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Season Preview: Newcomers will bolster Vaquero attack

Bilal Sharmoug, one of three returners on the offensive line, blocks during a 2015 game. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Bilal Sharmoug, one of three returners on the offensive line, blocks during a 2015 game. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

There's always lots of turnover in the two-year world of Community College football and it's especially high for the 2016 SBCC football team.

The Vaqueros welcomed back 25 sophomores when camp began in early August and 67 freshmen will be trying to make their mark. There are also nine new assistants on the 12-man coaching staff.

"Every year, we see lots of new faces and it's important to see how quickly they can adjust," said 10th-year head coach Craig Moropoulos. "We're going stay the same on offense (with their rapid-fire, no-huddle attack). We hope to be balanced with the run and pass and see what's working. Defensively, we move well and we're athletic. A lot of things usually happen early in the year and it's all about making adjustments and moving on."

The Vaqueros' league has been revamped with four teams leaving the American Pacific League and two new teams – county rival Hancock and Citrus – for a total of six schools.

SBCC will play Ventura for the first time in five years, opening at the Pirates' field on Saturday at 6 p.m. Ventura was 8-3 last year and is ranked No. 8 in the state preseason poll. The Vaqueros' home opener is Sept. 10 vs. West L.A. with kickoff at 1 p.m.

The Vaqueros return seven starters on offense from last year's 5-5 squad. The biggest newcomers are at quarterback with a pair of 6-foot-4, 220-pound transfers. Noah Holle played five games for Bakersfield College last year and threw for 329 yards and four TDs in the final game vs. Ventura. Joshua Lindman started eight games at NCAA Div. 2 Lindenwood University (Mo.) in 2014 and piled up 1,830 yards and nine touchdowns.

"They both have strong arms and they're very, very intelligent," said Moropoulos, a former star quarterback for the Vaqueros who's entering his 32nd year as a college and high school coach. "We don't know who's going to start but both will play."

The returning starters on offense are running back Cedric Cooper, who led the Vaqueros in rushing in 2014 (624 yards, 6 TDs) and was an all-conference pick; receivers Jason-Matthew Sharsh and Elijah Cunningham; tackles Isaac McClain (6-2, 295) and Ramon Coral (6-5, 280), guard Bilal Sharmoug (6-2, 315) and All-State tight end Jacob Ortale (6-4, 245), who was selected as SBCC's Male Athlete of the Year for 2015-16. McClain was a unanimous first-team All-APL choice as a freshman.

Cunningham, the nephew of former SBHS and NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, earned All-American honors last year after leading the state in kick returns, averaging 40.8 yards and taking two back for touchdowns. He set a school record with a 100-yard TD return in the season opener at San Bernardino Valley. Cunningham is a preseason All-American. Sharsh averaged 27.3 yards per return and was the Vaqueros' third-leading receiver with 22 catches for 426 yards. He led the team in yards-per-catch (19.3) and TDs (6).

Moropoulos said there's a "fierce battle" at running back with local products Emmanuel Nwosu (Dos Pueblos High) and sophomore Abel Gonzalez (Bishop Diego) vying for playing time with freshmen Perry Martin (Thousand Oaks High) and Demetrius Vinson (Gregori High, Modesto).

The defense returns two starters in the line – defensive end Evan Defer, fourth on the team last year with 52 tackles and a team-leading 3.5 sacks, and tackle Edward Jones (6-4, 250) who had 30 tackles.

Thomas Lash, a 6-3 sophomore linebacker from Bishop High, will be playing for the first time in three years after spending one season at the University of Utah, then getting hurt in the first scrimmage and sitting out last year at SBCC.

"Thomas has worked extremely hard and I expect him to have a strong season," said Moropoulos. "We had some guys play very well in the secondary in our scrimmage at Canyons." The secondary standouts were Dominique Shelton and Ervin Osei-Wusu, a transfer from Bluefield College in southwestern Virginia.

Trent Schneider is the latest in a line of outstanding punters from Australia. Patrick Nasiatka, a transfer from the University of Wyoming, will handle the kickoffs and field goals.

Moropoulos said the keys to success are staying healthy and being focused in the moment.

"We need to compete and take care of the ball," he said. "Get the ball on defense and take care of it on offense. Our goal is always to win the league and make it to a bowl game. We'll work on getting better day-to-day and game-to-game and if you do those things, the end result will take care of itself."

All home games will be live-streamed on the Internet with 29-year veteran John Martony calling the action at https://portal.stretchinternete.com/sbcc/ and all 10 regular-season games will be on local radio (KZSB 1290 AM) and around the world on the Internet at www.newspress.com.