Mounties manhandle Owls in conference opener

Two undefeated, top-five ranked, rival teams met at the Citrus gridiron Sept. 22. Unfortunately for the Owls, they weren’t the ones that left that way.

The #2 state-ranked Mount San Antonio College Mounties (4-0, 1-0 SCFACC) overwhelmed the #14 ranked Owls (3-1, 0-1 SCFACC) 38-14 at Citrus Sept. 22, spearheaded by a relentless attack from the Mounties’ defensive line that left the Owls scoreless for the game’s first three quarters.

To call it a rivalry would be a bit of a misnomer. It’s one in proximity only, as Mount SAC has won 30 of the past 35 matchups between the schools dating back to 1946. Just ask Citrus head coach Ron Ponciano.

“It hasn’t been much of a rivalry,” Ponciano said. “It’s been ugly the last few times Citrus played Mount SAC.”

This one was no prettier, for both sides involved. The Mounties had amassed over 100 yards in penalties by the end of the first half. Meanwhile, the Owls had only gained 77 yards from scrimmage.

“We had 22 penalties last game and 22 this game,” said Mounties head coach Robert Jastrab, who noted the team only had 12 combined penalties over its first two games. “I can’t believe we’re that [much] worse than the other team.”

What proved to be the difference this time was the quarterback-hungry Mounties’ front seven. They had a steady diet of sack lunches, finishing with eight on the day—four in each half—totaling 62 yards in losses. Their defense was so dominant, the Owls’ 21 rushing attempts netted -25 yards.

“They have a Division I d-line,” said freshman quarterback Bernard Porter. “They came with a lot of pressure, and we couldn’t pick it up like we thought we would.”

The early stages of the game weren’t as lopsided. Both teams seemed nervous and struggled offensively, with each team’s opening drives ending in three-and-outs.

San Antonio got on the board in the middle of the first quarter on a 10-play, 42-yard touchdown drive that culminated on a bootleg pass from Montana to sophomore tight end Spencer Stephens in the flat from seven yards out. The Owls then marched 67 yards on the ensuing drive before facing a fourth-and-two from the Mounties’ 8-yard line.

Ponciano opted to go for it, but Porter’s pass to freshman receiver Josh Jones on a slant route was slightly behind the target. Though catchable, the ball bounced off Jones’ shoulder pads before falling incomplete, leaving the Owls empty-handed.

The Mounties broke the game open soon after. Following a Mount SAC drive that was halted on a red zone interception by linebacker Simon Pruitt, Citrus took over at its own 14-yard line. With just over five minutes left in the half, defensive tackle Tutulupeatau Mataele spun Porter in a circle, throwing the freshman quarterback backwards so violently for a sack that he also fumbled. Fellow defensive lineman Norman Moimoi scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 53 yards to the house to make it 14-0 Mounties.

Even then, that wasn’t enough.

It looked like Citrus was going to be able to stop the bleeding when cornerback Stace Woodward made the Owls second red zone interception of the afternoon on a poorly thrown Montana pass near the two-minute-mark. But the Owls went three-and-out and were forced to punt from their own goal line.

With just 1:12 showing on the clock, punter Chris Laros made the mistake of punting to speedy return man Donte Ingraham, who darted upfield to the Citrus 20-yard line. This time, the Mounties turned the tables on the 5-foot-9-inch Woodward by going to the 6-foot-5-inch Stephens. Backup quarterback Ted Landers threw the 13-yard touchdown pass with just three ticks left on the clock, extending the lead to 21-0 at the half.

Remarkably, that was as close as Citrus would come for the remainder of the game. A field goal and another touchdown pushed the Mounties’ lead to 31-0 before Porter linked up with sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Kepley for an 11-yard touchdown.

Porter finished the day 17 of 24 for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Montana went 14 of 26 for 221 yards, one TD and one interception before being replaced by Landers, who completed 12 of his 21 passes for 177 yards and two TDs.

Ponciano said the defensive prowess of Mount SAC was the driving force behind the loss, but he also questioned the effort level of some of his players.

“We couldn’t push them off the ball. When you’ve got 10 d-linemen rotating in and out, only one local guy, and the rest are from Utah, Hawaii . . . it’s a different deal,” Ponciano said. “But our guys have to compete, and that’s what I’m pissed off about. I expect our local guys to man up and play like they’re going to kick their butt.”

“I don’t think we have that, I didn’t see that. I see a bunch of soft guys,” he continued.

“I told the guys at halftime we’re simply going to find out who the posers are and who the men are. So I gotta start separating the men from the posers and get the men on the field. That’s the bottom line.”

The Owls have a bye next week. They will host the Chaffey Panthers (1-2, 1-0 SCFAMC) Oct. 6 at 1 p.m.