Vaqueros share first American Pacific Conference title

MONTEREY PARK — SBCC’s football team did all it could do on a smoke-filled Saturday night by dismantling East Los Angeles 45-14 in its regular-season football finale at Weingart Stadium. On the bus ride home, the celebration began after the Vaqueros learned they were American Pacific Conference co-champions, thanks to L.A. Valley’s 37-30 victory over Antelope Valley.

Santa Barbara (6-4, 6-1) won for the sixth straight time to share the inaugural APC crown with Antelope Valley (6-4, 6-1). The Marauders were the last team to beat SBCC, 28-14, on Sept. 27. The six-game winning streak is the Vaqueros’ longest since the 1982-83 squads combined to win eight in a row.

SBCC piled up 337 yards and scored 28 points off four East L.A. turnovers.

It’s the first winning season since 2002 for the Vaqueros, who will find out if they’re going to a bowl game at 11 a.m. on Sunday. There are four playoff games plus three other bowls in Southern California, including the Tremblay Financial Services Santa Barbara Bowl on Nov. 22.

Antelope Valley earned the invitation to the SoCal playoffs, due to its win over the Vaqueros.

By most accounts, SBCC is one of three teams in the running for the final bowl berth. The SoCal rankings will be used to determine the participants and a new poll will be out Sunday morning on the Southern Cal Football Association web site, The Vaqueros were ranked No. 21 this week.

“I hope they realize we’re playing some good football and we should have a chance to play,” said quarterback Austin Civita, after completing 11-of-18 passes for 80 yards and two TDs. “It feels great (to win six straight). We’ve really been playing like a team lately. With everything going on in Santa Barbara, we just wanted to get a win and do something that will get the hopes up of people in Santa Barbara.”

SBCC freshman Trayone Harris rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He finished with 130 yards on just 12 attempts for a hefty 10.8 average.

On the first play of the game, cornerback Arnold Doxie ripped an interception from a Husky receiver. Four plays later, Harris took a pitchout left, then cut back right for a 37-yard touchdown.

Less than five minutes later, linebacker Ken Dorset picked off a Pedro Velasquez pass and weaved his way through the Husky offense on a 50-yard TD return. Robin Lawson scored the first of his two rushing TDs from seven yards out with 2:03 left in the opening quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Scott Decker ripped the ball from the kick returner and Mikkel Vansguard of Denmark recovered for the Vaqueros at the 16-yard line. Four plays later, Civita hit a wide-open Josh Anderson for a 5-yard score on the last play of the first quarter.

SBCC led 28-0 after one quarter and 31-7 at intermission. Jeremy Ybarra kicked six PATs and a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the second quarter.

“Our kids played great. We were tough on defense and this is what I like right here,” said Vaquero coach Craig Moropoulos while looking at the stat sheet. “A high percentage throwing the ball (13-of-20, 65 percent) and we rushed for 236 yards. Our third-down conversions were good (6-13) and we were 2-2 on fourth down.”

Harris, who handled the punting duties, faked a kick on a fourth-and-2 from his own 44 in the second quarter. He ran for 12 yards and six plays later, Ybarra booted his longest field goal of the season.

SBCC put together a 16-play, 76-yard march, leading to Civita’s 8-yard scoring toss to Jed Elsberry. Two plays earlier, Ybarra came out for a 33-yard field goal try on fourth-and-6 but the Vaqueros faked it and holder Gary Braun, a former QB at Dos Pueblos High, ran around the right side for seven yards and a first down.

Lawson extended the lead to 45-7 on a hard-driving 9-yard run up the middle with 6:25 to play.

Logan Hurn paced the defense with 13 tackles, including seven solo. The Vaquero defense held the Huskies to one touchdown just seven days after giving up 52 points in a 55-52 win over Valley. East L.A. (1-9, 1-6) scored the last TD of the game on a 40-yard blocked punt return with 2:01 remaining.

“I’m just proud of winning six in a row,” said Moropoulos, who was the quarterback on the last SBCC team to win six straight in a season in 1979. “I’m so proud of these kids. … Six in a row — you just don’t do that very often. I don’t care what level you’re talking about.”

And now, the Vaqueros have to hope that six is enough to get them into the postseason.