Edwards helps bring Vaqueros sixth straight

Brandon Edwards had a career day with 339 yards and three passing touchdowns on Saturday and SBCC’s defense was solid in a 29-14 football win over L.A. Pierce.

The Vaqueros (6-1, 4-0) won their sixth in a row, which ties for the third-longest streak in school history, and stayed on top of the American Pacific League. Santa Barbara, ranked 15th in Southern Cal, snapped a seven-game series losing streak to Pierce, winning for the first time since 2005 in front of 1,325 fans at La Playa Stadium.

Edwards, a freshman from Seattle, completed 24-of-36 passes, including TD tosses of 25 and 5 yards to Elijah King. The third TD was a 21-yard swing pass to Orion Prescott that stretched the lead to 29-0 with 5:58 to go in the third period.

“We prepared very well for this defense, I’ve never watched so much film,” said Edwards. “I was able to see the gaps in the defense and our line really held it today, giving me time to pass.

“Elijah and I have a great connection. I can really rely on him as I rely on all my receivers. When he’s 1-on-1, we have an advantage.”

King caught nine passes for 130 yards and two scores.

“Brandon is a great quarterback, we stay after practice to get our timing down pat,” said King, a 6-3 freshman from Huntington, W.Va. “I have a great QB and a great line that gives him time to throw the ball.

“They may have been expecting us to run more today so the play-action hurt them.”

Edwards was 15-21 for 248 yards and two TDs in the first half as the Vaqueros built a 23-0 lead. Cedric Cooper scored the game’s first touchdown on a 7-yard run that capped a 30-yard drive, following a 12-yard punt that landed and spun backward off the foot of Jamie Sutcliffe. Cooper ran a sweep to the left and leapt over a defender at the 2 and into the end zone.

After a three-and-out by Pierce, Tyler Higby returned a punt 27 yards to the Brahma 25. On first down, Edwards found King wide open in the left side of the end zone. Mitch Wishnowsky’s PAT kick made it 14-0 on the second-to-last play of the first quarter.

All eight of the Brahmas’ first-half drives ended with punts.

“Elijah is physical, he’s tall, he’s fast, he’s quick and has very good hands,” said coach Craig Moropoulos. “Brandon is a baseball player and he throws a very tight spiral with a great release. That’s what you want when you’re throwing into the wind.”

The Vaqueros drove 65 yards in 12 plays for their next score. Wishnowsky converted a 32-yard field goal on his first attempt of the year to make it 17-0. After another three-and-out, Edwards directed an 80-yard drive in 7 plays. King caught a 27-yard pass during the march and scored a 5-yard TD by making a diving grab near the right sideline.

“That was a great catch,” said Moropoulos. “It was a back shoulder throw and that’s what we called on the sideline because Brandon’s very good at that. The NFL does it all the time, if the defender’s off, run the back shoulder (route).”

Wishnowsky missed the PAT kick and the Vaqueros led 23-0 at the half.

SBCC dominated the first half in first downs (15-3), passing yards (248-7) and total yards (310-33). For the game, SBCC prevailed in first downs 23-12 and amassed nearly 500 yards in offense (493), averaging 6.0 yards per play.

The Brahmas (2-5, 1-3) were held to 63 yards and four first downs in the first three quarters, then piled up 175 yards in the fourth. They got TD passes of 17 yards from Edrees Ahmadi and 35 yards from Sean Smith, cutting the deficit to 29-14 with 2:16 to play. Robert Sojka recovered a pooch kickoff at the Vaquero 25 but free safety Jacob Girgle sealed the deal with an interception at the goal line three plays later.

Girgle led the defense with eight tackles and a pick. Charles Valentine intercepted a pass early in the third quarter. Brandon Nicastro had five tackles, including two for loss, and two sacks.

“We held up strong in the first half, we were more prepared than we’ve been in the past,” said Girgle. “Although we gave up 14 points, it didn’t feel like it. We have a couple things to work on, but we’re going to be all right.”

One area of concern was penalties with the teams combining for 29. The Vaqueros were flagged 18 times for 162 yards.

The Vaqueros managed just 59 yards passing a week ago in a 21-3 win at L.A. Valley. On Saturday, they had 361 through the air and 132 on the ground.

“Last week, we wanted to establish the run game and stay with the run game,” said Moropoulos. “This week, there were better opportunities to pass the ball.”

SBCC’s defense pitched a shutout for three quarters, holding Pierce to four first downs and 63 yards. The Brahmas were coming off a 69-14 rout of L.A. Southwest.

“It’s great to be 6-1, we’re really coming together as a family,” said Edwards of the freshman-dominated squad. “We watched a great movie last night, ‘Lone Survivor,’ which is all about coming back and never giving up.”

The Vaqueros are scoring 32 points a game and giving up 18.7, the fourth-best scoring defense in Southern Cal. During the six-game win streak, they’ve won by an average of 15.8 points.

“We’ve won six in a row and we’ve had a lot of adversity that we’ve dealt with,” said Moropoulos. “When we lost some guys on defense, the offense stepped up against West L.A. Then the defense and special teams with Mitch Wishnowsky were outstanding against L.A. Valley.”

Wishnowsky averaged 39.6 on five punts, including the second-longest in school history, a 77-yarder than bounced at the 20 and rolled into the end zone in the third quarter. Anthony Hartz set the all-time mark with an 81-yard punt in 2006.

The Vaqueros hit the road the next two weeks at Antelope Valley (Nov. 1) and a potential first-place showdown at Santa Monica (Nov. 8). Both APL games kick off at 1 p.m.