SACRAMENTO - Big defensive plays propelled Laney College of Oakland to a 23-0 first quarter lead and the Eagles held off Ventura College, 40-35, to claim their first California Community College Athletic Association football championship Saturday afternoon at Sacramento City College's Hughes Stadium.
John McDonald rushed for 217 yards on 38 carries for player of the game honors for Laney, which finished 11-2. Quarterback Jordon Brookshire threw three TD passes and ran for two Eagles scores.
Ventura (11-2) tallied the game's final touchdown with 6:18 left on a 6-yard pass from Brock Domann to Dominic Benson and then had to wait for one final chance. McDonald and Brookshire ran off more than five minutes on the ensuing Laney drive before turning the ball back to the Pirates with just 58 seconds remaining. Ventura was able to advance 48 yards to the Laney 13 - where time expired after a 17-yard scamper by Domann.
It took more than half a century for Laney to earn an official state football championship. The Eagles won a mythical state and national title in 1966, the year before the first CCCAA championship game -- defeating an O.J. Simpson-led City College of San Francisco team in the Prune Bowl at San Jose State's Spartan Stadium to complete an unbeaten season.
This is the first time that two at-large teams - both second place finishers in their conferences (Laney in the Bay 6 and Ventura in the Northern) - qualified for the state finals.
Laney opened quickly with back-to-back defensive plays for a 9-0 lead that it never relinquished.
Ventura had netted one yard on its first offensive series before punting from its own 28, where it was blocked by Laney's Balewa Byrd. Barasa Kamateh of Laney fell on the ball on the Ventura nine. It then took just one play for Eagles quarterback Jordon Brookshire to connect with Quintus Hall for the 9-yard score.
The ensuing kickoff was bobbled, forcing the Pirates to start from their own three. On the first play, running back Thomas Duckett was pushed back into the end zone for a safety by Laney lineman Jordan Whittley.
Following the free kick and 21-yard return to the 40 by Byrd, Laney drove seven plays to score on a 6-yard keeper by Brookshire and the Eagles had a 16-0 lead. They extended that first quarter margin to 23-0 on their next possession with another successful drive that culminated with a 15-yard TD pass from Brookshire to Angelo Garrett.
Ventura got back into it, however, with two second period touchdowns passes from Domann to Brandon Jordan to close to 23-14. An end-of-period 29-yard field goal by Laney's Isaak Parada made the halftime cushion slightly better at 26-14.
The teams continued to trade scores the rest of the way, without a punt in the second half.
Ventura got right back in it after the break, scoring on a 32-yard run by Duckett to close to within five points at 26-21. Laney then used nearly eight minutes before scoring on Brookshire's 1-yard plunge. Ventura closed it to five again on a 9-yard Domann to Jordan pass to make it 33-28 going into the fourth quarter.
Laney chewed up nearly seven minutes before getting the eventual winning points with 10:28 left on an 11-yard pass from Brookshire to Garrett.
- Laney sophomore lineman Tanner Robinson (6-5, 315) was selected offensive player of the game, helping the Eagles roll-up 415 yards of offense, 288 on the ground.
- Trevon Lambert of Ventura was the Bob Stangel Defensive Player of the Game. The 6-5, 225-pound sophomore defensive back was the game's top tackler with 12 (nine unassisted).
- Brookshire was 14 of 21 for 127 yards passing and rushed for 50 yards on 18 carries.
For Ventura, Thomas Duckett rushed for 109 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Domann completed 19 of 32 passes for 185 yards and four scores, three going to Jordan.
There were no turnovers in the game.
(Fred Baer, College of San Mateo Athletics)