The Santa Barbara City College Vaqueros finished a record-shattering regular season Saturday with a 65-27 win at Santa Monica College for the school’s first outright league championship since 1991.
Now the Vaqueros wait to learn whether they’ll host a bowl game. Bids should come out next Friday, SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos said, for a bowl game likely on Nov. 26 or Dec. 3.
The Vaqueros finish the regular season 5-0 in American Pacific League play and 9-1 overall, going undefeated after a season-opening loss for a school-record nine consecutive wins. And they did it scoring a school-record 455 points on the season.
And it’s been “by far” the best of Moropoulos’ 17 seasons at the Vaquero helm.
“To win nine games in a row, doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “I’m very proud of the players, as I told them after the game, very proud of the assistant coaches. The dedication and the loyalty and the commitment that they’ve shown all season long has just been tremendous.”
SBCC began salting this game away very early. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Vaquero defensive back Blake Vollbrecht intercepted a pass from Santa Monica QB Michael Cruz at the SBCC 37.
Vaquero running back Mekhi Norfleet rushed for 10 yards on SBCC’s first play from scrimmage, and then was off to the races for a 53-yard touchdown run on the second play.
With all of 43 seconds gone from the game clock, SBCC led 7-0 after Marko Jovisic’s extra point.
The two teams traded 3-and-outs before Vaquero Lamar Campbell got the game’s second interception — running this one back 20 yards for the second SBCC touchdown. with 8:51 left in the first quarter, the lead was 14-0.
Before the first quarter was over, SBCC scored twice more: on a safety after a high snap on a Corsair punt attempt rolled into the end zone, and then a drive on the ensuing Vaquero possession that ended with a 1-yard keeper score from quarterback Alex Johnson. SBCC then led 23-0.
Santa Monica got on the board in the second quarter on a 16-yard TD pass from Forrest Brock pass to Myles Parker, and a two-point conversion.
But the Vaqueros kept answering.
Johnson, ever the stalwart and efficient QB, threw three touchdown passes, 27 yards to Cameron Woolsey, 13 yards to BJ Phillips, and 27 yards to Chase Wells. Freshman running back Woolsey also rushed for two TDs.
Norfleet led a balanced rushing attack with 73 yards on four carries and the opening TD. After Norfleet was pulled as a precautionary measure after a minor ankle injury, a welcome sight entered the game — star running back Brandon Smith, hampered of late with a shoulder injury.
“He missed all week in practice, so we really couldn’t play him too much,” Moropoulos said of Smith. But Smith managed 61 yards on seven attempts, an 8.7 yard average, and that put him over 1,000 yards for the season, at 1,031.
That, and Woolsey coming in to add 56 yards and his two rushing and one receiving touchdowns, was a customary sign of Vaquero depth.
“That’s what’s been so amazing about this season, is just the guys who are stepping up,” Moropoulos said. “We get a guy hurt, and then the next-man-up mentality. So I’m really proud of them about that.”
Helpful special teams play included strong return yards from Kayden Chan — including a 55-yard kickoff return.
And Jovisic, kicking the last few games for the injured Joe Bowman, hit all nine of his extra point attempts.
Between those two, the Vaqueros have not missed an extra point all season — an astounding 61 for 61.
“How about that?” Moropoulos marveled. “To be honest with you, I’ve never heard of that. It’s going to be interesting to see on the record books.”
The Vaqueros now get some time to heal up and face their bowl game. Moropoulos will be pushing for Dec. 3, since Nov. 26 is two days after Thanksgiving.