The Citrus College Owls faced a long bus ride home after what should have been a hard fought victory over the Chaffey College Panthers.
However, this was all undone in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, ending in a 17-14 defeat.
Citrus dominated the first half with a bruising running game, led by workhorse sophomore running back Devin Floyd, who ended the game with 139 yards on 33 carries.
The Owls capped off their opening drive with a one-yard touchdown run from freshman quarterback Kory Brown.
Citrus’ defense held the Panthers scoreless until well into the second quarter. Freshman cornerback Shawn Franklin intercepted two passes in the first half, capitalizing on multiple errant throws from Chaffey sophomore quarterback Jordan Velarde.
The Owls had offensive woes of their own, however, as they were held to 69 yards on seven completions through the air.
The Panthers managed a field goal to make it 7-3 in the second, but their weaknesses on special teams showed on the following play with a botched onside kick, recovered by Owls sophomore linebacker Jason Parchment.
Floyd broke a 27-yard run two drives later to put Citrus in the red zone, subsequently punching in another touchdown on a two-yard run, solidifying a 14-3 lead going into halftime.
“Going into the game we were well prepared by our coaching staff, so the plays Chaffey ran at us were nothing we haven’t seen before,” Citrus sophomore safety Jeremiah Vasquez said. “Everyone has to do their job correctly and we have to get our offense on the field, whether it be from a three-and-out or big plays made by a defensive guy.”
The Panthers finally struck later in the third on a double pass play that became a 46-yard touchdown, drawing the score closer at 14-10 with Citrus still in the lead.
The Owls’ offense failed to get anything going in the third, barely managing to stay on the field in the second half, leading to a gassed Owls’ defense.
Chaffey took advantage and the lead with a long drive that lasted over five minutes from the third quarter into the fourth, ending with a two-yard touchdown run by Panthers sophomore running back Justin King, making it 17-14.
As time continued to count off the clock in the fourth and hope for Citrus dwindled, with less than six minutes left in the final quarter, Vasquez came up with an interception the Owls desperately needed, adding to Citrus’ interception total of three.
Citrus defensive backs coach Mario Franklin, responsible for producing the Owl’s depth in the secondary, was proud of the performance.
“The players are very coachable, and coachable players execute,” Franklin said. “They come prepared.”
On the ensuing drive, the Owls’ momentum carried as the offense drove from midfield to the 20-yard line with under three minutes to play, when the Chaffey defense finally brought up a fourth down.
However, their special teams weaknesses gave Citrus another chance as a roughing the snapper call on the ensuing field goal attempt gave the Owls a first and goal at the 10-yard line.
Then disaster struck for the Owls. On the first play in the redzone, Floyd took a handoff to the outside of the field, breaking one tackle and stiff arming another on his way to what appeared to be an easy touchdown run.
In his excitement, inches from the goal line, Floyd reached forward and tossed the ball into the endzone before he broke the plane. Realizing the play was still live, a nearby Panther pounced on the loose ball in the end zone, causing a turnover and giving Chaffey the ball, with the lead at their own 20-yard line.
Chaffey ran out the clock, holding on to a 17-14 victory.
“Football doesn’t come down to one play or player,” Citrus sophomore team captain middle linebacker Zach Lewallen said. “We made several mistakes as a team, that’s the reason we lost.”
Citrus will face Santa Ana at 1 p.m. on Sept. 9 at Citrus Stadium in the home opener.