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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 10:04 pm | Fair 46º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
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Hancock Clinches American Pacific League Title With Victory Over Citrus

The Hancock football team celebrates after winning their first conference title since 1997 Click to view larger
The Hancock football team celebrates after winning their first conference title since 1997 (Hancock Sports Information)

The Bulldogs stormed out to a 14-0 halftime lead against Citrus College and held on for a 29-24 win in their regular season finale Saturday at Hancock Football Field. Ranked No. 20 in the state, the Allan Hancock College football team completed a 5-0 run through American Pacific League play and clinched the program’s first outright conference title since 1997. The Bulldogs improved to 8-2 overall and gave head coach Kris Dutra his 100th career win with the Bulldogs. Dutra is now tied with his mentor and Hancock coaching legend, Barney Eames, for most career wins in program history.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Bulldogs got on the board first when quarterback Jimmy Kelleher ran in a touchdown from 11 yards out to make it 7-0 Hancock with 9:29 to play in the second quarter. The Bulldog defense accounted for Hancock’s second score when Jalen Burgess picked off a Darreon Lockett pass that was tipped by Benjamin Willkomm. Burgess turned his first interception of the season into a 31-yard pick-six, the second interception returned for a touchdown by a Bulldog this season.

Citrus’ offense came to life in the third quarter with a 35-yard field goal by Diego Morales and a 38-yard touchdown pass from Lockett to Jamar Graves to pull the Owls to within 14-10.

The Bulldogs responded early in the fourth quarter when freshman Isaac Bausley caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Kelleher to retake a 20-10 lead. The touchdown capped a 32-yard, four-play drive that started when Citrus punt returner Jeremiah Vasquez fumbled during the return.

The two teams needed less than two minutes to find the end zone. Citrus climbed to within 20-17 with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Bystry on the first play of the Owls’ next drive. Hancock responded on the ensuing drive as Kelleher connected with receiver Andre Hallmon for a 62-yard touchdown strike to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 27-17 with 13:01 to play.

The Bulldogs added to their lead behind the defense as Osa Omokaro and Dominic King teamed up to sack Lockett in the end zone for a safety to push the lead to 29-17 with 10:33 to play.

Citrus’ defense scored with about four minutes to go when Bausley coughed up the football and Yuri Owsley recovered the fumble and ran it in for a 17-yard score to climb to within 29-24. Hancock held on to the ball and ran out the clock the rest of the way to seal the victory.

Hancock finished with 359 yards of total offense, compared to 248 yards by Citrus. Hancock racked up 236 rushing yards, while the Hancock defense held Citrus to just 40 yards rushing.

Kelleher completed five of his 10 passes for 85 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Markese Jackson completed one pass on a trick play, a 38-yard reception to Kelleher.

Damon Whitmill, Jr. led the Bulldogs’ ground attack with 87 yards on 19 touches. Ryheem Skinner finished with 68 yards on 16 carries, while Bausley had 52 yards on 13 carries.

Omokaro led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles, five of them for loss. He also forced one fumble. Willkomm made seven total tackles, while Connor Epley had six stops, 1.5 sacks and recovered one fumble. King, Parker Burnett and Trenton Carter each recorded 0.5 sack in the win.

The Bulldogs will learn Sunday which bowl game they will play in next Saturday, Nov. 18. Hancock last played in a bowl game in 2011.

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