SBCC rediscovered its offense on Saturday behind quarterback Bradley Kleven.
He threw for 228 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-16 rout of L.A. Pierce in the American Pacific League football opener at La Playa Stadium.
The defense was effective as well, with three interceptions, seven sacks and a 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown by defensive lineman Jacob Shultz.
The Vaqueros snapped a four-game losing streak and scored more points in one day (35) than they did in the previous four games combined (27). SBCC is 2-4 overall and Pierce fell to 1-5.
“It was a good day today,” said Kleven, a 6-5 sophomore quarterback from Riverside. “It was nice taking last week off to get some guys back. Some of the play calls today were perfect timing.”
After falling behind 7-0 late in the first quarter, the Vaqueros scored 28 unanswered points on four TD tosses by Kleven.
The Brahmas scored on a 7-yard run by quarterback David McCullum.
Jaylon Smith took the ensuing kickoff at his own 2 and returned it 40 yards. Two plays later, Kleven hit Jahmal Cornwell in stride up the left sideline for a 58-yard touchdown to tie the score. Cornwell is the leading receiver in the APL with 27 catches.
On their next possession, the Vaqueros marched 82 yards in six plays. On third-and-5, Kleven tossed a middle screen to a wide-open Will Bayonne who had three linemen paving the way for him on a 42-yard TD reception. He juked the last defender at the 10-yard line and cruised into the end zone with 12:53 to go in the second quarter.
SBCC went 60 yards in nine plays for its third TD. Kleven threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-11 from the Brahma 29 but Pierce was called for holding, giving the Vaqueros a first down at the 19. Three plays later, Kleven found Cyrus Wallace open over the middle and the former Dos Pueblos High star carried two defenders into the end zone for a 17-yard TD that made it 21-7 at the half.
Kleven completed 6-11 in the first half for 144 yards and three TDs. For the game, he was 10-of-18 for a season-high 228 yards with TD tosses of 58, 42, 17 and 72 yards.
Bayonne rushed for 66 yards and caught two passes for 64 more. Cornwell and Wallace caught three passes apiece with the former totaling 71 yards for a 23.7 average.
The Brahmas won the first-down battle 19-14 but the Vaqueros prevailed in total yards, 362-323.
The lead grew to 28-7 in the third quarter on a defensive score. Ryan Casias (9 tackles, 1.5 sacks) sacked McCullum for a 4-yard loss and forced a fumble. Shultz, a 6-5, 225-pound sophomore defensive lineman from Eugene, Ore., scooped it up and raced 70 yards for the touchdown with 9:34 to go in the third.
Shultz had a huge game with nine tackles (six solo), four sacks and the long fumble return for a TD. He leads the conference in tackles with 45 (7.5 average).
“We played good at times,” said 13th-year head coach Craig Moropoulos. “Offensively, we did some things that we’re capable of doing. But we had too many senseless penalties. You get into that kind of a game with lots of personal fouls and you just don’t fight back or you’ll get caught.
“Kleven did a nice job. He kept his cool and I was proud of him.”
Patrick Dill Jr. made seven tackles and squelched two deep Pierce drives in the third quarter with interceptions at the SBCC 20 and the 2. He returned his first pick 55 yards to the Pierce 25 but Jesse Mollkoy misfired on a 41-yard field goal try.
The Brahmas got a safety two plays after Dill’s second interception when Zivaiishe Smith tackled Bayonne in the end zone.
The Vaqueros scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Kleven fired a pass to a wide-open Sammy Ortiz at midfield and he was gone on SBCC’s longest TD of the year — a 72 yards – that boosted the lead to 35-9.
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Vaqueros had rushed for six touchdowns and only passed for two.
“We got some big pass plays today with three touchdowns between 42 and 72 yards,” Moropoulos noted. “It was a good day because we won our conference opener.”
The Vaqueros will travel to L.A. Harbor on Saturday for a 3 p.m. APL game.