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Another dramatic comeback leads to 46-44 win in double OT

Cedric Cooper rushed for a career-high 168 yards and scored the game-winning TD on an 8-yard run in the 2nd overtime. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Cedric Cooper rushed for a career-high 168 yards and scored the game-winning TD on an 8-yard run in the 2nd overtime. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

By Dave Loveton, SBCC Sports Information

Just two weeks after one of the great comeback wins in SBCC football history, the Vaqueros were at it again on Saturday at La Playa Stadium.

Santa Barbara erased a 40-21 third-quarter deficit at Hancock on Oct. 15 by scoring 22 unanswered points for a 43-40 victory. On Saturday, they trailed Citrus 28-17 after three quarters, then rallied to win 46-44 in double overtime.

"I told the guys after the game that I have to take back what I said about the Hancock game being the greatest comeback I've ever been a part of," said 10th-year head coach Craig Moropoulos. "This one was better. The way it happened and all the adversity we've had to face and making a long drive in the last 2½ minutes to tie the game. That was exciting."

The Vaqueros (6-2, 2-1 American Pacific League) lost their second quarterback, Noah Holle, to injury last week, so they had to go with third-stringer Timothy Milliken and fourth-stringer Joseph Osegueda. Demetrius Vinson, their top running back in the previous four games, limped off the field late in the first quarter and all-state tight end Jacob Ortale was injured in the second quarter.

"It's all about stepping up," said Moropoulos. We always talk about how injuries are going to happen -- I didn't know we'd have this many at the same time – and you have to have the next man step up. When Jake Ortale went down, Jon Licea (normally a wide receiver) stepped in and did a great job."

There were lots of stars for the Vaqueros, led by running back Cedric Cooper who gained a career-high 168 yards on 30 carries and scored the game-winning TD on the final play of the second OT, an 8-yard run over the left side. Cooper ran out of the Wildcat formation on numerous occasions and even played some quarterback.

"One of our mottos is we never give up," said Cooper, a sophomore from Seattle, Wash., who led the Vaqueros in rushing in 2014. "It doesn't matter who's playing, it's always 'Next Man Up.' We expect good things and poise from whoever's playing.

"We're behind Tim and we expect big things from him. Give credit to our offensive line, they opened holes all day. They start everything for us on every play."

Milliken came up huge in the second half, completing 14-of-18 passes for 162 yards and two TDs. The one interception he threw was fumbled back to the Vaqueros on the return and SBCC recovered to keep a 73-yard touchdown drive alive that tied the game at 31 with 24 seconds to play.

For the game, Milliken was 19-26 for 206 yards and two TDs. Jason-Matthew Sharsh caught eight balls for 82 yards and a touchdown. Elijah Cunningham grabbed six for 92 yards and a score.

Freshman linebacker Dallas Martin made a season-high 16 tackles and Mykhael Sanford had 12. David Blevins, a sophomore linebacker from Dos Pueblos High, blocked the PAT try in the second OT, picked it up at the 15 and returned it 85 yards for SBCC's second defensive 2-point PAT of the year.

It was the Vaqueros' first meeting with Citrus (4-4, 1-2) since the 2002 season. The Owls lead the all-time series 4-3.

The Vaqueros trailed Citrus 28-17 after three quarters, then outscored the Owls 14-3 to forge a 31-31 tie and force overtime. Emmanuel Nwosu scored on a 4-yard run for the Vaqueros' first lead of the day (38-31) before Citrus tied it on a 7-yard run by Devin Floyd.

Floyd rushed for a game-high 219 yards on 32 carries for Citrus. The Vaqueros won the first-down battle (31-24) with a season-high 31 and the Owls took the yardage duel, 500 to 450.

Citrus started first in the second overtime from the Vaqueros' 25-yard line. A pair of penalties on SBCC moved the ball to the 4 and Brian Meyette tossed his fourth TD pass to Henry Tarin, putting the visitors up 44-38.

Blevins blocked the PAT try but the Owls were called for a false start, moving the ball to the 8. On Carlos Benites' second try, Blevins stormed in from the left side and blocked it again, then picked it up and raced 85 yards for a 2-point defensive PAT that cut the deficit to 44-40.

On third-and-13 from the Citrus 28, Milliken hit Sharsh on a down-and-out to the right for 14 yards and a first down. Nwosu ran for six yards and Cooper capped off the dramatic win with an 8-yard touchdown run, touching off a wild celebration in the end zone.

"That was a Power play," said Cooper. "We're leaning on the offensive line and we trust them. We called Power and it worked."

The Vaqueros' only first-half TD was an 11-yard run by Cunningham on a reverse that tied it at 7 with 13:06 to go in the second quarter. Patrick Nasiatka kicked a 33-yard field goal and Citrus led 14-10 at intermission.

The Owls scored on the first possession of the second half, then the Vaqueros went 78 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 24-yard Milliken to Cunningham connection that made it 21-17.

Citrus drove 66 yards for a 3-yard TD from Meyette to Dexter Hunt. Meyette completed 14-of-22 for 221 yards and four touchdowns.

The Vaqueros responded with an 8-play, 66-yard march, capped by Nwosu's 7-yard run that ended with him dragging two defenders into the end zone. That cut the deficit to 28-24.

Citrus went 58 yards and got a 37-yard field goal from Benites to go up by seven, 31-24 with 9:17 to play. The Vaqueros turned it over on fourth down at the Citrus 37, then the Owls drove to the SBCC 27 and went for it on fourth-and-1. Sanford and Evan Defer stuffed a run by Floyd and the Vaqueros took over on their 27 with 2:34 to play.

Milliken was 7-9 for 57 yards on the game-tying drive with the one blip, the interception that was fumbled at the Vaquero 43 and recovered at their 39. Millilken completed two passes to Cunningham for 12 and 18 yards and four to Sharsh for 13, 11, 4, and 3 yards. Sharsh made a diving catch in the end zone on the 3-yard, game-tying TD with 24 seconds to play.

"Going 21 of 28 passing with your third- and fourth-string quarterbacks? That's big," said Moropoulos. "We call Manny the 'Nigerian Truck' because he's such a physical runner. I was happy to see us make 67 percent on third downs (10-15) and go 6-6 on scores in the red zone."

The Vaqueros travel to Woodland Hills on Saturday to take on L.A. Pierce (1-7, 0-3) at 6 p.m.