VST Game of the Week: Dons get bucked off by the Mustangs 14-9


Verdugo Hills head coach Sean Jackson knew that his players fell into a rude awakening after Don's devastating loss to the Arleta Mustangs 14-9. Jackson was not a happy camper at the end of the game, and with good reason. It was a combination of penalties both on offense and defense, turnovers, missed field goals and failure to capitalize on turnovers that cost the Dons a victory at home.

To put it simply, the Dons just did not compete at a level that met Jackson’s high expectations. Jackson said he expected a lot better from his team and they need to improve each game from here on out because it will not be easy as the season moves forward.

“We shot ourselves in the foot for a second consecutive week,” Jackson said. “We had a lot of miscues and injuries, but still injuries are not an excuse for not getting the job done”.

Jackson also noted that his players just did not focus too well and need to get with the program or it's going to be a long season with a bad ending if they don’t play at a high level. Not paying attention to detail is the main issue of the Dons poor performance.

“There was a lack of hustle and poor execution on our part, and you will lose games every time that happens,” Jackson said. “We take pride in our kicking game and our kicking is the thing that keeps us in ball games. But when you don’t execute you get yourself executed”. The Dons botched multiple snaps on field goal attempts and had one attempt blocked.

In the first quarter the Mustangs had a dominant performance even though the Dons did not make things easy for them. Arleta jumped on the board at 2:07 in the first quarter when quarterback Kennedy Duran sneaked past Verdugo Hills defense to take a 7-0 lead.

“Basically, I ran it in for a touchdown,” Duran said. “Our team never gives up and we give it all every time”. 

Going into the second quarter the Mustangs looked to take control of the game until Verdugo Hills’ Alex Shahnazaryan recovered a fumble with 9:42 on the clock. Two minutes later, quarterback Anthony Ramirez connected with Luis Rodriguez for a touchdown. However, the Dons failed to convert when the snap was bad and the Mustangs defense pounced. During the chaos, Ramirez scrambled to get away from the pressure, but was injured as he was tackled. The Mustangs took a 7-6 lead at half time.

Verdugo Hills looked ready to strike back at the start of the third quarter when Joshua Monroy returned the opening kick into Arleta territory, giving the Dons a great scoring opportunity. The Verdugo Hills offense did not get past the goal line and settled for three points. The score gave the Dons a 9-7 lead, but they did not hold the lead for long.

Midway through the third period the Mustangs regained the lead when Xavier Vega ran in for a touchdown at the goal line. Vega's touchdown gave the Mustangs the momentum that they desperately needed and a 14-9 advantage.

“I fumbled during one of my runs and I just really wanted to get into the end zone,” Vega said. “I got my team back on top and it helped us win the game”.

At 2:30 in the third quarter the Dons attempted to kick a field goal until the Mustangs' Gonzalo Garcia blocked the field goal. Arleta took the 14-9 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The final quarter turned into a wild roller-coaster ride for both teams. Both the Dons and the Mustangs got interceptions and fumbles that gave them each a chance to win the game.

Still trailing in the final minute, but with the ball, the Dons did not give up without a fight. Backup quarterback Naithan Chavez found Rodriguez with a pass, and Rodriguez almost broke into the end zone to score. He did, however, get the Don’s into scoring position with just 16 seconds left on the clock. The Dons had one last chance to score but Kennedy Duran intercepted the ball at the goal line as time expired. Instead of ending the game, he tried to run the ball back and was stripped of possession near midfield. Unfortunately for the Dons, Monroy, who recovered the fumble, was tackled immediately to end the game.

Both the Dons and the Mustangs had a significant number of injuries that could have made or broken for both teams. Despite the turnovers and injuries, the Mustangs were able to hold off the Dons on the road.

Arleta head coach Bill Coan said that he gives his respect for the Dons great effort on the field and showed that they did not give up. “This was a physical game tonight, and this is one of the best games that Verdugo has played,” Coan said. “Made mistakes but we made less mistakes to win the game”.

Coan also explained that even though his team got the win they have some major improvements to make before they play their next opponent.

“We just did not play up to Arleta football standards tonight,” Coan said. “It's great to get the win and our defense was able to block two field goals however, we must cut down on our turnovers and that is what will affect us if we do not improve on this issue”.

Arleta gets a bye week and will play the Poly Parrots at home on Friday September 29 at 3:30 pm. Verdugo Hills is on the road next week to face Poly; game time is at 7:00 pm.

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