In a nightmarish start to Saturday’s nonconference football game at Larrabee Stadium, Santa Barbara City College ran into Murphy’s Law at every turn. The Vaqueros lost three fumbles and their top receiver to a possible season-ending injury — all in the first 10 minutes.
Ventura College took advantage of the fumbles — two on back-to-back kickoff returns — to build a 28-0 lead with 5:07 to go in the first quarter. The Pirates, ranked 12th in the state with a 3-0 record, stretched it to 49-0 on a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first half.
Neither team scored in the second half, but the issue had long since been decided. It was the fifth loss for SBCC (0-3) in the last six meetings with Ventura.
“It got out of hand early,” Vaquero coach Craig Moropoulos said. “It turned into a real test for us — a test for our intestinal fortitude. I told the guys, ‘If you got it, you’ll bounce back. You’ll realize that every thing bad that could happen did happen.’”
After Ventura marched 49 yards on the opening drive and Tim Pope ran it in from 5 yards out, the Vaqueros’ Justin Leverette fumbled on his team’s second play. Kavarius Walker recovered near midfield for Ventura and eight plays later, Michael Lee scored the first of his two TDs from a yard out. On the PAT try, the holder took off around right end and scored to make it 15-0.
Walker forced a fumble by SBCC’s top kick returner, Ravonte Wilkerson, on the ensuing kickoff and the Pirates recovered at the SBCC 24. Lee Mondol completed two passes with the second one going to Tyler Whitcomb for a 4-yard score and a 22-0 lead.
The next kickoff rolled near the right sideline and Wilkerson was whacked when he tried to pick it up. He suffered a broken collarbone on the play. Ventura started from the 17 and needed just two plays to get into the end zone on a 17-yard reverse by Kris Parham and a 1-yard run by Lee. The PAT kick missed, making the score 28-0.
The Vaqueros were outgained 307 to 65 yards in the first half. SBCC, which was shut out for the first time since an 11-0 loss to Orange Coast in the 2005 season opener, has been outscored 119-16 this season.
“I challenged them at halftime,” Moropoulos said. “I told them I don’t really care what the score is. I just care about your demeanor and how you handle yourself in this second half. I got after them pretty hard and they came out pretty aggressive in the second half. We just have to find a way to succeed in the red zone.”
The Vaqueros won the first-down battle in the second half, 10-4, and were inside the Pirates’ 21 three times but failed to score. The best chance came on a fourth-and-5 from the 8-yard line, but Austin Civita‘s lob pass to the left sailed out of bounds.
Leverette ran for a season-high 83 yards on 15 carries but the passing game produced just 71 yards. Injuries forced the Vaqueros to use three new starters in the offensive line.
“I thought our offensive line did a decent job, considering we lost three or four guys,” Moropoulos said. “Whether it was a dropped pass or an interception or a fumble, everything that could go wrong did. That’s on me as a head coach. I have to step up and say we’re going to continue to believe in what we do and we’re going to get better at it.”
After three games against the stronger National Division, SBCC opens play in the new American Pacific Conference with a 6 p.m. home game Saturday against Antelope Valley. The Marauders are also 0-3 after a 31-14 loss to Chaffey.
Dave Loveton is Santa Barbara City College‘s sports information specialist.
Ventura 49, SBCC 0
SBCC ………. 0 0 0 0 — 0
Ventura ……. 28 21 0 0—49
First downs 13 17
Rushes-Yards 31-138 43-184
Passing Yards 70 211
TOTAL YARDS 208 395
Passes (Com.-Att-Int) 8-27-2 12-15-0
Punts-Avg 4-36 5-29.2
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-40 7-78
Rushing — SB: Leverette 15-93, Carter 10-53, Lawson 1-6, Rehage 2-3, Civita 3-(minus 17). V: Lee 12-61, S. Washington 7-30, Parham 2-26, Stewart 5-13, Mondol 4-12, Wright 2-10, Dore 1-8, Morris 2-7, Kiper 2-7, Pope 1-5, Powers 1-3, C. Holland 2-2, McPherson 2-0.
Passing — SB: Rehage 5-18-2-48, Civita 3-9-0-22. V: Mondol 11-14-0-204, Holland 1-2-0-7.
Receiving — SB: Murphy 2-20, Elsberry 2-10, Lott 1-21, Holland 1-9, Carter 1-5, Johnson 1-5. V: Whitcomb 3-37, R. Washington 3-20, S. Washington 2-61, Pope 2-57, Karam 2-36.
Missed field goals — None.
Records — SBCC 0-3, Ventura 3-0.