The Citrus College Owls’ first victory of the season came against the San Bernardino Valley College Wolverines in a 14-13 nail-biter Sept. 16, with credit resting squarely on the shoulders of the Owls’ punishing defense and special teams with a blocked extra point in the fourth quarter and a blocked field goal with seconds left to play, sealing the win.
Citrus defensive coordinator Jarron Gilbert had plenty to be proud of on his defense’s performance and said his game plan for the day was to have the defensive line manhandle the Wolverine offensive line.
“Up front is exactly where we knew we had the advantage,” Gilbert said. “Getting to the quarterback with four guys and keeping him contained was the key. If we had given him the opportunity to run, it would have been a long day for us.”
Despite a close score, Citrus was never behind on the scoreboard, scoring first on a Devin Floyd run with two minutes to play in the first quarter.
The Owls’ defense kept the Wolverines scoreless until the final minute of the first half when San Bernardino quarterback Armando Herrera threw one of his two touchdowns of the game.
Floyd struck again late in the the third quarter, breaking his longest run of the day on a 29-yard handoff, resulting in a touchdown.
The largely defensive game remained a struggle into the final minutes. Early in the fourth quarter Herrera brought the Wolverines to within one point on a 17-yard touchdown pass, however, the ensuing extra point was blocked by defensive end Grant Trueman, who had an impressive day to maintain the Owl lead.
With just over a minute to play, Herrera broke a 29-yard run to the end zone, but a blindside hit by Wolverines’ receiver Micah Lowden on an Owls defender drew a targeting penalty and cost San Bernardino the touchdown, putting them at the Owls’ 20 yard line.
A completed pass brought the Wolverines within eight yards of the lead, but the Owls’ defense made a stand, including another play by Trueman, sacking Herrera and helping push the Wolverines back to the Owls’ 25 yard line, forcing a 35-yard field goal attempt.
With 12 seconds left in regulation, the kick would have decided the game but the Owl defense decided it instead with Owl defensive back Chazz Eldridge blocking the kick completely, overpowering the Wolverine blockers and losing his helmet in the process, sealing the Owls’ first victory of the season.
The Owls’ defense maintained pressure on Wolverines’ quarterback Herrera and all ball carriers the Wolverines brought out, racking up six sacks and 18 tackles for loss, with three and a half of those sacks and another three and a half of the tackles coming from Trueman.
“As a defense we had a great game,” Trueman said. “Right from the start of the game I was setting up the tackle with a speed rush, so later in the game my spin inside would work, my interior lineman were doing their job and creating havoc and coverage and pass rush go hand in hand. I couldn’t have done it without 10 other guys on the field.”
The Owls’ secondary provided plenty of help over the top, allowing Herrera to complete less than half of his passes, including an interception by sophomore safety Jeremiah Vasquez, making his second pick through three games.
Floyd and the Owls running backs again provided nearly all of the Owl offense, with 207 of Citrus’ 262 total yards coming on the ground, as well as both touchdowns coming from Floyd, breaking 19 and 29 yard runs, respectively.
Citrus quarterback Wesley Wubbena was held to three of seven completions for only 55 yards and an interception.
Citrus’ time of possession was 45:12, over an entire quarter difference from San Bernardino Valley’s 27:44, largely due to the vast difference in third down efficiencies of both teams. Citrus went seven of 12 to San Bernardino’s five of 20.
San Bernardino Valley’s conversion woes continued all game, rather than attempting any field goals for the first 59 minutes of the game, the Wolverines attempted six fourth down conversions, managing three of them.
Herrera showed flashes of his speed late in the fourth with the scramble touchdown that was called back, but with eleven carries on the day, Herrera was held to negative one yard.
Despite a 29-yard run late in the fourth, the majority of Herrera’s movement was backwards.
“Guys on this defense are flying around having fun,” Gilbert said of his defense. “We still have plenty to work on, but we have the effort and energy to make up for it.”
The Owls have a bye next weekend, but will play Southwestern at 6 p.m Sep. 30 in Chula Vista.