Late rally sparks Pirates past Cougars, 25-21

Late rally sparks Pirates past Cougars, 25-21

COSTA MESA -- For 53 minutes, things looked bleak for the Orange Coast College football team, but three straight late fourth quarter touchdowns pushed the Pirates past L.A. Southwest College, 25-21, on Saturday night at LeBard Stadium.

After struggling with success for most of the game, the OCC offense found some success late and finally took advantage of the game-long fantastic field position given up by the Cougars (0-3).

Trailing 21-7 with 8:44 left in the game, Coast used a five-play, 44-yard drive and found the end zone when David Hernandez plowed into the end zone from a yard out. A failed 2-point conversion try put the Pirates behind, 21-13 with 6:48 left.

Kieren Spradlin executed a perfect onside kick that banked off a LASW player and into the hands of OCC's Noah Kilburg, giving the Pirates the ball back on the Cougars' side of the field with 6:48 remaining. After a Cougars' penalty moved the ball to the LASW 40, Adam Carr connected with Giancarlo Monge, who took the ball to the end zone, cutting the deficit to 21-19. Another missed shot at two points left the Pirates still behind with just over six minutes remaining.

The Cougars took over and managed to make the key mistake as quarterback Mikel Beime's second-down pass was intercepted by Jalen Robertson at the OCC 28 yard line and thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Cougars, OCC took over near midfield with 5:09 remaining in the game.

Carr, who finished with 226 yards and a touchdown on 26-of-41 passing, went 5-for-7 passing on the Pirates' final drive and pushed Coast all the way down to the LASW goal line with 1:27 remaining. From there, the sophomore QB kept the ball and pushed forward into the end zone to put OCC up, 25-21 after another failed 2-point try.

The Cougars picked up a couple of first downs and got near midfield before facing a fourth-and-5 from their own 41 with 33 seconds remaining. The snapped was sent back prematurely, sending Beime scrambling for his life before finally being brought to the turf by Matthew Passi to end the game.

The late win helped alleviate some frustrating results throughout a game filled with ideal field position and golden opportunities. Six times OCC started drives inside Cougar territory and only came up with one touchdown through three quarters to show for it. That score came late in the first quarter when Nikko Fierro-Tuala capped off a six-play, 36-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard TD run, putting Coast up, 7-0.

The OCC defense held the Cougars in check for most of the first half, but LASW evened the game when Jeremiah Smith picked off a Carr pass attempt and raced 70 yards for a Cougar touchdown.

LASW's Deion Malone took the opening kickoff of the second half 91 yards for a touchdown to put the Cougars up, 14-7 and later in the third, Bieme connected with Loveday Chibue for a 74-yard TD strike and suddenly, the Cougars led, 21-7. Coast had back-to-back drives that started inside the Cougar red zone and both drives ended with zero points (incomplete pass on fourth down and a missed field goal).

Passi led the Coast defense with eight tackles (including four for loss), while Chris Castillo and Zeke Alleman each had seven tackles and a combined 6.5 tackles for loss. In all, the Coast defense held LASW to 188 yards of total offense and picked up 15 tackles for 80 yards of lost yardage for the Cougars. Kilburg, OCC's onside kick recoverer, also notched a 43-yard interception return as well.

Monge finished with a game-best 78 receiving yards, while Jordan Clark found succes with 10 receptions for 65 yards. 

The home win was the first of its kind for the Pirates since OCC topped Palomar, 28-20, back on Oct. 14, 2017, a span of nine contests. 

OCC will return to action on Saturday at El Camino College, beginning at 1 p.m.