Vance Keiser,Carpinteria
Carpinteria quarterback Vance Keiser throws a pass while being pressured by Fillmore’s Tyler Coert. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

If you’re going to win football games in the new Citrus Coast League, you better make a lot of big plays.

Carpinteria followed that M.O. on Friday night and defeated visiting Fillmore, 27-14, in an exciting opener of what’s expected to be a very balanced league.

Carpinteria quarterback Vance Keiser threw four touchdown passes, two of them to Brady Sturdivan, and Sturdivan intercepted a pass in the end zone late in the game to preserve the win.

Carpinteria improves to 4-1 on the season while Fillmore falls to 3-2.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, with the Warriors clinging to a 20-14 lead, Jacob Macias made a huge defensive play. On second-and-goal from the 6, he rushed in and tackled Fillmore running back Hugo Virto  for a three-yard loss. The Flashes got the yardage back on the next play, but on fourth down Saviers threw behind his receiver in the end zone.

“If you watch your film and watch a play like that, you say, ‘Kids care about what happens,’’’ Carpinteria coach Rick Candaele said. “That’s making it happen and caring about what the result is. You’re always talking about they can take one more snap and you never know what happens. And that was an example of taking one more snap.”

Brady Sturdivan

Brady Sturdivan celebrates as he runs away from Fillmore defender David Tovar on a 58-yard touchdown play in the third quarter. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

After the momentum-changing play, Carpinteria took over and Keiser threw a quick look-in pass to Sturdivan, who turned it into an electrifying 86-yard play down to the Fillmore 9. 

Keiser said he changed the play at the line.

“It was a check-off on me,” he said. “It was a RPO (run-pass option) and I checked off to a spot pass because I saw the corner pressed up and I knew I could beat him with the ball and Brady would get up there with it.”

After nearly losing the ball on first and goal, Keiser threw a perfect 11-yard fade to Sturdivan in  the corner of the end zone on second down for 27-14 lead with 8:06 to go.

Sturdivan and Keiser played big for the Warriors. Sturdivan caught 6 passes for 198 yards and Keiser completed 10 of 12 passes for 283.

Keiser is glad Sturdivan is on his team.

“I can’t describe him any more than a lifesaver,” he said. “I get pressured, I escape and he’s there. No matter if he’s on the opposite of the field, he’ll get open. Even when he’s not open, he’s open. He can get by anybody, he can out jump anybody. He’s awesome.”

Jacob Mata

Jacob Mata of Carpinteria heads to the end zone to complete a 35-yard pass play in the second quarter. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Fillmore quarterback Jack Saviers drove Fillmore to the Carpinteria 25. After a 5-yard penalty by the Flashes, Saviers looked for a receiver in the end zone but his pass was picked off and Sturdivan, who returned it to the Carpinteria 40.

Keiser got Carpinteria on the scoreboard first, throwing a 10-yard strike to Jonathan Mora at 3:23 of the first quarter. Tito Arroyo kicked the PAT.

The Warriors forced Fillmore to punt on its next possession, but the Flashes got the ball back when they stripped it from Keiser and David Rivas recovered at the Carpinteria 8.

Three plays later, Saviers hit Paget Ekelund on a 2-yard touchdown pass. Ricky Calderon’s PAT  tied the score at 7-7 with 52 seconds left in the quarter.

Saviers completed 23 of 39 passes for 242 yards in the game.

Carpinteria’s Ever Santamaria recovered a fumble by Nunez and the Warriors quickly capitalized to take a 14-7 lead. Keiser hit tight end Jacob Mata over the middle and he rumbled 35 yards for the touchdown.

“We saw that their safeties played over the top, they were focusing more on the deep threat, so I knew he would be open early,” said Keiser of Mata.

“That’s Vance our quarterback,” Candaele said. “We have a little check he can go through and he went to it a couple of times. That was on him.”

Saviers and Fillmore came out flying in the second half, but two holding penalties derailed a long drive and the Flashes punted. 

Carpinteria took possession at its 42 and on first down Keiser threw deep to Sturdiva. The wide receiver  used his height advantage to make the catch and scored a touchdown for a 20-7 lead. The Warriors missed the PAT kick.

Nunez, a workhorse running back who rushed for 159 yards on 23 carries, broke off a 56-yard run on Fillmore’s ensuing possession. Carpinteria defensive back Chris Ramirez made a touchdown-saving tackle at the 5, but the Flashes eventually scored two plays later on a 1-yard run by Saviers. The PAT made it a 20-14 game, and Fillmore had all the momentum.

Carpinteria went three and out and the Flashes proceeded to go on a long drive, marching from their 24 to the Warriors’ 6 in 15 plays. On second-and-goal, Macias caught Virto behind the line of scrimmage for three-yard loss.

That big play provided the Warriors’ defense with a huge lift and they kept the Flashes out of the end zone.

“The game unfolded just about how I thought,” said Candaele. “I thought we’d probably have to make some big plays somewhere.” 

He praised his players for their drive to win.

“Our kids are battling. They should competitive toughness because that game could have gone either way.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Barry Punzal, Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.