The Vaqueros (1-8, 1-4 in conference) worked hard Saturday, but Santa Monica (7-2, 5-0) had an answer for each one of their challenges.
Santa Monica scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive following five of the six Vaquero scores.
Using a conservative passing game and a pounding running attack featuring Joseph Wiggan (117 yards and two touchdowns), Omar Sanchez-Barrera (89 and one score), and Timothy Broughton (42 and one score) – who combined for 248 yards rushing in 50 carries – the Vaqueros rallied from two touchdowns down to tie the score at 41 with two minutes remaining in the game.
"We've been running the ball all year," Rome said. "We believe our offensive line is the best single unit in the conference. We can run the ball on anybody."
Sanchez-Barrera scored from six yards out to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive, but Rome and his team knew that it left too much time on the clock for Santa Monica to drive for the possible winning score.
Santa Monica started the final drive on its own 36 with 1:52 to play. After three plays resulted in a net of nine yards, the Corsairs were left with a crucial decision. With 49 seconds left, Santa Monica had the ball on its own 45 and needed to decide between punting the ball to the Vaqueros and gambling on a fourth-and-one play.
"I asked my team," Santa Monica Coach Giffard Lindheim said. "They've come this far and they've been through so much together. They said, 'Let's do it, right now.'
Lindheim trusted his team.
After lining up to punt, Santa Monica called a timeout, which was followed by a Vaquero timeout.
Minutes later, quarterback Alfonso Medina rushed for two yards and a first down.
"I thought they were going to go for it," Rome said. "I thought we would jump offsides. I almost jumped offsides. I had to call a timeout."
Four plays later, Medina connected with Brandon Taylor for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds to play.
Kevin Hunter's desperation pass in the waning seconds was intercepted, sealing the win for Santa Monica and sending the Vaqueros to another tough loss.
Hunter – who threw a 38-yard touchdown to Matt Volland —- was nine of 17 for 177 yards and three interceptions. The Vaqueros also fumbled twice, including once on a kickoff return that allowed Santa Monica to score twice within one minute to take a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
"The turning point was five turnovers," Rome said. "It's hard to overcome that. They're a very good football team."