Levin’s kick lifts Vaqueros to OT victory

Blake Levin booted a 20-yard field goal in overtime on Saturday to lift SBCC over Antelope Valley 41-38 in a wild and crazy Halloween football game at La Playa Stadium.

Levin had struggled the previous two weeks, missing a PAT and last-second field goal in a 28-27 home loss to L.A. Valley.

“I was coming off a groin injury the last few weeks,” said Levin, a 5-10 sophomore from Cheyenne, Wyoming. “When I was on the sideline, I remembered how we lost the Valley game because of me. I told everybody, ‘We’re not going to lose this game.’

“The kick was right down the middle, it was perfect. Perfect snap, the line did their job and I did my job.”
The Vaqueros went crazy after the emotional win, which was their first overtime game since Nov. 14, 2009 when they fell to East L.A. 52-46.

“I saw everybody running at me and I was like, ‘Oh man!’ “ recalled Levin, who scored 11 points on two field goals and five PATs. “My helmet has scuff marks from that celebration.”

The Vaqueros (4-4, 3-2 American Pacific League) rallied from an early 14-3 deficit and led 17-14 at the half. SBCC took a 24-17 lead on an 11-yard pass from Alexander Cuevas to Jason-Matthew Sharsh at the 2:23 mark of the third quarter. The Marauders (4-4, 2-3) regained the upper hand, 31-24, on touchdown passes of 28 and 32 yards by Blake Shepherd.

Cuevas was playing quarterback in place of the injured Brandon Edwards. A sophomore transfer from Cerritos College, Cuevas completed 19-of-34 for a season-high 349 yards and two TDs with two interceptions.

Sharsh caught five passes for 121 yards and TDs of 63 and 11 yards in a game that featured four ties and four lead changes.

Shepherd completed 24-of-39 for 385 yards and three TDs. He became AVC’s single-season passing leader with 2,360 yards. Alex Byers caught five balls for 119 yards and two TDs, including a 32-yard TD that capped a three-play, 61-yard drive early in the fourth quarter and gave the visitors a 31-24 lead. AVC took over at its own 39 after SBCC punter Joel Whitford failed on a fake-punt run to the left.

“The perseverance that our guys showed, coming back to take the lead, then falling behind and coming back again, that was fantastic,” said SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos. “This is a great example of a team win.”

The Vaqueros tied it at 31 on the ensuing kickoff when tight end Alexander Argent fielded a pooch kickoff and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown. Three plays later, linebacker Thomas Hopp made a sack and forced a fumble near midfield and Lordes Jones recovered for the Vaqueros.

SBCC converted on a fourth-and-3 at the 28 when Osha Washington ran six yards on a reverse. Four plays later, Deon Dickey bulled in from the 3, running behind Bilal Sharmoug and Tyler Davis, and the Vaqueros took a 38-31 lead with 5:11 to play.

Shepherd then directed a 16-play, 75-yard march and the Marauders tied it at 38 on a 3-yard run by Shepherd with 28 seconds to play.

Washington had three catches for 77 yards and made the catch of the year for the Vaqueros on the sixth play of the fourth quarter. On third-and-14 from the SBCC 15, Cuevas threw a long pass to the middle of the field and Washington made a diving, one-hand catch for a 46-yard completion that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd.

“Osha (pronounced Oshay) had one like that at Santa Monica last year but this one was so fully extended and one-handed, it was crazy,” said Moropoulos. “That was NFL-quality without a doubt.”

SBCC won the toss in overtime and chose to start on defense. Clayton Hanly and Thomas Hopp stopped 250-pound Trevonte Coleman for a 1-yard loss on second down. After an incomplete pass, Hanly and Evan Defer sacked Shepherd for a 6-yard loss on fourth down.

“We were going against a good offense with a QB who scrambles real well,” said Hanly, a freshman lineman from Santa Ynez High who had 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks. “Overall, we’re a tough, disciplined defense that’s never going to stop coming for you.

“I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t go for a field goal. I think they knew how well our offense was doing and didn’t want to risk only getting a field goal. On fourth down, it was a spear play for me, so I came off the edge on the tackle and I saw the QB and went for it. I knew I had back-up coming.”

“Clayton Hanly has strep throat and he could have easily sat this one out,” Moropoulos noted. “He sucked it up and I’m very proud of him.”

Diante Lewis-Jolley led the Vaquero defense with 11 tackles (6 solo) while Hanly and Evan Defer had 10 each. The 6-5, 235-pound Hanly had five tackles for loss, totaling 20 yards.

The Vaqueros got the ball at the Marauder 25 in overtime and Cuevas hit Marvin Millett with a 14-yard pass on first down. After three runs moved the ball to the 3, Levin came on for his game-winning kick out of the hold by Whitford.

SBCC will host first-place and unbeaten Santa Monica (8-0, 5-0) in its final home game on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Corsairs beat L.A. Southwest 59-6 on Saturday and they’re the No. 1 scoring team in the state, averaging nearly 50 points a game. Santa Monica has a 33-game winning streak in APL play.