West Hills College Coalinga made big plays on offense, defense and special teams to rally and then hold on for an exciting 19-18 win against visiting College of the Sequoias on Saturday.
The WHCC-COS football match-up was the first between the two rivals schools, since the Falcons rejoined the Valley League.
On a hot, sunny October afternoon when WHCC (1-2, 3-5) celebrated Homecoming and its annual Hall of Fame class, the Falcons gave the Coalinga fans plenty to cheer for.
The game featured four lead changes in the second half - capped by freshman punter Imanol Arrendondo - starting as the Game 8 kicker - drilling his second field goal of the game from 34 yards out and 8:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It would prove to be the final score of the game, as WHCC defensive back Orion Evans forced a Giants fumble, recovered by safety Fred Feleti, stopping the COS drive for the potential winning score at the Falcons' 10 yard line with 1:12 left.
Arrendondo kicked his first collegiate field goal from 26 yards, capping an impressive opening offensive possession for the Falcons - as they marched 57 yards on 15 plays that took 8:15. With a 3-0 lead, the WHCC defense forced a COS three-and-out on its next possession, and the Falcons offense went back to work.
The Giants (1-2, 2-6) answered before halftime on RB Andrew Azua's 10-yard rushing TD. The PAT failed and WHCC took a 10-6 into the break.
Both teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter - COS using a Davonte Green 49-yard TD run; and the Salaam-Donadelle tandem connecting again for a 10-yard TD reception. Both teams failed on their extra points and WHCC held a slim 16-12 lead heading into the fourth.
Green found the endzone again (4-yd TD run) as the Giants regained the lead at 18-16 with 12:07 to play - but that was all the COS offense could manage against a gritty Falcons defensive effort that allowed only eight yards passing through the first three quarters.
Salaam finished 23-of-37 passing for 205 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. His 18 passing TDs is tied for eighth in the CCCAA.
Donadelle, who had five catches for 58 yards and a pair of scores, leads the state with 12 TD receptions - two more than the No. 2 leader. He also had a 33-yard punt return - and another long return for an apparent score, nulified by a penalty.
Defensive leaders included: freshman DL Keyshawn Gist (career-high seven solo tackles, two for loss, one sack and one pass breakup), sophomore Demarcus Donerson (seven tackles, five solo), and freshman DB Tyrese Washington (four tackles and his third INT of the season).
UP NEXT: The Falcons will host San Joaquin Delta (0-3, 0-8) next Saturday for another 1 p.m. kickoff.