Vaqueros come up short in first-place showdown

SBCC brought one of Southern California’s most effective red-zone offenses into Saturday’s first-place football showdown with L.A. Pierce.

The Vaqueros came in at 81-percent efficiency but they couldn’t convert on two chances in the fourth quarter of a 35-30 American Pacific Conference loss to the Brahmas (5-2, 3-0) at La Playa Stadium.

Santa Barbara (3-4, 2-1) drove 50 yards and had a first-and-goal from the 7 with 2:05 to play. The Vaqueros lost three yards on two runs, Alonzo Winn slipped on a third-down pass that might have been a touchdown and Chris Kordakis couldn’t make a sliding grab in the end zone on fourth down.

“Our strength has been our ability to score in the red zone and we didn’t do that tonight,” said coach Craig Moropoulos, whose team was 3-of-6 inside the 20-yard line. “We scored 30 points but we should have scored a lot more. But that’s life, that’s the way this game is.”

John Uribe completed 20-of-34 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Chad Toocheck had eight receptions for 152 yards and two scores. Art Gonzalez, SBCC’s top receiver, was hobbled by a knee injury and had just three catches for 27 yards.

The stats were nearly identical with SBCC winning the first-down battle 24-22 and Pierce prevailing in total yards, 478-453.

The Vaqueros jumped ahead 16-0 in the first quarter on an 18-yard run by Winn, a 22-yard field goal by Shane Rogers and a brilliant leaping TD catch by Michael Douglas on a 25-yard pass from Uribe.

The Vaqueros went for a 2-point conversion after the first touchdown with their line spread wide to the left and right but the run failed.

The visitors got within 16-14 but the Vaqueros took a 23-14 halftime lead with a seven-play, 64-yard march. Uribe and Toocheck connected on a 43-yard pass on the first play of the drive and the pair combined for a 1-yard TD toss on a play-action fake on fourth-and-goal with 2:51 to go.

The Brahmas, who lead the series 15-13, took the lead after scoring drives of 53 and 80 yards in the third quarter. Exavier Johnson’s 3-yard TD pass to Nate Ingram made it 28-23.

SBCC got to the Pierce 13-yard line on its next possession but Douglas was stopped on fourth-and-1. Douglas recorded his fourth straight 100-yard game with 104 yards on 21 attempts.

Manny Hernandez led the Vaquero defense with 17 tackles (7 solo) and two forced fumbles. The Vaqueros played without star linebacker Sam Shipley and defensive end David Izebere, who were injured.

After falling behind, SBCC forced a punt but Matthew Arve fumbled the return and Pierce recovered at the Vaquero 33. On first down, Clinton Granger hit Ingram up the right sideline for a 33-yard TD that stretched the margin to 35-23 with 11:33 to go.

Granger, who shared time at QB with Johnson, completed 10-13 passes for 222 yards and three TDs.

SBCC cornerback Enrique Thomas made his third interception of the year on the Brahmas’ fourth play and Arve foiled a second-quarter Pierce drive with his fourth interception at his own 8.

SBCC’s defense forced Pierce into three-and-outs on its last three possessions.

With 7:07 to play, Uribe heaved a long pass from his own 46. The ball bounced off a defender at the 20 and into the hands of Toocheck, who went into the end zone to complete the 54-yard play and pull the Vaqueros within five, 35-30.

Santa Barbara forced another punt and got the ball on the Pierce 41 with 59 seconds left. Uribe threw a bomb for Toocheck near the goal line but he couldn’t come up with it. A sack on fourth down ended the Vaqueros’ comeback bid.

“It’s a tough game and there’s a lot of injuries,” Moropoulos concluded. “We played well, we played hard and we were right there.

“We have three more games to play and we’ll see what happens. Pierce could still get beat.”


  1. Livin4football says

    the fumbled punt return that matthew arve was involved in should have been a penalty on pierce for running into the return man after signaling a fair catch. Matthew felt that he cost the game for his team, which is bad enough, get the circumstances right before you write something that makes him feel worse. Matthew has 4 interceptions in 4 starts for the vaqueros, consecutive starts.

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