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Season Preview: Young Vaqueros hope to continue winning ways

Season Preview: Young Vaqueros hope to continue winning ways

SBCC will be shooting for a third straight winning season and a second straight bowl appearance with a largely new cast of football players.

Seventeen players and eight starters return from the 2014 edition, which went 7-4 and played in a bowl game for the first time in 17 years.

"It's typical for us to have a lot of new faces," said Craig Moropoulos, who's starting his ninth season as the Vaqueros' head coach and 31st overall. "We're going to have more depth in both lines, which is great. Hopefully we can stay fresh and be as good at stopping the run as we've been in the past. On the offensive side, with the depth in the line, we hope to stay established in our fast-paced run game and do a good job of distributing the ball out to our skill guys."

SBCC opens on Saturday at San Bernardino Valley at 4 p.m. The Wolverines beat the Vaqueros in last year's opener 18-10, then SBCC reeled off seven straight wins to tie the single-season school record. The home opener will be Sept. 12 vs. county rival Hancock at 1 p.m. with a brand-new Video Scoreboard in La Playa Stadium.

Brandon Edwards returns at quarterback to run the Vaqueros' no-huddle attack after a solid freshman season. He threw for nearly 1,900 yards and 18 TDs while completing nearly 58 percent of his passes. Alexander Cuevas, a transfer from Cerritos College, is also expected to see time at quarterback along with Kellan Schulz of Wisconsin.

Elijah King, a first-team All-American Pacific League choice last year, is back at receiver. He caught 54 passes for 637 yards and seven TDs. In Week 2 at Hancock, he had 14 receptions, missing the school record by one.

Other returning offensive starters are receiver Osha Washington, center Parker Rozenburg of San Marcos High and running back Marvin Millett. Rozenburg played on the defensive line as a freshman.

Elisha Allen, a 6-2 linebacker who made 35 tackles for the 2013 SBCC squad, is one of two returning defensive starters along with lineman Chris Ford. The Vaquero defense ranked second in the high-scoring APL last year, giving up 23.5 points a game.

"We're very, very young on the defensive side and we're excited about a lot of the newcomers," said Moropoulos.

Thomas Lash was a top newcomer for the defense until he suffered an injury in training camp that will sideline the former Bishop Diego star linebacker for at least three weeks. Lash is a transfer from the University of Utah.

Other talented new faces on defense include Clayton Hanly (6-5, 235), an inside tackle from Santa Ynez High; linebackers Thomas Hopp and Louis Olmedo, along with Airistica (Air-es-tick-a) Gilliam, Diante Lewis-Jolley and Tim Berggren of Sweden in the secondary.

The offense will be invigorated by running back Chad Woolsey; tight ends Jake Ortale, Jonathan Ziv and Alexander Argent and receivers Calvin CrockettRonald Carter and Elijah Cunningham. Cunningham is the half-brother of former SBHS and SBCC standout Cheroke Cunningham.

Blake Levin will handle the kicking after a super freshman year, when he made 9-10 field goals with a long of 48 yards and 32-35 PATs. Joel Whitford continues the Vaquero tradition of punters from Australia, following in the footsteps of last year's All-American Mitch Wishnowsky, who will play for Utah next year.

"We  try to run our program like a Div. 1 program," Moropoulos noted. "Accountability is a big thing. That means you get to meetings on-time, on-time, on-time and that includes study hall and classes. And accountability on the field. If you have an assignment and you don't do it, there's going to be some consequences and usually that means not as much playing time. Once they realize that, they tend to be more focused and attentive to detail."

Moropoulos says that learning his fast-paced offense isn't as challenging as being in shape.

"It's not tough to learn the offense, because it gives you a chance to stay fairly basic," he explained. "The toughest part is you have to stay in great shape. If you're not in good condition, it's very hard to be successful. That's the biggest focus, along with getting your linemen in shape."

Moropoulos is hoping his team finds a quick, steady learning curve.

"With a group this young, we need them to develop and learn," he stated. "We're looking for some mature leaders to step up, take charge and bring the others along."

All home games will be live-streamed on the Internet with 28-year veteran John Martony calling the action on the Vaquero Broadcasting Network. Martony will also broadcast all 10 games on the radio (KZSB AM 1290) and around the world on the Internet.