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SBCC Football Preview: Local Players Expected to Make Big Impact for Vaqueros

Craig Moropoulos' team bolstered by a returning starting quarterback, big offensive line

Gerald Hickson Click to view larger
Gerald Hickson is back as the starting quarterback for the SBCC Vaqueros. (Ken Sciallo photo)

There’s a definite local flavor on the 2018 SBCC football team, with nearly 30 percent of the talent homegrown.

Eighteen of the 64 players are from Santa Barbara or North County high schools.

Leading the local contingent is Nathan Beveridge, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive tackle who was a big part of Dos Pueblos High's record-setting, CIF-Southern Section runner-up football team last season.  He's slated to start at right tackle.

Ramon Lazarit, a 6-4, 295-pound tackle from Santa Ynez High, is expected to start on the left side of the offensive line.

Their presence will be welcomed by returning quarterback Gerald Hickson.

“The positives are the quarterbacks and the offensive line,” said head coach Craig Moropoulos, who enters his 12th year at SBCC. “We’re fairly stout size-wise and we have a chance to be good.”

What to know about the 2018 Vaqueros

»Experience: SBCC returns 15 players from last year’s 4-6 edition, including nine were starters. The five returning starters on offense are Hickson, center Jake Tourtilotte (All-APC player from Cabrillo High), tackle Taylor Ludwig, tight end Tommy Quinn and kicker/punter Martin Ahlstroem of Sweden.

The defensive starters returning include safeties Lucas Olgiati and Nakota Shepard-Creer, defensive lineman Daniel Ekstrum (Lompoc High) and linebacker Andreas Buri of Switzerland. Linebacker Chase Elliott, the fourth-leading tackler last year with 52, is also back. Olgiati had 37 tackles and two interceptions a year ago.

»Quarterbacks: Hickson, a 6-1 sophomore from Buffalo, N.Y., completed 58.6 percent of his passes last year for 1,058 yards and eight touchdowns. He’ll be backed up by Jeremiah Nicholson, a red-shirt freshman from Santa Barbara High who suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of 2017.

 “Jerry Hickson had a great camp,” Moropoulos stated. “The game is slowing down for him. He’s really showing he’s the guy and he’s accepted the responsibility of being a leader.

»Running backs: Will Bayonne, a transfer from Akron University, is taking over over the running duties from Manny Nwosu, who became SBCC's first 1,000-yard rusher mark in decades. Clifton Taylor, who played on the 2016 Vaqueros, is another option out of the backfield.

Nathan Beveridge Click to view larger
Nathan Beveridge arrives from Dos Pueblos, where he helped the Chargers to a 12-2 season and a CIF runner-up finish. (Noozhawk file photo)

»Wide receivers: Redshirt freshman Nick Foster had an outstanding training camp, according to Moropoulos. Leland Gropper is a 6-5 wide receiver from Seattle and Colton Takis, a 6-4, 235-pound freshman from Santa Barbara High, will see time at tight end.

»Top offensive newcomers:  “Nathan Beveridge is a powerful blocker and he’s one of our top newcomers, along with Takis. Colton has been a pleasant surprise. We moved him from D-line early in camp and he’s done a great job. He’s very coachable.”

»Top defensive newcomers: Cornerbacks Ron Caretti Jr. and Javan Gail.

»Kicking game: Ahlstroem returns as the kicker and he'll also punt. He was 3-of-4 on field goals and 17-17 on PATs last year. 

Foster is expected handle punt and kickoff returns. 

»The schedule: The Vaqueros will be facing five new opponents this year and half of the teams in their American Pacific Conference are new. Citrus, L.A. Valley and Antelope Valley have been replaced by L.A. Harbor, Santa Monica and Pasadena. The three remaining conference teams are SBCC, Hancock and L.A. Pierce.

The Vaqueros open at Compton on Sept. 1. The home opener Sept. 8 vs. San Bernardino Valley at 6 p.m. Their toughest non-conference test will come on Sept. 15 at No. 7 College of the Canyons.

»Team overview: “We just need to continue to get better every day,” said Moropoulos. “We have more returners than last year. Our roster is smaller, but I’m OK with that. You have a smaller group and there’s less guys to monitor and they’ll get more coaching every day. 

“We’re going to have to do a great job of coaching and, hopefully, our guys will do a great job of trusting and getting better each game.”

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