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Edwards tosses 3 TDs in fourth straight win, 30-18

Nicholas Rohde and Tyler Higby celebrate a Vaquero touchdown during Saturday's 30-18 win over L.A. Southwest. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Nicholas Rohde and Tyler Higby celebrate a Vaquero touchdown during Saturday's 30-18 win over L.A. Southwest. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Brandon Edwards threw for a season-high 235 yards and three TDs on Saturday as SBCC topped L.A. Southwest 30-18 in an American Pacific League football game at La Playa Stadium.

The Vaqueros, ranked No. 18 in Southern Cal, won their fourth straight game by rushing for 171 yards on 44 tries and holding the Cougars (2-3, 1-1) to just 28 yards on 32 attempts. And that was with a defense that has been decimated by the loss of six starters in the last two weeks due to injury or other problems.

Rodriquez Jones, a 6-4, 245-pound freshman from Newport News, Virginia, led the Vaquero defense with eight tackles, including four for loss, and two sacks.

"We had a lot of distractions during the week and I don't want to get into all of it right now," said coach Craig Moropoulos. "In those situations, you're excited by the guys who stepped up like Rodriquez. He hadn't done anything all season long and he goes out there and looks like a stallion."

Jones looked a little out-of-place with the number 23 as a nose tackle.

"He wanted to be a linebacker, then he moved to defensive end and with some people missing, he finally moved inside to nose tackle," explained Moropoulos. "He did a great job."

The heat was on with the thermometer reaching 90 but there were no turnovers by either team.

The Vaqueros (4-1, 2-0) overcame an early 6-0 deficit with 16 second-quarter points thanks to TD passes of 17 and 16 yards to Nicholas Rohde and Elijah King, respectively. SBCC led 16-6 at intermission.

SBCC and Santa Monica are the only unbeaten teams in the APL at 2-0.

Edwards, a freshman from Seattle, completed 18-of-26 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns.

"I'm pretty hard on the quarterbacks since I coach them," said Moropoulos. "Yeah, Brandon can do better than that. He's getting better every week. What he needs to understand is that he doesn't have to do it so perfectly. Just go with what you've practiced and what your gut tells you. He didn't have any interceptions and he held the ball two times because he had their ball instead of our ball. That's pretty heads up and I'm proud of his progression."

One week after rushing for 378 yards, the Vaqueros showed good balance with 235 passing yards and 171 rushing for a total of 406 yards. The Vaqueros scored 30 or more points for the fourth straight game. It's the first time that's happened since 1994 when they went 3-1 to end the season and scored 34, 40, 52 and 35 points.

Santa Barbara has outscored its last three opponents 131-69.

The Cougars (2-3, 1-1) drove 75 yards in 12 plays on the opening possession of the second half and pulled within four at 16-12 on a 4-yard run by Latrell Flowers.

After an exchange of punts, the Vaqueros covered 45 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 14-yard screen pass from Edwards to a wide-open Cedric Cooper. Blake Levin's PAT kick gave the Vaqueros a 23-12 lead with 3:09 left in the third quarter.

"They have some big defensive linemen and our offensive line did a great job," said Edwards. "The wide receivers helped me out with some great catches and the running backs also did great. They turned 3-yard plays into 9- or 10-yard gains."

The Vaqueros were 4-5 in the red zone but Edwards says they can do better. The only time they missed was on a fourth-and-2 from the 6 on the game's opening drive when Edwards threw high to an open Will Allen in the back of the end zone.

"Southwest is very tough against the run and they hadn't given up many points (allowing just 15.5 before Saturday)," noted Moropoulos. "They put a lot of people in the box and  they said, if you're going to beat us, beat us through the air. And we did."

After forcing a punt, SBCC's offense drove 83 yards in 10 plays with Edwards going 4-4 for 61 yards. The big blow was a screen pass to Cheroke Cunningham that he broke for 35 yards on the second play of the drive. Tyler Higby got his first TD of the year on a 5-yard reverse that boosted the lead to 30-12 with 10:38 to play.

Southwest came right back with a 54-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Justin Lewis. The Cougars went for a 2-point PAT but Lewis' pass was too high for DeJon Curry in the back of the end zone, leaving them 12 points behind (30-18) with 8:05 to play.

Lewis completed 21-of-37 passes for 294 yards but also suffered four sacks.

Cunningham rushed for 60 of his game-high 69 yards in the final quarter.

"We have a stable of running backs and Cheroke is one of the smarter ones I've had," said Moropoulos. "He went down before he went out-of-bounds on a play near the end of the game to keep the clock running. That's just headsy and I like that."

Punter Mitch Wishnowsky was on his game again with four punts for a 40-yard average and two inside the 20. Midway through the third quarter, the freshman from Australia picked up a poor snap, ran to his right and got off a 39-yard punt under pressure. His last punt of the game, a 42-yarder, was downed by Jason Jimenez at the Cougar 1 – the fifth time this year that he's had a punt downed at the 1-yard line.

Wishnowsky is averaging 36.4 yards per punt and is No. 1 in the state with 12 of his 23 kicks staying inside the 20-yard line.

Blake Levin, who booted a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter, kicked off for the first time this year in place of Wishnowsky and four of his six kicks went for touchbacks.

The Vaqueros started 6-0 last year and they're off to a 4-1 start this season.

"We're a young team and I'm proud of them," said Moropoulos. "Brandon is really maturing fast and doing a nice job."

After a bye next week, SBCC will travel to L.A. Valley for a 6 p.m. contest on Oct. 18.