The Citrus College football team entered this Saturday non-league game at Hancock College unbeaten. The Owls are still unbeaten.

Citrus owned the third quarter, and that was enough to give the Glendora-based Owls a 23-7 win over the Bulldogs.

Citrus moved to 5-O. Hancock is 2-2.

“We’re having continuity issues on offense that we haven’t had in a while,” Hancock coach Kris Dutra said after the Bulldogs had the ball inside the Owls 30 five times in the first half but came away with just seven points, on a Desmond Newkirk five-yard run late in the second quarter to tie it.

“Consistency on offense is our biggest issue right now,” said Dutra. “Part of that is moving guys around on the offensive line,” because of injuries.

After a 7-7 halftime score, the Bulldogs’ pass protection fell apart in the third quarter. So did their pass coverage and that, as they say, was that. The teams played a scoreless fourth quarter.

Jeremiah Lineberger beat the Hancock secondary’s coverage deep for the second time and, for the second time, hauled  in a touchdown pass from Austin Zavala, this one deep in the end zone on fourth and 12 from the Bulldogs 25 for the winning score at the 7:51 mark of the third.

Zavala connected with Lineberger at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter for 45 yards and the first score of the game. With Lineberger behind them, two Bulldogs appeared to try for an interception. They bumped together and Lineberger caught the ball and scored.

On the next series after the eventual winning score, the long snap sailed far over Hancock punter Cade England’s head. England had to chase the ball into his end zone where, with Owls bearing down in him, wisely went down for a safety after he corralled the ball.

The Owls started at their own 44 after the free kick. Six plays later, Zavala connected with an open Jeremiah Flores for a 21-yard touchdown pass.

With the score still tied at 7, the Owls knocked the ball out of Hancock quarterback Matt Garcia’s hand and recovered it at the Hancock 29 to set up the go-ahead score.

A sack of Garcia at his 28 preceded the bad snap with the Bulldogs set to punt that resulted in a safety.

Dutra said Hancock was down to one wide receiver, Rahsaan Young, at the end of the game. Everyone else, Hancock’s veteran coach said, was injured.

That included Hancock’s leading receiver, Cajon Lakes. “He got hurt during the game,” Dutra said.

Though the Bulldogs are banged up, “I don’t want to make excuses,” Dutra said.

“We didn’t play well today. Citrus is a solid football team, but we should have beaten them.”

The Bulldogs had a chance to get a safety themselves. Citrus lineman Anthony Chism grabbed a tipped Garcia pass, apparently got turned around and started running the wrong way, toward his own end zone.

The Bulldogs inexplicably tackled him at the Citrus 28.

Citrus came into the game plus six in the takeaway-giveaway department. The Owls turned the ball over three times to the Bulldogs’ none in the first half. A Letravious Kingland interception set up the Newkirk score.

All four takeaways in the second half belonged to the Owls, who kept the Bulldogs to 76 yards on offense after the break.

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Citrus College wide receiver Jeremiah Lineberger (10) makes the catch as several Bulldog defenders try to intercept during Saturday's home game at Hancock.

Lineberger was the reception yards leader, with 69. Hancock’s DJ Whitmill was the rushing leader with 68 yards. The Bulldogs amassed 177 yards on the ground but it took them 52 rushes to get there.

Garcia struggled in his first start since apparently wresting the starting job from freshman Gavin Grondahl late in Hancock’s 42-23 win at West Los Angeles College last week.

Garcia, a sophomore who graduated from Pioneer Valley High School, was just 6-for-16 passing for 53 yards. He fumbled the ball away twice and was intercepted once, on the tipped pass that Chism ran the wrong way with.

The teams jawed at each other around midfield afterward. Event staff got between the teams and things did not escalate beyond, well, jawing.

Hancock has one non-league game left, at 6 p.m. next Saturday night at Antelope Valley.

Concerning his team’s somewhat unsettled situation on offense, “We’ll get it fixed,” Dutra said.

Women's soccer (Friday)

Hancock 1, Los Angeles Pierce 0

The Bulldogs (5-3-3, 1-0-0) started their Western States Conference campaign on on the road, edging the Brahmas at Woodland Hills-based Pierce.

Elizabeth Aldana, with an assist from Brianna Goana, scored the lone goal of the game in the 80th minute.

Hancock goalkeeper Brooke Stewart made five saves.

Men's soccer (Friday)

Compton 3, Hancock 1

In a non-conference game at Compton, the Bulldogs' Eli Zuniga tallied on an unassisted goal in the fifth minute, but the Tartars got an Alfredo Trujillo goal sandwiched around two Jose Oropeza scores to secure the win.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.