Vaqueros keep rolling, beat L.A. Southwest for fourth straight win

SBCC quarterback Brandon Edwards was as hot as the weather on Saturday afternoon. The freshman completed 18 of 26 passes for career-best 235 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Vaqueros to a 30-18 football victory over L.A. Southwest in an American Pacific League game at La Playa Stadium.

Edwards threw touchdown passes of 17, 16 and 14 yards, and ran an efficient offense, as SBCC (4-1) won its fourth straight game and improved to 2-0 in the APL.

“Our offensive line really pushed the defense back and made holes for our running backs, gave me time to throw the ball,” Edwards said. “It was an all-around good job by our offense today.”

The Vaquero defense also stepped up on the 90-plus degree day. Led by noseguard Rodriquez Jones and middle linebacker Brandon Nicastro, SBCC held the Cougars to 28 net yards on the ground. Rodriquez, who is normally a linebacker, recorded two sacks on Southwest quarterback Justin Lewis and had a team-high eight tackles, including four for losses. Nicastro had seven tackles.

“Coming into this game, it was just high intensity,” Nicastro said of the defensive performance. “We were down a couple of key guys, so we had to have a couple of guys step up like Rodriquez Jones and Luigi Dorzin.”

SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos was proud of the players that filled in for the missing defensive starters.

“In those situations, what you really get excited about are the guys who stepped up, like Rodriquez. He hadn’t done anything all season long. He looks like a stallion (and he) finally goes out there and disrupts and has a great game. With people missing, he went inside and did a great job.”

SBCC missed a scoring opportunity on its first possession of the game as Edwards misfired on a pass in the end zone on a fourth down at the 8.

Southwest put together an impressive drive, going 93 yards on 16 plays and scoring on a 1-yard run by Lewis. The PAT was blocked, leaving the Cougars ahead 6-0.

Cedric Cooper of SBCC stiff-arms a L.A. Southwest defender. Cooper rushed for 53 yards on 12 carries.

Cedric Cooper of SBCC stiff-arms a L.A. Southwest defender. Cooper rushed for 53 yards on 12 carries.

Edwards and the Vaqueros responded with a 74-yard, 11-play drive. The quarterback rolled to his right and found Nicolas Rohde in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. Blake Levin’s PAT put SBCC ahead 7-6 with 14:46 left in the second quarter.

“That’s the mark of good team,” Moropoulos said of his offense. “They came right back and scored, just like last week. That’s what I’m proud of.”

SBCC’s defense dominated on Southwest’s next two series. On the second series, the Cougars punted for only 16 yards, giving SBCC the ball at the 22. On third down from the 16, Edwards hit Elijah King for a touchdown. The PAT failed, leaving the score 13-6.

The Vaquero defense continued to make things tough for the Cougars and forced them punt from their 23. SBCC’s offense took over at the Southwest 48 but its drive stalled. The Vaqueros, however, still came away with points as Levin booted a 40-yard field goal for a 16-6 advantage with 2:13 left in the second quarter.

“That’s what it’s all about, taking advantage of opportunities,” said Moropoulos of the good field position. “We’ve done a good job of that this season.”

Edwards agreed. “It’s comfortable there (in the red zone). I feel like we can really capitalize on it. We do a really good job in red zone.”

Lewis guided the Cougars on a two-minute drill and moved them to the SBCC 28. The mobile Southwest quarterback completed 21-37 for 294 yards. Rodriquez disrupted the drive with a sack, and Lewis threw incomplete passes on the next two downs to end the threat.

The Vaqueros have faced several mobile quarterbacks this season and have done well to contain them.

“Yay, a lot of the quarterbacks have been mobile so we like to cause a lot of pressure in the pocket and as much chaos as possible to flush him out,” said Nicastro. “We seem to do a pretty good job on with running quarterbacks. Hopefully from here on out we’ll get some pocket passers.”

Lewis came out firing at the start of the second half and took the Cougars 75 yards on eight plays for a touchdown. A SBCC penalty on fourth down kept the drive alive. Running back Latrell Flowers scored the TD on a 4-yard run. But the PAT was blocked by Marc Jonassaint and Jay Terry, leaving SBCC ahead 16-12 with 9:56 left in the third quarter.

Any momentum the Cougars gained from the touchdown was quickly wiped out by SBCC’s active defense. The Vaqueros got the ball back at the Southwest 45 and put together a 10-play drive for a touchdown. Cedric Cooper caught a screen pass from Edwards and ran 14 yards for the score. Levin’s PAT made it 23-12 with 3:09 to go in the third quarter.

Moropoulos was pleased with the passing game.

“They’re very tough against the run,” he said of Southwest. “They had some solid people and they put a lot of people in the box. They said, in my opinion. ‘If your going to beat us, you have to beat us through the air.’ We did. That’s a sign of what a good team does.”

Flowers went 30 yards on a screen pass on the Cougars’ next possession. But Dicastro led a SBCC defensive charge, giving the ball back to the Vaqueros.

Alex Riley tries to drag down Rashad Wilson of L.A. Southwest.

Alex Riley tries to drag down  L.A. Southwest running back Latrell Flowers. (Presidio Sports photos)

As the game entered the fourth quarter, Edwards started utilizing Cheroke Cunningham and the former Santa Barbara High star delivered. He rushed for 60 of his 69 yards in the fourth quarter. He took swing pass 35 yards to the Southwest 42 and had runs for 14, 4 and 5 yards to move the ball to the 16. Edwards then went on top to Royce Finley for 6 yards, Osha Washington for 14 and King for 6. On first down, Edwards handed the ball by Tyler Higby on a reverse and Higby ran untouched into the end zone to make it 30-12 with 10:38 left in the game.

“Every one has fallen for it,” said Edwards with a grin. “Everyone flowed to the right and Higby pretty much just walked into the end zone.”

A 46-yard pass from Lewis to Michael Fleming set up Southwest’s final touchdown, a 1-yard run by Lewis with 2:26 to play. A two-point conversion pass failed.

The Vaqueros are off next week. They return to action on Oct. 18 at L.A. Valley.