The562’s coverage of Vikings athletics is sponsored in part by Long Beach City College.
Long Beach City College (4-2, 1-0) dominated their conference opener for about 55 minutes on Saturday night, but still had to battle to the final whistle in order to secure a 33-26 victory over Ventura College (4-2, 0-1).
The visiting Pirates scored nearly all of their points during a furious five-minute rally to close the first half, but couldn’t do much else against a stout Vikings defense. Meanwhile, LBCC running back Jonathan Watson had a career night on the ground, rushing the ball an impressive 34 times for 241 yards and a lifetime-best 4 touchdowns.
“I didn’t necessarily expect him to carry the ball that many times, but at the same time, was I surprised by his performance? Not at all,” said Vikings head coach Brett Peabody of Watson’s breakout game. ”He’s had very good games and very good performances and tonight we leaned on him and our offensive line played phenomenal football.”
Watson–better known as “Johno” on the sidelines–missed the first two games of the season while navigating some eligibility hurdles, but now that he’s on the field he’s been a key weapon for the Vikings offense. He opened the scoring with a short TD run on LBCC’s opening drive, then wasted little time finding paydirt once again. He opened his team’s second offensive series with a 91-yard TD scamper through the heart of the Ventura defense, giving his team a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Watson’s third TD came on the first play of the second quarter, as he helped Long Beach get out to a commanding 23-0 advantage in the first half. When asked what led to his success on Saturday night, Watson had a quick response.
“O-Line. That’s all it is,” said Watson, who averaged 7.1 yards per carry. “All I saw was big holes. Shoutout to the O-Line, and my receivers too.”
Coming off their bye week, the Vikings offense looked much better than it did in their previous game against Golden West. Watson said he and his teammates had a strong week of practice, and now that conference play is underway, they’ve got their minds focused on reaching the postseason.
“Every week, we’ve got to go 1-0,” Watson said. “If we want to go to the playoffs, we’ve got to go 1-0 every week, no matter who the team is. We’ve lost some games, but it’s okay. We’re getting back.”
Ventura got on the scoreboard with 5:19 left in the first half on a short TD run, which kicked off an unfortunate sequence of events for LBCC. During a punt attempt on the next Vikings drive, the snap went over the punter’s head and through the back of the end zone for a Ventura safety.
On the kickoff, the ball bounced right to VC’s most dangerous return man, Jesse Valenzuela, who returned the kick 72 yards for a score, making it 23-16 LBCC with 3:37 on the second-quarter clock.
Ventura would tie the score with 18 seconds left in the half on a short TD toss from Ezekiel Savage II to Tim Grear (5 catches, 120 yards), recording 23 unanswered points in just over five minutes of game time.
LBCC was able to right the ship coming out of the locker room, possibly benefitting from an extended halftime break. The start of each half was delayed by about 30 minutes due to lightning strikes around Veterans Memorial Stadium. As the game concluded, heavy rain began to fall as lightning and thunder illuminated the night sky.
The Vikings received the second-half kickoff and drove down for another TD plunge by–you guessed it–Watson, giving the home team a 30-23 lead. That would be the only TD of the second half as the defenses reigned superior.
LBCC’s defense recorded a pair of INT’s in the second half, one by Trey Edwards and the other by Thaddeus Dixon. The Vikings had 10 tackles for loss and held the Pirates to just 2.2 yards per carry. The Vikings held Ventura to -18 yards in the fourth quarter, completely stifling any thoughts of a comeback.
In total, the Vikings outgained the Pirates 483-241 while averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a team. QB Qeanu Campbell-Caldwell managed the game well, going 15-28 for 213 yards and no turnovers. His favorite target was speedy wideout Kyle Miller, who had 6 catches for 111 yards.
LBCC will hit the road next Saturday for a rivalry game at East LA College. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.