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Results tagged “Will Thurston” from College Sports Blog

Hearty band of Raiders

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With a bye week followed by a trip to two-time defending SoCal finalist Cerritos, November was never going to be easy for the Moorpark College football team.

After starting the season with 65 players, the 2-7 Raiders will travel south for the season finale Saturday with a hearty group of less than 40.

"In all honestly, I think the guys that are with the program have a lot of enthusiasm," coach Will Thurston said. "Everyone is rested up and ready."

Moorpark needs a win to avoid the fourth season in school history with less than three wins.

"Everybody is disappointed that we're at this point of the year, obviously," Thurston said. "Each and every one of us had a hope that we'd have a real positive season. The record obviously doesn't indicate it."

The Raiders have had two weeks to mull over the 21-20 loss to Canyons Oct. 27, when it failed to convert a game-tying extra point in the final seconds.

Thurston called the moment "uncharacteristic," considering special teams has been such a strength for the Raiders this fall.

Moorpark College feels Packers' pain

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The Green Bay Packers weren't the only burned by a referee's double-catch ruling this past weekend.

The Moorpark College football team's wild, back-and-forth 49-40 loss at Hancock Saturday hinged on a fourth-and-3 play with little more than two minutes left.

Quarterback Ben Conlin had just hit Brent Stevens with a 38-yard scoring strike to bring the Raiders within 42-40. The Moorpark defense was fighting to get the ball back to set up kicker Derek Kirk for a potential game-winning kick.

Hancock quarterback Brandon Jeffries' fourth-down pass was deflected into the air by Moorpark safety Steven Townsley and came down into a crowd of players.

"I timed my jump perfectly," Townsley said. "I hit the ball with my elbow pretty much. I saw the ball bounce off (a Hancock) shoulder pad and hit (Moorpark linebacker) Travis (Key).

"I saw him grab it and fall to the ground, so I laid on top of him. When he was on the bottom, he had the ball on his chest."

Yet the two teams combined to fight for the ball. Possession was not only awarded to Hancock, the spot of the ball was adjudged to have gained first-down yardage, despite it being a 3-yard gain on fourth and 3.

"The umpire wouldn't even give us the benefit of the doubt with a measurement," Moorpark coach Will Thurston said.

"We asked for a measurement," Townsley said. "It was a frustrating call."


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Going into Saturday's trip north, Moorpark knew it was facing a challenge with Hancock running back Curtis Artis-Payne. The state leader in rushing and touchdowns lived up to the hype with 235 yards rushing and four touchdowns

Thurston, who -- once upon a time -- was Jamal Anderson's running back coach, was impressed.

"He's pretty talented," Thurston said. "I love the guy's lean. He hits the hole and he's got his shoulders over his toes. He keeps his legs going. Not a lot of spinning, just really sharp cuts.

"He's a dream for most coaches going north and south the way he does."

Special team

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The Moorpark College football team might have suffered its first loss Saturday, 29-16 to visiting Citrus, but the Raiders appear to be special this year.

Moorpark players have earned the SCFA Northern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week award the first two weeks of the season.

Last week, it was former St. Bonaventure kicker Derek Kirk. This week, Moorpark punter Alex Nelson was honored.

"Those two guys are extremely valuable," Moorpark coach Will Thurston said.

The Moorpark High product averaged 46.5 yards per punt, including a 54-yard boot, pinned two punts inside the Citrus 20-yard line and also completed a pass on a fake punt for a fourth-down conversion.

"Alex had a heck of a week," Thurston said.

Raiders in control

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The Moorpark College football team certainly stuck with a formula to open the season with a 23-20 overtime win Saturday night in Costa Mesa.

The conservative Raiders ran the ball 57 times, held possession for nearly 39 minutes and allowed their playmaking defense (four interceptions) and clutch kicker to make the difference.

"We really feel like we've got an opportunity to control the ball and control the line of scrimmage," Moorpark coach Will Thurston said. "Running the football is something we want to emphasize."

Moorpark put together scoring drives of 12, 11 and 11 plays in the first 35 minutes.

"That consumed a lot of time on the clock and it keeps your defense fresh," Thurston said.

Making his first start since he was a Westlake High senior in 2008, quarterback Ben Conlin played took every snap, completing 16 of 28 passes for 166 yards, one TD and one interception.

Beyond taking a couple sacks, Thurston was happy with Conlin's performance.

"Saying he's a little rusty, that's obvious," Thurston said. "But he'll improve. He's a good find for us."

Impact players

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Local products dominate the SCFA Northern Conference honors this week.

Ventura safety Matt Arve was SCFA Defensive Player of the Week. The Buena High product, and transfer from Santa Barbara City, had nine tackles, a fumble recovery and the game-clinching interception in the Pirates' 28-27 win over Riverside.

"He's a great example of perseverance, Mooshagian said. "The guy never misses a day. ... He's undersized, but very smart and always where he's supposed to be."

Moorpark College placekicker Derek Kirk was named Special Teams Player of the Week. The St. Bonaventure High product converted field goals of 24, 25, 48 yards, including the overtime game-winner in the Raiders' 23-20 win at Orange Coast.

"We have an excellent placekicker," Thurston said. "Derek is very capable of keeping us in a ballgame."

