Thirty one. That's the total number of points separating the Citrus College Football team from it's opponents this season, leading up to tonight's 31-15 win over conference foe Santa Barbara City College. The Owls have been on the winning and losing end of some of the tightest games in the Western State Conference this season. They were just 1-6 going into today's matchup, and in the sole win of the season before today, Citrus won by just 1 point in a 14-13 barnburner over San Bernardino Valley. In its losses, Citrus has been edged out by an average of just a little over 4 points. To put that in perspective, one field goal and an extra point conversion in each loss, on average, and the Owls would be undefeated on the year. 5 times this season, the margin of loss was 3 or less points, and each of those would leave a lasting imprint on the collective confidence of the Citrus squad. After a devastating one-point loss last week at LA Pierce, the Owls bounced back and took out a season's worth of frustration on the visiting Santa Barbara Vaqueros.
Things started off nicely for the Owls, as their first drive of the game yielded 69 yards in total offense and culminated in a 23 yard TD pass from Darreon Lockett to Carson Bassett. The Citrus defense would return the favor to its teammates on the other side of the ball and force Santa Barbara into punting on each of it's first 4 possessions, holding the Vaqueros to just 10 total offensive yards and intercepting the ball on the 5th possession late in the first half. The Owls would score twice more in the first half. First was a 22 yard pass from Lockett to Mason Mesina-Rowe, and the duo would link up again on an 8 yard TD reception. Carrying a 21-0 lead into halftime, the Owls were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel that is their season, and would strive to keep Santa Barbara in check in the second half, ending its 4 game losing streak.
That light would shine brightly right out of the gates in the second half, as Chazz Eldridge swooped in on the first play, intercepted a Bradley Kleven pass, and ran the ball 30 yards to score. This put the Owls up 28-0, and things started to look bleak for Santa Barbara. Citrus would drive downfield again later in the 3rd quarter, this time relying on kicker Diego Morales to boot in a 24 yard field goal, increasing the lead to 31-0.
But Santa Barbara would not go down without a fight. Although Citrus held the Vaqueros to just over 200 yards of total offense, Santa Barbara found a way to piece together two touchdown drives in the 4th quarter, adding some drama to an otherwise one-sided contest. The Owls would hang their hat on their defense though, as Eshon Gray intercepted the ball on the Vaqueros' final drive of the night, nailing down the victory and leaving a sweet taste in the mouths of the hometown fans.
Putting up good stats on the defensive end were regular standouts Grant Trueman, Eshon Gray, Henry Pigee, Zach Lewallen, Henry Karimu, La Atanoa and Jeremiah Vasquez. Karimu bagged 2.5 sacks on the night, for 19 total yards lost. On the offensive end, Darreon Lockett was a pleasant surprise for the home crowd with 9-14 passing for 130 yards and 3 TD's, along with 103 yards rushing. The Owls backfield was led by Boris Mulume, primarily a special teams player thus far in the season, who rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries and Devin Floyd who nabbed 54 yards on 22 carries. The Owls' offensive line would be deserving of much of the credit though, with fantastic blocking and pass protection throughout the game.
The Owls improve their overall record on the season and will look to move up to .500 in conference play next Saturday as they take on LA Valley at home. Kickoff is at 1:00 at Citrus Stadium.