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Cooper rushes for 165 yards, 3 TDs in 51-10 rout at Pierce

Jason Sharsh caught a 10-yard TD pass and had a 64-yard punt return to set up another TD. (Photo by Jeff Litherland)
Jason Sharsh caught a 10-yard TD pass and had a 64-yard punt return to set up another TD. (Photo by Jeff Litherland)

Cedric Cooper ran wild on Saturday night with 165 yards and three touchdowns that sparked SBCC to a 51-10 football rout of L.A. Pierce in Woodland Hills.

Cooper averaged 7.2 yards on 23 carries and scored on runs of 2, 15 and 2 yards. The 26th-ranked Vaqueros piled up 213 rushing yards and scored at least four TDs on the ground for the fifth time this year.

SBCC broke the single-season school record for rushing TDs (31) and the Vaqueros lead the state in that category.

Santa Barbara improved to 7-2 overall and 3-1 in the American Pacific League, setting up a first-place showdown in the regular-season finale vs. L.A. Valley on Saturday at 1 p.m. in La Playa Stadium. The 15th-ranked Monarchs (9-0, 4-0) beat Citrus 61-27 and are the only unbeaten team in Southern California.

Pierce (1-8, 0-4) has been outscored 223-26 in its last four games.

Cooper, a sophomore from Seattle who was State Player of the Week last week, has 333 yards on 53 carries in the last two games for a 6.3 average. He moved to the top of the Vaqueros' rushing chart with 641 yards for the season.

"He's such an outstanding competitor," said coach Craig Moropoulos. "Every run, he's so low to the ground and he's so quick and so smart. He's in every quarterback meeting and he knows what to do … what's good, what's not good, what front is good, what front is not good. He's just a treat to work with."

The Vaqueros didn't have running back Demetrius Vinson or tight end Jacob Ortale, who missed the game with injuries.

Santa Barbara took a 7-0 lead on its second possession when Timothy Milliken threw a shovel pass and Elijah Cunningham turned it into a 32-yard touchdown. The Vaqueros made a goal-line stand as Tony Anderson and Thomas Lash stuffed Sterling Salguero (113 rushing yards) for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal from the 4.

The Vaqueros drove 94 yards in 13 plays with Cooper picking up 49 yards on the ground. His 2-yard TD on a pitch-toss left made it 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Jason-Matthew Sharsh caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. He broke off a 64-yard punt return that set the Vaqueros up at the Brahma 14. Two plays later, Cooper burst through a big hole up the middle for a 15-yard score.

A bounced snap forced the Pierce punter to run from his own 25 and that was foiled by Abel Gonzalez. The Vaqueros took over on the 27 and Cooper converted a fourth-and-1 with a 5-yard run out of the Wildcat formation. Joseph Osegueda threw his first college TD to Sharsh on a down-and-out to the left. Sharsh caught it at the 5, spun around a tackler and dove over the pylon for the 10-yard score with 58.5 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Vaqueros led 28-0 at halftime.

The Brahmas scored 10 points in just 2:43 on a 31-yard field goal by Kevin Robledo and a 49-yard run by Salguedo that was the Brahmas' first rushing touchdown of the year.

Patrick Nasiatka answered with a 31-yard field goal and the Vaqueros drove 66 yards in 12 plays for their next TD. Pierce was called for holding in the end zone on a fourth-down incompletion and Cooper ran 2 yards up the middle for his third TD and a 38-10 lead with 11:27 to play.

"We were able to adjust on the run defensively because they were going to smash the ball with runs," said Moropoulos. "They gave us some different looks (like 1 receiver and 3 running backs) and we made a couple of adjustments."

The Vaqueros held Pierce to 120 rushing yards on 46 attempts for a 2.6 average.

"Tim did well, Eli made some big plays and Joe Osegueda played great for a guy who hasn't played much at quarterback," said Moropoulos. "I wasn't concerned when they scored 10 points. I was worried about what we were trying to do."

Osegueda directed a 73-yard TD drive on for the last series of the first half and played most of the second half. He completed 7-of-11 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

A pair of Brahma errors on punts led to the last two touchdowns. A bad snap turned into a 23-yard loss and gave the Vaqueros the ball at the 13-yard line with 9:06 to play. On first down, Gonzalez raced into the end zone for a touchdown. It was the first collegiate TD for Gonzalez, a sophomore from Bishop Diego High.

The next Brahma possession ended with the Vaqueros getting their 11th blocked kick of the season in unusual fashion. The defense pushed a blocker back toward the punter and Edward Avila kicked it off the back of his teammate. The ball ricocheted 25 yards backward into the end zone and Anderson fell on it for a touchdown, stretching the margin to 51-10.

The defense, led by linebackers Dallas Martin and Thomas Lash, held Pierce to 195 yards. Martin had 14 tackles, raising his team-leading total to 91, and Lash had 11, including three for loss.

"I thought we played pretty well and did most of the things we needed to do," said Martin, a 6-3 freshman from Pleasanton. "They threw a totally different game plan at us but we made the adjustments. They had no options, everything they got was cheap stuff.

"I'm very excited to play L.A. Valley for the conference championship. I play better against better teams. Considering everything that's on the line, I think we'll come through like we usually do."