Grinding it out

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After two dramatic last-minute wins over Chaffey a year ago, the Moorpark College football team made sure to control Saturday's 27-17 win over the visiting Panthers.

One week after letting a 12-7 fourth-quarter lead slip at Long Beach, the Raiders jumped out to a 24-0 lead early in the third quarter.

"Chaffey has some skill players over there that can terrorize you if you're not careful," said Moorpark interim coach Will Thurston. "But the game seemed to be going pretty quick. Time was on our side after a while."

Possession has been emphasis for the Raiders during conference play. Moorpark hasn't lost the turnover battle since Sept. 24.

"We've been doing a decent job of hanging on to it," said Thurston. "We're a little bit more protective in the way plays are being called."

Moorpark still on Bittner's path

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Jim Bittner may not be able to physically be with his team for the rest of the season. But it's impossible to strip the veteran coach's influence from the Moorpark College football team.

"We're still playing this year for coach Bittner," said defensive coordinator Mike Stuart. "Every game for the rest of the year, we're going to try to do something to honor him."

This week, as the Raiders (3-2) open SCFA Western Division play against visiting Antelope Valley at Griffin Stadium, the tribute will come in the form of an offensive play call.

"We're going to run a play that he put together 20 years ago," said Stuart. "We're going to try to make some history out of it and show our respect for him that way."

The 38-year coaching veteran went on leave for the remainder of the reason Oct. 3. Acting head coach Will Thurston said he is guiding the team along the path set forth by the program's patriarch.

"That's my role," said Thurston. "I'm trying to shepherd the team properly like Jim would have done.

"We talk about it every day in practice. Everyone is talking about coach Bittner. We're not ignoring that fact. He's with the coaches in our planning and he's with the players in their preparation."

Thurston returns to the gridiron

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Will Thurston may not have been on a sideline for the past 11 years, but it didn't mean his impact wasn't being felt on a gridiron somewhere.

"Will Thurston taught me more about the running back position than anyone," said former Moorpark College and Atlanta Falcons running back Jamal Anderson last fall. "There are drills that that he taught me that I absolutely despised, but I still take my guys through them when I'm working out guys."

A whole new generation of Moorpark College running backs will be put through those memorable paces now that Thurston, a fixture on the Raiders coaching staff for two decades, has returned to the Moorpark College football team as running backs coach and special teams coordinator.

"I'm back," said Thurston, who was back on a field this week with the start of the team's summer class. "I'm kind of going full circle."

Thurston was the offensive coordinator when Moorpark's current offensive coordinator, Jimmy Bittner, was in the Raiders backfield in 1985.

"There's a good level of communication that's been established," said Thurston.

Thurston also coached one of the great backfields in community college history in 1989, when the Raiders had tailback Freddie Bradley and fullback Anderson.

"That was fun," said Thurston. "We had more people, more scouts watch pregame warm-ups. It was real intense because everybody was so competitive."

Since being hired as a 22-year-old by head coach Jim Bittner in 1979, Thurston has spent time as Raiders' running backs coach (1979-84), special teams coordinator (1985-99), offensive coordinator (1985-93), outside linebacker coach (1994-98) and defensive coordinator (1999).

"I'm glad he's still around," said Thurston of head coach Bittner. "He still interacts so well with the players. He's got some young coaches with him. They've got a lot of vigor to be real good."

Formerly the school's golf coach, Thurston will remain the Moorpark College softball coach.

Eder, Neumann drive MC softball into second

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Pitcher Kelly Eder scattered 17 singles in 14 innings, stranding 15 runners in allowing just one run, as the Moorpark College softball team swept host Cuesta, 3-1 and 1-0, in a Western State Conference doubleheader Tuesday afternoon in San Luis Obispo.

"We made the plays defensively," said Moorpark coach Will Thurston. "It went right down to the last out in the second game."

The sweep allowed the Raiders (12-11, 6-1) to jump Cuesta (11-14, 5-3) into second place in the WSC Gold and move a half game behind first-place Ventura, who the Raiders host Thursday.

Taylor Neumann had a double and a two-run homer in Game 1.

Brittany Alfino provided the winning margin in Game 2 by drawing a one-out walk in the third inning, stealing second and scoring on an error.


Moorpark 3, Cuesta 1
WSC Gold (Game 1)
Moorpark 000 012 0--3 6 2
Cuesta 000 001 0--1 10 2
Eder and Neumann; Thompson and Silzer. W -- Eder (8-8). L -- Thompson. 2B -- Moorpark: Neumann, Nelson. HR -- Moorpark: Neumann
Team records -- Moorpark 11-11, 5-1; Cuesta 11-13, 5-2.

Moorpark 1, Cuesta 0
WSC Gold (Game 2)
Moorpark 001 000 0--1 5 0
Cuesta 000 000 0--0 7 1
Eder and Neumann; Thompson and Donovan. W -- Eder (9-0). L -- Thompson.
Team records -- Moorpark 12-11, 6-1; Cuesta 11-14, 5-3.

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Ventura County Star sports writer and columnist Joe Curley covers college sports and soccer for this Star. This is the place to click for local college football and basketball coverage, including USC, UCLA, Moorpark College, Ventura College and Cal Lutheran.

Curley will update from live events and also interject with periodic comment on both international soccer and the local Ventura County Fusion.