Santa Barbara City College pounced early and jumped out to a 35-7 first-half lead over West Los Angeles College — and then held off a Wildcat second-half comeback to win 37-20 on the road Saturday.
“They did a good job coming back,” SBCC coach Craig Craig Moropolous said of West L.A. “We took after them pretty well the first half. They could have given up, and they didn’t. You know, it’s a game of emotion and momentum. Unfortunately, we lost it in the third quarter.”
The win moves the Vaqueros to 2-1, after another very efficient outing by sophomore quarterback Trenton Leura. After three touchdown passes Saturday, Leura has six for the year, against no interceptions. He was 11 for 17 for 152 yards.
The first half SBCC momentum provided a steep hill to climb. Halfway through the opening quarter, running back Brandon Smith ran 53 yards, including a shift from one side of the field to the other when he encountered traffic, for the game’s first score. Five minutes later, Smith added an 11-yard score, and a second successful EP by Joe Bowman gave the Vaqueros a 14-0 first quarter lead.
Smith, a sophomore from Chicago, had an outstanding day, rushing 17 times for a career-high 152 yards and the two TDs.
SBCC added a third touchdown 48 seconds into the second quarter, on an 11-yard run by Mekhi Norfleet. After a West L.A. touchdown, on a pass from Cassell Wiggins to Orion Naulls, Luera answered with two touchdown passes — 11 yards to Norfleet and a 46-yard strike that freshman Damare Ward from Oxnard caught in stride.
That gave SBCC the 35-7 halftime lead that looked pretty comfortable.
A momentum shift started with a lost fumble on the Vaqueros’ first second-half possession, giving West L.A. the ball on the SBCC 45.
The Wildcats scored eight plays later on a 22-yard pass from Wiggins to Kannon Davis. The EP made the score 35-14 with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
West L.A. scored again 14 seconds into the fourth quarter, again on a pass from Wiggins, to Riley Rudolfo to move the Wildcats within two scores.
But the Vaqueros responded by blocking the extra-point attempt. The loose ball was scooped up on the 18-yard line by sophomore linebacker Zach Schipper, who scampered 82 yards untouched for a two-point conversion with 14:46 left.
Instead of 35-21, the score became 37-20. That three-point turnaround turned a two-score lead into a three-score lead for the Vaqueros.
“That blocked kick was kind of a calming effect, a calming effect for the whole game,” Moropolous said.
The final period ended with no further scoring.
“We held on, got a win,” Moropolous said. “I’m proud of the guys.”
He also gave credit to West L.A.
And indeed, SBCC had just a 10-yard advantage in total yards, 355 to 345. Wildcat quarterback Wiggins had a fine outing, connecting on 29 of 47 passes for 236 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
But the final score showed a fairly decisive 17-point win for the Vaqueros. They return home to La Playa Stadium next Saturday to host L.A. Southwest, with game time at 1 p.m.