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Wolverines slip past Vaqueros 18-10 in opener

Sage Ritchie led the rushing attack with 50 yards on 9 carries. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography).
Sage Ritchie led the rushing attack with 50 yards on 9 carries. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography).

SBCC didn't post gaudy statistics in Saturday's season-opening football game but the Vaqueros still pushed San Bernardino Valley to the final play before dropping an 18-10 decision before 2,174 fans at La Playa Stadium.

The Vaqueros have a lot of new faces on offense, including freshman quarterback Brandon Edwards. They got the ball for one final drive on their own 5, trailing by eight points with 2:09 to play.

Edwards guided the hurry-up offense to the Wolverine 37 by completing 6-of-7 passes for 67 yards. The longest play on the drive was a 25-yard toss to Cedric Cooper on third-and-19 from the SBCC 10.

With 8.6 seconds left, Edwards threw an incomplete pass on what appeared to be the final play. But a flag was thrown for roughing the passer and the Vaqueros had one last chance from the 22-yard line.

On an untimed down, Edwards tossed a high ball that was caught by Mason Rutherford but he was three yards beyond the back of the end zone.

"I was proud of the guys, a lot of teams with less character would have given up," said SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos. "When those things happen to you, like the fumble on the kickoff return, a lot of teams would have given up right there. But our team didn't."

Video highlights (courtesy of Presidio Sports) can be found here.

The Wolverines ran 78 plays (23 more than the Vaqueros) and outgained SBCC 502 to 256 yards. Two Wolverines eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark – Alijah Watson (112 on 15 tries) and Kendrick Dorn (111 yards on 18 attempts).

San Bernardino led in first downs (24-16), rushing yards (254-80) and time of possession (36:52 to 22:46). The visitors also converted 50 percent on third down (8-of-16).

In the first meeting between the schools, SBCC struck first with a 49-yard drive that led to a 48-yard field goal by freshman Blake Levin with 3:15 to go in the first quarter. That was just four yards shy of the all-time SBCC record. The Wolverines took a 9-3 halftime lead on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Ricardo Johnson III and a 45-yard field goal by Cody Madsen with 43 seconds left in the half.

Johnson completed 15-27 for 248 yards but was also sacked six times. Edwards was 19-of-29 for 176 yards with two interceptions.
 
Late in the third quarter, the visitors drove 85 yards in seven plays and Dorn sprinted nine yards up the middle for a touchdown. A second poor snap on a PAT led to a blocked kick by Ezra Taylor and a 15-3 lead with 59 seconds to go in the third.

Then came the biggest play of the game. Tyler Higby fielded the ensuing kickoff at his own 6 and took off up the left sideline on an 86-yard return. SBVC's Lonnie Johnson knocked the ball loose at his own 8 and San Bernardino recovered at the 7.

On second down, Johnson hooked up with Darrian Barrientos-Jackson on a 70-yard pass that moved the ball to the SBCC 20. The Vaquero defense held and SBVC settled for a 25-yard field goal by Madsen and an 18-3 advantage with 12 minutes to go.

"We have a lot of young guys on both sides of the ball," said Moropoulos. "We didn't know anything about those guys (SBVC) and that's a tough thing. I've never had that happen before. They just got a new coaching staff.

"That's a credit to our guys and a credit to our staff. I'm not happy that we lost, I felt like we should have won. We had too many penalties and we have a lot to learn."

The Vaqueros were flagged eight times for 92 yards compared to six penalties for 65 yards by the Wolverines.

SBCC got its only touchdown on the next drive, covering 62 yards in five plays and only 1:40. Higby started things with a 29-yard kick return and Edwards hit Cheroke Cunningham on a 24-yard pass on first down. Rutherford ran 19 yards on a reverse and the Vaqueros had first-and-goal at the 9.

Edwards threw to Elijah King (7 catches, 44 yards) for eight yards on first down. Then the Vaqueros scored in unusual fashion when Edwards fumbled a handoff and the ball squirted into the end zone. SBCC lineman Ivan Malinarich-Campos, a sophomore from Sweden, fell on the ball for a touchdown. Levin's PAT made it 18-10 with 10:13 to play.

San Bernardino held onto the ball for the next 14 plays, moving to the SBCC 24 before a sack by Taylor pushed them back 5 yards and a delay of game penalty forced them to punt from the 34.

Parker Rozenburg led the Vaquero defense with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery while Taylor had nine tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. Detavius Long, Zach Arnell and Jay Terry added eight tackles each. Arnell foiled the Wolverines' first series by intercepting a pass at his own 5.

The Vaqueros will renew their rivalry with Hancock next Saturday in a 4 p.m. game at Righetti High.