Buena barely staves off Ventura 29-28 to triumph over rivals for first time in 11 years


Olivia Mowad

Rival teams stare each other in the eye challenging the other to play their best.

Sam Noah, Reporter

The evening of Friday, Oct. 22 was a mixture of mist, excitement and intensity drifting through the air as the Buena High School Bulldogs took on the Ventura High School Cougars at Ventura’s Larrabee Stadium. The crowds on each side of this famous rivalry matchup were rife with animosity for their opponents and passion for their team. 

The game was preceded by Ventura’s Senior Night ceremonies, when all 20 were recognized. Once the players took the field, Bulldogs quarterback and kicker Zane Carter ‘23 sent the opening kick down the field and the 58th annual rivalry game began. 

The Cougars first drive started with a chunk of yards gained on a run by back Esteban DeSantiago ‘24, a trend that would continue throughout the night. The sophomore finished the night with 178 yards and averaged almost seven yards a carry. After a Buena penalty extended the drive, the Cougar offense stalled and were forced to punt the ball away. 

Kimberly Fickerson

The Bulldogs offense started their first drive inside their own ten yard line, but still came out firing on all cylinders. A first down from star running back Jake Murphy ‘22 and catches from receivers Colin Guenther ‘23 and Freddy Martinez ‘22 brought Buena well into Cougar territory. Carter then took it himself, shaking off several would-be Ventura tacklers to get the ball down to the seven yard line. Murphy fittingly finished off the drive with a touchdown run and the Bulldogs took a quick 7-0 lead. 

The next drive for each team saw little success with a turnover on downs for Ventura and a punt from Buena, but Ventura was finally able to get on the board at the 7:21 mark in the second quarter. A dash from Cougar quarterback Jacob Jeffris ‘23 down the left sideline put them in field goal range and kicker Donovan Chappell ’24 split the uprights to bring the Buena lead to just 7-3.

No longer shutting out the Cougars, the Bulldogs seemed to catch a spark and the momentum swung all the way towards the blue and white. Following a touchback on the kickoff, Murphy took the first handoff 80 yards to the house, bursting through the hole and out-running the whole field before shaking off a tackle to cruise into the endzone. A two point conversion from back Brandon Rice ‘22 extended the lead to 15-3. 

Murphy described his preparation going into the big game, saying, “I knew this was going to be my last game playing Ventura and I’ve never beaten them before and just working towards it every single day.”



The good fortune continued for the Bulldogs when the ensuing kickoff was muffed by Ventura and recovered by the Bulldogs at the 25-yard line. Special teams blunders were a common ailment for both teams, and Buena was able to take advantage of the favorable field position. Carter took matters into his own hands and ran three times until he eventually reached the endzone, stiff arming Cougars along the way. 

Now down 22-3, the Cougars had five minutes left in the half to shorten their deficit. A reception for receiver Joseph Peña ‘23 accompanied dominant carries from DeSantiago, who scored from inside the five with just over a minute left. 

The Bulldogs attempt to score within the minute was futile, but highlighted by a Murphy run in which he waved at his Cougar rivals mid-run, taunting his opponents while speeding by. 

Starting off the second half, the Bulldogs special teams unit suffered a roundabout of misfortunes. A successful fake punt to Rice was called back due to penalty, and the next  punt snap was fumbled and partially blocked, leading the kick to travel just ten yards. 

Similarly to their rivals, Ventura capitalized on their opponents special teams mishap, and runs from DeSantiago set up a Jeffris keeper for the touchdown that brought the score to 22-17. 

Ventura player prepares to throw while the passionate crowds scream in the background. (Olivia Mowad)

The offenses again stalled on consecutive drives, but the Ventura punt that sailed down towards return-man Guenther bounced off of his leg and into Cougar hands, giving them the ball at the 30 yard line. Given the chance to finally take the lead, Ventura fumbled their opportunity away on a miscommunication on an option reverse. Buena picked up the loose football and returned it to the Ventura side of midfield. 

However, the Cougar defense held strong for four downs and gave their offense another chance with nine minutes left in the game. A big gain on a screen pass down the right sideline put them in field goal range, and the Cougars were forced to let Chappell put another one through the uprights after star receiver Tyler Woodworth ‘22 was wide open in the endzone and not seen by Jeffris.

Now only up by two points, the Bulldogs took an aggressive approach and attempted to convert a fourth and four in their own territory, but a false start forced them to punt. The punt team again blundered the snap, and the ball sailed over the punter and back to the five yard line. 

In the best field position of the game, the Cougars nearly failed to capitalize after a delay of game took them back to the 11. Still, DeSantiago rumbled into the endzone and the two point was converted to a wide open Woodworth, giving the Cougars their first lead at 28-22 with just under three minutes remaining. 

The ball was in the Buena offenses’ hands, and the unit which hadn’t scored since the middle of the second quarter had to go the length of the field. Senior receiver Jackson Geier ‘22 praised his opponent, mentioning, “we didn’t do much on offense in the second half. They made pretty good adjustments.”

Now presented with a chance on their final and potentially game-winning drive, Buena looked to be in an impossible position when two incompletions had them at third-and-ten, but Carter completed a 27-yard dart to Guenther over the middle of the field. Another completion to Guenther put them in the red zone, and the nail in the Cougars’ coffin came on a 17-yard screen pass to Rice, who sprinted down the left sideline and into the endzone untouched. 

Rice spoke highly of his team after the game, describing, “it is unreal how much our team is willing to fight for a win. Words cannot express how excited I am to finally make history winning for the first time in 11 years, it is unreal.”



Down only one point, the Cougars were not out of it with over a minute remaining, and a completion to Peña gave the Ventura fans hope. Jeffris’ next two attempts were foiled by Guenther in pass coverage and Jeffris was tackled on scrambles on third and fourth down to definitively crush the Cougars’ chances.

The Bulldogs took victory formation, and once Carter’s knee touched the turf the Bulldog celebration began.

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