Moorpark Raiders “bounce back” in record-breaking home opener


The Moorpark Raiders and Santa Ana Dons face-off at Griffin Stadium on Sept. 10, 2022. The Raiders emerged victorious that Saturday evening with a 31-34 win. Photo credit: Briana Cruz

By Briana Cruz

The Moorpark Raiders football season is in full swing as they head home to Griffin Stadium for the first time in the 2022-2023 season. The team opened their home stadium with a 31-34 win and a record breaking play by Linebacker Luis Hernandez against the Santa Ana Dons on Sept. 9, 2022.

The Raiders were finally able to open a football season with no restrictions since the 2019-2020 football season was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Raider fans were back in the stands with high energy at Griffin Stadium.

In their season opener, the Raiders looked to come back from a tough 49-0 loss against their rival Ventura College Pirates. Moorpark College Head Coach Mike Stuart spoke on the energy of the team and Griffin stadium.

“We had a great atmosphere tonight, there was a lot of fun, excitement and energy,” said Stuart. “Last week’s loss was a rude awakening but motivated us in a positive way because there were a lot of good takeaways.”

Santa Ana also hoped to establish a name for themselves as they lost their opener to rival Fullerton Community College. With both teams losing to rival schools, the energy to win was in the air for both players and coaches.

The Raiders stepped onto the field with energy and passion and continued that drive throughout the game. The team led off the night with a 14-yard touchdown by running back Royce Pao.

The Dons would immediately answer with a 25-yard touchdown that would tie the score, all within the first 7 minutes of the game. This close matchup would dictate how the rest of the game went, as both teams appeared to answer each other’s offensive and defensive plays into the last seconds of the game.

The Santa Ana Dons continued to push the Raiders’ offense and defense, securing 22 first downs and 441 yards of total offense throughout the night. This total slightly outnumbered the Raiders’ total yard count of 310.

However, both teams had a combined amount of 8 touchdown passes, with both Santa Ana and Moorpark successfully scoring 4. The game continued to go back and forth until the final seconds.

Kicker Daniel Burke had an impressive night, scoring six successful kicks, including two field goals within the final minute. Burke kicked the winning 36-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to secure the first home win of the season for the Raiders.

However, the play of the game goes to Raiders LB Luis Hernandez, who broke a Moorpark College football record with his fumble recovery in the third quarter.

In the third quarter, Dons’ player Cesar Ayala attempted a sack that was no good and fumbled, only to be recovered by Hernandez, who ran it to the Raiders’ end zone.

Hernandez ran a 99-yard fumble recovery to score this touchdown, in a play that left the crowd and both teams in shock. Applause erupted as Hernandez sprinted from the Dons end zone to the other side of the football field in a play that was very rare in football.

“From that moment, I knew we were going to win,” Hernandez said. “The energy from that just continued until the end.”

The team’s energy and passion for the sport were something that could only be witnessed, and the audience was able to feed off of it. Raider fans were on their feet within the game’s final minutes, watching how close this game would indeed be.

Moorpark College Athletics Director Matt Crater was stoked to be back in Griffin Stadium with no restrictions. Crater commented on the energy of the stadium and how sorely Crater had missed fans being able to come together to cheer on the Raiders. Ending the night with a win was the perfect way to open Griffin Stadium back to spectators.

“Seeing the way the boys battled back [after last week’s loss], came back to practice harder this week, that’s what really matters,” Crater said. “Anytime you can learn something from it is what truly matters.”

The Raiders’ next game was on Saturday, Sept. 17, against Mount Saint Jacinto College. Moorpark College lost the game 60-30. The Raiders’ next match is a home game against Grossmont College next Saturday, Sept. 24. To view the full Raiders football schedule, click here.