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Vaqueros drop overtime heartbreaker, 40-37

Quarterback Jerry Hickson threw for a season-high 297 yards and two TDs. He also ran for 29 yards with an 8-yard TD. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Quarterback Jerry Hickson threw for a season-high 297 yards and two TDs. He also ran for 29 yards with an 8-yard TD. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Saturday's home football finale was a game of streaks.

SBCC jumped out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead, then L.A. Pierce reeled off 34 unanswered points to take a 34-20 lead with 9:06 to play on a windy afternoon at La Playa Stadium. The Vaqueros struck back with a pair of Emmanuel Nwosu touchdowns in a span of 6:27 to tie it at 34.

Santa Barbara regained the advantage in the overtime session from the Brahmas' 25-yard line. The Vaqueros got to the 4-yard line, then a sack pushed them back to the 11 and Martin Ahlstroem booted a 29-yard field goal. Pierce came right back and scored the winning TD on a 7-yard run by Kyshawn Richards to secure the 40-37 victory.

"I'm really proud that we came back after being down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter," said SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos. "We showed a lot of character and a lot of poise."

Richards ran 20 times for 123 yards and four TDs. Sterling Salguero added 105 yards on 13 carries as the Brahmas (4-5, 2-2 in American Pacific League) outrushed the Vaqueros 278-64.

Gerald Hickson threw for a season-high 297 yards and two TDs to pace the Vaqueros (3-6, 0-4). Nwosu, a sophomore from Dos Pueblos High, produced three TDs. He rushed for 56 yards and two scores and caught four passes for 69 yards and a TD.

The Vaqueros fell behind 34-20 on a 1-yard run by Xandre McCleary with 9:06 to play. SBCC responded with a 74-yard drive in just five plays. On first down from the Brahma 39, Hickson tossed a screen pass to Nwosu and he got some great blocks on his way to the end zone.

Santa Barbara covered 71 yards on its next possession, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty after a third-down incompletion at the SBCC 44. Three plays later, Nwosu ran up the gut for a 7-yard score with 1:13 to play. Ahlstroem's PAT kick tied it at 34.

The Vaqueros were raring to go in the first quarter. After forcing Pierce into a three-and-out, SBCC drove 57 yards in nine plays and took a 6-0 lead on a 13-yard reverse pass from Hickson to Donald Lambert. Hickson pitched the ball forward to Seth Fletscher in the backfield and he handed it to Lambert, who raced around right end for the score. The PAT kick was wide right.

The Vaqueros went 59 yards on their second possession as Hickson scored on an 8-yard run after faking a handoff to receiver Julian Blain. Nwosu ran up the middle for the 2-point conversion and SBCC led 14-0 with 5:56 to go in the quarter.

Blain had nine receptions for 100 yards.

A fair catch of a punt gave the Vaqueros the ball at the Brahma 48 with 1:12 left in the first. Hickson threw a 19-yard screen pass to Nwosu on third down and three plays later, Nwosu was knocked back in the backfield, then spun around for a 16-yard TD sprint. The Vaqueros led 20-0 after another missed PAT kick.

SBCC outgained the Brahmas 108 yards to 13 in the first 15 minutes.

"We moved the ball at a tempo speed, which is what we do," said Moropoulos of the first-quarter success. "When we lost the wind, things got a little tougher. It's tough to throw the ball into the wind."

Pierce tied it 20-20 by scoring three TDs in the last 5:40 of the first half. They drove 68 yards for one score, 48 yards for the second and then took over at the Vaquero 2 following a bounced snap on a punt. Cody Haines was punting from his end zone and he tried to run but was tackled by Daniel Collins at his own 2.

Richards ran it in on first down to make it 20-20 at the half.

The Vaqueros had more punt troubles on the first drive of the third quarter. Haines tried to punt from his 23 but it was blocked by Blaze Alldredge, setting up the Brahmas at the 20-yard line. Seven plays later, Richards burst in from the 1 for his third TD in just over eight minutes that put the visitors ahead 27-20.

Joseph Kurung, a freshman defensive back from Chico, led the Vaquero defense with 12 tackles (7 solo) and two pass break-ups. Hugo Ronces, a freshman linebacker from San Marcos High, added 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.

SBCC will play its final game of the year on Saturday at L.A. Valley with kickoff at 6 p.m.