The Lancers football team overcame four turnovers and a 4th quarter deficit Saturday to win their first home opener since 2011.
With under six minutes left in the 4th quarter linebacker Kimani Williams dove to intercept an overthrown screen pass by College of the Desert quarterback Noah Shoeman. From there, Pasadena drove down the field, with quarterback Mario Bobadilla needing to convert the same 4th down twice before running back Sultaan Sullivan ran it 27 yards for the go-ahead score.
Injuries plagued the Lancers during Desert’s final drive. Starting cornerback Shane Andrews was injured on a pass breakup down the sideline on 2nd down. Williams, the only defender to hold the turnover belt Saturday night, was also out with injury, as was starting defensive end Lionel Humphrey.
Picking up the slack was the Pasadena home crowd, whose noise making may have caused Desert a delay of game penalty, as well as forcing them to use a timeout when the clock was already stopped. On a 4th and 15, Shoeman threw a rainbow pass to wide receiver Jaurice Thomas in the endzone. The ball hit his chest, he fell to the ground, everyone in the stadium stared at the referee in the endzone, who kept the audience in suspense for a good five seconds before signaling the pass had fallen incomplete. The Lancers assumed victory formation to seal their 42-38 win over the Roadrunners.
“I was so hyped,” starting guard Juan Perez said of watching the defense after he and the offensive line had paved the way for Sultaan’s go ahead score. “I was running up and down the track. Yelling at the sideline, ‘help us out.’ Hard work and dedication pays off. All the glory to God. That’s all I got to thank.”
Hard work seemed to be the theme for the Lancers Saturday night. Their physical ground game led to 286 yards and 4 touchdowns, while the quarterbacks threw for a little over 200 yards combined.
For Desert, while held to under 100 yards rushing, Shoeman threw for 537 yards. Their receiver duo of Thomas and Kerrion Ringo went for 16 catches and 455 yards between them, as the Pasadena secondary allowed touchdown passes of 59, 71, and 73 yards.
After giving up 20 points in the first half, defensive back coach and PCC alumni Addison Hawthorne had a message he wanted to convey to the secondary. “This isn’t high school anymore! This is real! This is real football!”
“Our secondary is nothing but freshmen, so this is their first time participating in a college football game,” said Hawthorne after the game. “It’s not high school anymore. So the stuff you was getting away with then, you can’t get away with now, at this level.”
Pasadena made things hard for themselves throughout the game. They gave the ball away four times, with one fumble recovered by Desert in the endzone for a touchback, and another fumble giving the visitors possession in the red zone.
On the outside for the Lancers on offense, sophomore receiver Forest Fajardo battled with Desert’s six-foot-four corner Jerry Kinney. Kinney was a menace to Pasadena’s offense, intercepting two passes, recovering a fumble, and not allowing very many passes to be completed against him. Fajardo, though he was able to get open on a few routes, was held to 1 catch in the first half. After missing him twice in a row in the endzone, Bobadilla connected with Fajardo on 4th and goal. Fajardo finished the game with 6 catches for 42 yards.
Bobadilla had an uneven stat line, but looked impressive maneuvering in the pocket. He tried the deep ball frequently, but was mostly unsuccessful. However, he was able to make a few plays on the move, whether it be scrambling for a 1st down or rolling to his right to hurl the ball downfield.
“Mario’s a gunslinger,” said head coach Steven Mojarro after the game. “Mario’s one of them amazing kids, and sometimes he gets himself in trouble trying to hit the tight windows. But he’s a great kid. He’s a leader. Later he was making those amazing plays. Houdini through the sacks and everything.”
On the final drive, Pasadena faced a 4th and 6 when Bobadilla had to avoid the pressure, scramble to his right to hit receiver Hernandel Johnson on the sideline for a first. However, PCC made things hard for themselves again with an ineligible man downfield penalty, and they had to replay that down from an additional 5 yards back. Bobadilla again scrambled to his right and hit freshman receiver and kick returner David Telles, who ran 30 yards for a Lancers 1st down, which set up Sullivan’s 27-yard run for the go-ahead score.
“It just goes to show you the poise, and the character. I mean, I’ll be honest with you, you got also to give credit to his high school coach Narciso Diaz out of Franklin High School,” Mojarro said. “He coached him up really well, and he played in the championship for the city, got him into the position to be definitely be ready for our level.”
The heart of the offense was the ground game, as the Lancers got production from multiple running backs. Salman Gurung put the first points on the board for Pasadena with an 11 yard touchdown run. Drake Beasley, who had the early fumble in the endzone, redeemed himself with a score of his own and finished the game with 11 rushes for 89 yards. Sullivan finished with 14 rushes for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“Coach Fimbres knows how to call a game really well,” continued Mojarro. “He just saw the weaknesses and drove it, and that’s why our running backs were able to make those plays, and when there was no plays, they made the plays. That’s why they’re special guys. Drake Beasley a division one player. So is Sultaan Sullivan. And Sullivan’s going to work his way into becoming a division one player as well.”
Though excited about the win, Mojarro indicated that the final score may not be as important as getting these athletes to transfer. “I’ll be honest with you, and this might sound bad because people might look at this in the wrong way,” he said. “Winning and losing is a part of the game. More important is getting these kids to the next level. I think it’s more important than anything in life, to make sure these kids, you impact their lives and give them an opportunity.”