With one minute left in a 7-3 battle, Santa Ana College dug their cleats in at their own 22-yard line to preserve their lead. Dons’ supporters roared “Defense!” as the homecoming crowd became the loudest they had been all game. They just needed one more stop, and they got it.
Santa Ana College prevailed over Los Angeles Valley College in a 7-3 dogfight consisting of 13 punts, four interceptions, and two lost fumbles.
The first drive by the Monarchs moved quickly, as they got to the Dons’ 22-yard line in five plays. However L.A. Valley’s quarterback Wesley Tshimanga was intercepted by Santa Ana’s Deonte Jones in the endzone.
For the remainder of the first quarter, the next seven drives resulted in punts by both teams, with exception to a 31-yard field goal from Monarchs kicker Daylen Ortiz late in the first quarter. Both teams failed to score for the remainder of the half, keeping it a 3-0 game.
Throughout the first half, the Dons’ defense impressed. With the exception of the opening drive, they only allowed a total of 29 yards over the half, including a fumble recovery. Santa Ana only allowed 34 rushing yards on 37 rushing attempts by L.A. Valley.
“We’re working hard, trying to do our job, and everybody’s flying around making some big plays… [they] ended up enjoying themselves out there,” said James Guglielmana, the defensive line coach.
Both defenses did not waiver after the half, forcing punts throughout nearly the entire third quarter.
The Monarchs put together one late drive, in which they found themselves in the Dons’ red zone to start the fourth.
With the Dons in a high-pressure situation, the Monarchs threatened to score again from the eight-yard line. At fourth and short, the Monarchs trotted out their field goal unit, only to fake the field goal in an attempt to extend their lead by two scores.
American Metro League Defensive Player of the Year Blaze Iglesias picked off the L.A. Valley pass and returned it 14 yards.
Iglesias would be Santa Ana’s player of the game, accumulating a ridiculous stat line of three sacks, four tackles, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and the aforementioned interception.
“I think our coach put in a good scheme,” said Iglesias. “We played to the best of our ability and then I had all these stats, but I couldn’t have done it without my team. They helped me make all these sacks, these picks, it took a whole army.”
The clutch play would not result in much, as the Dons quarterback Dallen Engemann would throw his second interception of the game, setting the Monarchs up at the Dons’ 38-yard line.
The next drive would be an incredible sequence for the Dons, as three penalties and two sacks resulted in a fourth-and-59, forcing the Monarchs to punt at their own 13-yard line.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Dons offense needed to score. Engemann extended the drive with his legs. He ran for 31 yards on the drive, capped off by a 6-yard gain on fourth-and-5 which set up the touchdown on the next play.
Santa Ana then drew up a passing play to receiver Malichi Pierce, which resulted in a 28-yard touchdown for the team’s first score.
“It’s simple, you make big plays to win, you either step up or you don’t, and I took this great opportunity to step up,” said Pierce post-game
The Monarchs had one final opportunity and drove down the field, but Tshimanga took a sack by defensive end Zamir Richardson and dropped the ball, which was recovered by Dons linebacker Christian Gabb to seal the game.
“I am very happy with the team,” said Coach Anthony White, “We have a lot of freshmen and we’re maturing. We saw that maturity come to fruition today.”
This victory marks the Dons’ fourth consecutive win. They will now head into a bye week before entering league play on October 14 against Victor Valley College.