By Dan Gudino
The East Los Angeles College football team capped off the 2016 season with a dominant performance in the Patriotic Bowl, at College of the Desert, winning 63-37 on Saturday.
Family members, fans, and school administration gathered at midfield with players to hoist its first bowl victory trophy since 2011.
“We believed in him (ELAC Head Coach Bobby Godinez) 100 percent of the time, the whole entire time, we believed. All we needed was an opportunity for Bobby and he got it here (at ELAC), to show what he’s capable of,” the wife of Godinez, Jennifer Godinez said.
Jennifer shared how the turnaround season was created with countless hours of preparation, selling his vision to players to buy in.
“He’s a father figure to players. It’s hard for the family, but it’s something he loves. He’s so passionate about it and so good at it you can’t help, but be proud of him and want him to do the best he can do, through the hours it takes,” Jennifer said.
The game was the most intense match all season and described the season in a shell, where no one could beat Huskies but their own mental mistakes.
Desert, was down 21-0, and like a dust storm, it blinded the Huskies with a five straight touchdown attack, a 37-7 run.
Mid way through the third quarter, ELAC was down, 37-28.
Late in the third quarter, Husky starting quarterback, sophomore Jonathan Santos responded with a quick pass to sophomore wide receiver Khamren Davenport that was taken 75-yards into the end zone, cutting the Desert lead, 37-35.
Davenport finished with four catches for 62 yards and two TDs.
The connection to Davenport was Santos’ 33rd touchdown of the season becoming the single-season record holder for most touchdown passes in a season and finishing with 36 TD passes in 2016.
“This is a dream come true. I won one (a championship game) in high school, and I never thought I could do it again. I really thought the high school title was going to be my best game ever and never thought it could happen again. I owe a special thanks to my offensive line, they protect me so well and I have to give the wide receivers all the credit,” Santos said.
ELAC took the lead back, 42-37, at the start of the fourth quarter, when freshman wide receiver Kenny Allen fought through a holding penalty down the sideline and seized the ball out of the air in the end zone for a 28-yard TD. Allen led all receivers with four catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
Santos finished the game with seven total touchdowns and for the second time this season, passed for six TDs, once again tying the Husky record for most touchdowns passes in game.
Santos added the school record for most points scored in a game as he scored 42 total points and earned the Most Valuable Player of the Game plaque.
One of the most exciting plays of the game was in the fourth quarter when the stout ELAC defensive, held the 42-37 lead.
Desert, needed one yard to get a first down on fourth down on its own 19 yard line as defensive linemen sophomores Imani Mitchell and Christopher Blanton worked together to tackle the Desert runner, stuffing the run and turning the ball over to the Huskies.
The Huskies closed the game with five straight touchdowns
The Huskies finish 2016 with a 9-2 record, its best season since football returned to ELAC in 1998.
A teary eyed Godinez showed the biggest smile he’s shown all season as he embraced his wife, three children and family members.
“These kids they deserve it. They trust our staff, they trusted me and most importantly they trusted each other. They all saw what it means to be a team and turned the corner on something special in their lives. I’m so proud of every single player here,” Godinez said.
ELAC was pushed to succeed by its past failures, fueled by not wanting to make the same mistakes.
“The Antelope Valley (College) game was one of those games that you look back on because it was frustrating, but what we needed. It was the turning point as well as the low point in the season, exactly what we needed to say, ‘ Either we come together or this will not happen,’ and these player came together,” Godinez said.
Freshman safety Joey Knowles was given the Player of the Game Award for his game-high 10.5 tackles as he displayed perfect technique against the speedy Desert players.
In the world of junior college football there are no breaks, players come and go in a year or two, building a program never stops. Godinez with his water-cooler drenched shirt laughed and spoke of next season.
“Its awesome. We get back to work on Monday,” Godinez said.