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Season Preview: Locals abound on 2018 Vaqueros

Jerry Hickson returns at quarterback and he'll be protected by a talented offensive line that includes center Jake Tourtillotte (56) of Cabrillo High. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Jerry Hickson returns at quarterback and he'll be protected by a talented offensive line that includes center Jake Tourtillotte (56) of Cabrillo High. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

There's a definite local flavor on the 2018 SBCC football team with nearly 30% of the talent homegrown. Eighteen of the 64 players are from Santa Barbara or North County schools.

"The positives are the quarterbacks and the offensive line," said 12th-year head coach Craig Moropoulos. "We're fairly stout size-wise and we have a chance to be good."

The Vaqueros will be facing five new opponents this year and half of the American Pacific Conference teams are new. Citrus, L.A. Valley and Antelope Valley have been replaced by L.A. Harbor, Santa Monica and Pasadena. The three remaining conference teams are SBCC, Hancock and L.A. Pierce.

The Vaqueros will open at Compton on Sept. 1 with the home opener at week later vs. San Bernardino Valley at 6 p.m.. Their toughest non-conference test will come on Sept. 15 at No. 7 College of the Canyons.

SBCC returns 15 players from last year's 4-6 edition and nine were starters. The five returning starters on offense are quarterback Gerald Hickson, center Jake Tourtilotte (All-APC player from Cabrillo High), tackle Taylor Ludwig, tight end Tommy Quinn and kicker/punter Martin Ahlstroem of Sweden.

Hickson, a 6-1 sophomore from Buffalo, N.Y., completed 58.6 percent of his passes last year for 1,058 yards and eight touchdowns. He'll be backed up by Jeremiah Nicholson, a freshman from Santa Barbara High who suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of 2017.

Nathan Beveridge, one of the star players on Dos Pueblos High's CIF finalist team from last year, is a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder who will start at right tackle. Ramon Lazarit (6-4, 295, Santa Ynez High) is slated for left tackle. Will Bayonne, a transfer from Akron University, is taking over over the running duties from Manny Nwosu, who cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in decades. Clifton Taylor, who played on the 2016 Vaqueros, is another option out of the backfield.

Nick Foster, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, had an outstanding training camp, according to Moropoulos. Leland Gropper is a 6-5 wide receiver from Seattle and Colton Takis, a 6-4, 235-pound freshman from Santa Barbara High, will see time at tight end.

"Jerry Hickson had a great camp," Moropoulos stated. "The game is slowing down for him. He's really showing he's the guy and he's accepted the responsibility of being a leader.

"Nathan Beveridge is a powerful blocker and he's one of our top newcomers, along with Takis who's been a pleasant surprise. We moved him from d-line early in camp and he's done a great job. He's very coachable."

Four starters return on defense – safeties Lucas Olgiati and Nakota Shepard-Creer, defensive lineman Daniel Ekstrum (Lompoc High) and linebacker Andreas Buri of Switzerland. Linebacker Chase Elliott, the fourth-leading tackler last year with 52, is also back. Olgiati had 37 tackles and two interceptions a year ago.

Top newcomers on defense are cornerbacks Ron Caretti Jr. and Javan Gail.

Ahlstroem, who was 3-4 on field goals and 17-17 on PATs last year, will be the punter and kicker and Foster is expected to return punts and kickoffs.

Speaking of kickoffs, there's a new rule this year that allows a player to fair catch any kick inside the 25 and the ball will be placed at the 25-yard line.

"We just need to continue to get better every day," said Moropoulos. "We have more returners than last year and our roster is smaller. But I'm OK with that. You have a smaller group and there's less guys to monitor and they'll get more coaching every day.

"We're going to have to do a great job of coaching and hopefully, our guys will do a great job of trusting and getting better each game."

All home games will be live-streamed and John Martony is celebrating his 31st year as the Voice of the Vaqueros. You can watch the home games on Live Stream at and all 10 regular-season games will be on local radio (KZSB 1290 AM) and around the world on the Internet.