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No. 24 Vaqueros host No. 14 L.A. Valley for APL championship

Kick returns could play a major factor in Saturday's first-place showdown. Elijah Cunningham returned this one 88 yards for a TD vs. L.A. Southwest. (Photo by Jeff Litherland)
Kick returns could play a major factor in Saturday's first-place showdown. Elijah Cunningham returned this one 88 yards for a TD vs. L.A. Southwest. (Photo by Jeff Litherland)

Everything will be on the line on Saturday when No. 24 SBCC hosts No. 14 L.A. Valley for the American Pacific League football championship. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at La Playa Stadium.

The Monarchs are undefeated (9-0, 4-0) and ranked No. 1 in the Southern Cal American Division poll that covers three leagues. The Vaqueros are 7-2 and 3-1 and ranked No. 4 in the American Division.

The top four teams are L.A. Valley, East L.A. (7-2), Southwestern (8-1) and SBCC. The top four in the American regional poll after Saturday's games will advance to a bowl game on Nov. 19.

It figures to be a high-scoring game with Santa Barbara ranked No. 3 in state scoring at 43.6 and the Monarchs at No. 5 (42.6). The Vaquero rushing attack, led by Cedric Cooper, is No 3 in the state (228.3 yards per game) while the Valley defense is No. 2 in total yards allowed (261.1) and No. 5 in scoring defense (15.1).

Both teams have superior special teams with the Monarchs leading the state in kick returns (28.7 avg.) and punt returns (23.6). Ahkil Crumpton is No. 1 in both, averaging 38.3 on kick returns and 31.4 on punts. SBCC is sixth in the state in kick returns (24.0) and fifth in punt returns (17.0), led by All-American Elijah Cunningham, the No. 3 KO returner in the state (30.3).

"Valley is an outstanding team and solid in every phase," said SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos. "They create big plays in the special teams area and that has been big for them. Taking care of the ball will be a key part of the game.

"We will need to play sound on defense and not contribute to their big plays in special teams. Our guys are very excited to be in this kind of game."

The Vaqueros are 4-0 at home this year and Valley is 4-0 on the road.

SBCC has never finished higher than third in the APL since joining the Southern California Football Association in 2008. It's been 25 years since their last conference title in 1991.

Cedric Cooper has piled up 333 rushing yards and 4 TDs in the last two games, running for a season-high 168 in a thrilling 46-44 double-overtime win over Citrus and 165 with three TDs in last week's 51-10 win at L.A. Pierce.

Valley scored the last 33 points last Saturday to beat Citrus 61-27, piling up 601 total yards. Running back Darian Albrecht carried 25 times for 213 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Christian Jorgenson was 23-of-36 for 305 yards and four TDs.