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Quick-strike Vaqueros sprint past Cougars, 48-10

Elijah Cunningham returned a kick 82 yards for his second TD return of the year. He ranks No. 2 in the state with a 43.6-yard average. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Elijah Cunningham returned a kick 82 yards for his second TD return of the year. He ranks No. 2 in the state with a 43.6-yard average. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

SBCC  needed less than 20 minutes of elapsed time to score seven touchdowns on Saturday night in a 48-10 football win at L.A. Southwest.

Elijah Cunningham broke open a 12-7 game with an 82-yard kickoff return at the 10:57 mark of the second quarter. Marvin Millett's 2-point PAT run made it 20-7. The Vaqueros (3-2, 2-0 APL) added two more TDs in a 45-second span late in the second period and led 33-7 at intermission.

The kick return TD came just 13 seconds after the Cougars (1-4, 0-2) had scored on a 6-yard TD pass to Zaahid Summerville.

"I caught the ball and we set it up like we always do," said Cunningham, who set a school record with a 100-yard kick return in Week 1 and ranks No. 2 in the state in kickoff return average at 43.6. "It was return left, then I went right and it was wide open and I took off.

"We did everything effectively tonight. Everything we practiced worked in the game."

The Vaqueros have scored 48 points in each of the last two weeks, raising their season average to 33. They might have gotten two more TDs on kick returns if not for a penalty and a fumble. Jason-Matthew Starsh returned the opening kick for an apparent 92-yard score but it was wiped out by a personal foul at the SBCC 41. Late in the third quarter, Starsh took off up the left sideline on a 68-yard kick return that was thwarted when Sheldon Arnold stripped the ball at the Southwest 28 and recovered for the Cougars.

SBCC scored in the first quarter for the first time this year. The Vaqueros went 74 yards in nine plays on the game's opening drive and scored on a 1-yard plunge by Chad Woolsey (68 yards on 8 carries, 8.5 average). He ripped off a 31-yard gain on the third play of the series.

The Vaqueros scored again on their second possession, covering 63 yards in 11 plays with their no-huddle offense. On third-and-goal, sophomore quarterback Brandon Edwards threw a fade to Ronald Smith-Carter in the front right corner of the end zone and he outjumped the cornerback to complete the 13-yard TD. A 2-point pass try was incomplete and the Vaqueros led 12-0.

"We finally scored in the first quarter, Hallelujah," laughed SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos. "That was a nice return by Elijah and the blocking was great. The wedge set it up and we hit the right hole at the right time."

Edwards completed 13-of-18 passes for 204 yards and two TDs. Cunningham caught three balls for 59 yards and Smith-Carter had three more for 37 yards and a touchdown on a night when 10 receivers had at least one catch.

"Brandon was really efficient, he did a great job of moving the offense and running the system," said Moropoulos. "I was really pleased with our third-down conversions (8 of 14). That's higher than our season average and anytime you're over 50 percent, it's great."

Osha Washington scored twice late in the second quarter to break the game open. Edwards hit Cunningham on a 44-yard pass and four plays later, he found Washington on a 25-yard post pattern for a TD. On the next play, Diante Lewis-Jolley intercepted a Southwest pass at the Cougar 34. Edwards hit Calvin Crockett for a 33-yard gain on first down and then Washington scored on a 1-yard reverse to make it 33-7 with 3:07 to go in the first half.

SBCC won the yardage battle 440-242 and converted 5-of-6 chances inside the red zone.

The defense, led by eight tackles from Evan Defer and seven tackles and 1.5 sacks by Clayton Hanley, limited two Cougar quarterbacks to 6-of-22 passing with five sacks and two interceptions.

The Vaqueros drove 80 yards for their final TD with 4:21 to play. Alexander Cuevas directed the run-dominated drive that culminated in a 6-yard tackle-breaking run by Deon Dickey for the score. There was a mishandled snap on the PAT try and Australian punter/holder Joel Whitford rolled to his right and found defensive lineman Edward Jones for an unlikely 2-point conversion.

After a bye on Saturday, the Vaqueros open the second half of the season by hosting high-scoring L.A. Valley (4-1, 2-0) on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. The Monarchs are third in the state with a 42.8 average and the Vaqueros aren't far behind at 33.0.

                   (Through Oct. 4)

                                APL     Season     Streak
Santa Monica          2-0         4-0        Won 4
L.A. Valley                2-0         4-1        Won 4
L.A. Pierce               2-0         3-1        Won 2
SBCC                        2-0         3-2        Won 2
Antelope Valley      0-2         2-3        Lost 2
Glendale                  0-2        1-4         Lost 4      
L.A. Southwest        0-2        1-4         Lost 4
West L.A.                  0-2        1-4         Lost 2

Saturday, Oct. 10
 L.A. Harbor at Santa Monica, 1 p.m. (non-league)
 Orange Coast at L.A. Pierce, 6 p.m. (non-league)
 All other teams have byes

Saturday, Oct. 17
 L.A. Valley at SBCC, 1 p.m.
 Santa Monica at West L.A., 1 p.m.
 L.A. Pierce at L.A. Southwest, 6 p.m.
 Glendale at Antelope Valley, 7 p.m.