LONG BEACH, Calif. – El Camino College nearly erased a massive fourth-quarter deficit but came up just short in a 55-48 National Central Conference loss to Long Beach City College Saturday night at Veterans Stadium.
With the victory, the Vikings claimed a three-way share of the conference title with Mount San Antonio and Riverside while the Warriors finished the regular season with a 5-5 overall record. They will await to find out their postseason fate Sunday afternoon when the all the bowl matchups are announced by the California Community College Athletics Association.
On Saturday, the Warriors found themselves behind by 24 points entering the final quarter. They would go on to outscore the Vikings 24-7 in the final period, forcing making plays on defense and special teams to get within striking distance as the game wound to an end.
The scoring barrage began on the first drive of the fourth quarter when the Warriors went 67 yards on eight plays and scored a touchdown on a one-yard run from quarterback Jerman Gotoy to make it 48-31 in favor of Long Beach.
On the ensuing Vikings drive, the Warriors blocked a field goal to keep the Vikings off the board, but Gotoy fumbled on the next Warriors possession and Tim Tyler returned it 45 yards the other way for a touchdown to put the Warriors back down by 24 at 55-31 with 9:50 left in the game.
That touchdown proved to be the difference as the Warriors scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth. Gotoy connected with Stephon Robinson on an 81-yard touchdown reception following the Vikings defensive touchdown.
Robinson finished the night with four catches for 110 yards and a touchdown while Gotoy went 13-for-27 for 276 yards and two touchdowns.
On the next Vikings drive, the Warriors special teams came up big once again as they blocked a punt and Isaiah Lemos recovered the loose ball and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown to trim the Warriors deficit to just 10 points.
The Warriors weren't done making plays as Luis Aguiar picked off LBCC quarterback Grant Lowary and returned it to the Vikings' 9-yard line. The Warriors would get a field goal to cut the once giant Vikings lead to just a touchdown.
After the defense forced a punt from the Vikings, the Warriors offense had a chance to tie it as they got the ball with 1:53 left in regulation at their own 41 yard line. Gotoy found Robinson for a quick eight-yard reception pulling off a big 23-yard scramble to get into Vikings territory.
That proved to be the last gasp for ECC though as the Warriors could not get another first down with Gotoy's pass to Hunter Williams in the end-zone falling out of the receiver's reach on fourth down, ending the Warriors comeback bid.
Both teams were nearly even in offensive output as the Warriors gained 482 total yards on offense, just one yard behind the Vikings and their 483 total yards. The Warriors did lose the turnover battle as they lost three fumbles and threw one interception while the ECC defense had three takeaways with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.