 yards.

However, Moorpark wide receivers Arcelles Johnson and Jacob Carbajal both had success with receiving touchdowns that brought the crowd to its feet.

With 13 minutes to go, Moorpark was down 24-17 and was set to receive the ball. Santa Barbara kicked the ball off to Moorpark’s freshman safety Daniel Pierce and the rest was history.

Pierce, who had returned kicks all throughout high school, was highly elusive and displayed breakaway speed. Pierce broke multiple ankles and reversed field twice on his way to returning the kick all the way for a touchdown.

The return was electric, as everyone one in Griffin Stadium was yelling and the Moorpark players were all filled with excitement as they had now tied the game.

“I used to be a punt returner in high school, so that has definitely helped me get a feel for returning the ball,” said Pierce. “During the return, I was just trying to find an open hole to run through. Thankfully my teammates never stopped blocking, so a gap ended up opening. But, I also remember not wanting to get hawked again.”

The game was now 24-24 and both teams were fighting to get any last points on the board. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Santa Barbara kicker Jorge Figueroa nailed a 29 yard field goal.

Moorpark would not be able to score in the last eight minutes and would eventually lose the game 27-24. After the game, Moorpark Head Coach Mike Stuart spoke about Moorpark’s big game next week.

“We got to go out and beat Antelope Valley for the conference championship, so there is still a lot to play for and it’s obviously hard to encourage at this time because of taking a loss like this but we will rebound on Monday,” said Stuart.

Moorpark would go onto lose the highly anticipated game against Antelope Valley 47-11 on Nov. 13, which would bring their season to a close.