Donovan Harris delivered the paly of the game with hist 98-yard kick return for a touchdown. | Credit: Victor Bryant

A 34-7 lead going into the fourth quarter quickly evaporated, but the SBCC football team displayed impressive resolve to survive Saddleback’s furious rally and hang on for a 34-28 victory on Saturday night at La Playa Stadium.

The Vaqueros built their lead by dominating in all three phases of the game, including a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown by Donovan Harris on his first collegiate play and picked up their first victory of the season.

“I love it when all three phases do it. The kick return was huge,” said SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos. “{Saddleback} is a good team. They played right with Ventura last week and almost beat them. I’m proud of our guys.”

San Marcos High product Benji Rodriguez led the SBCC defense with two sacks.

SBCC marched down the field on a nine-play, 56-yard drive  on its opening possession. A 36-yard pass from Will Doherty to Cameron Green set up the Vaqueros 1st-and-goal at the six-yard line. 

It took SBCC five more plays, including a pass interference penalty, before Doherty connected with Elian Sundquist for a three-yard touchdown.

Green was by far SBCC’s most effective offensive weapon. The freshman from Indiana finished with four catches for 106 yards and two punt returns for 51 yards, including a 36-yarder.

“Coach said he is going to get me the ball and I have to make the best of it and make plays,” Green said. “I came out here and I did that today. Next week it’s going to be the same thing and for the rest of the season.”

SBCC extended its lead to 13-0 on a six-yard pass from Doherty to Damare Ward with 6:54 remaining in the second quarter. The ensuing extra point was blocked.

After Saddleback cut into ist deficit with a one-yard touchdown run by Trey Kukuk. Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 98-yards increasing the SBCC lead to 20-7.

A quarterback Sneak by Doherty with 1:31 remaining in the first half increased the SBCC lead to 27-7. Doherty was efficient and effective in the first half completing 10-of-14 for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Doherty only completed one pass in the second half as Saddleback stormed back into the game.

“We just worked hard on slowing the game down because it was going fast last week and he looked really solid in the first half,” said Moropoulos of Doherty. “In the second half he’s got to learn to not force things and not try to do too much but I’m proud of him.”

SBCC’s lone touchdown of the second half came on an interception by Matt Croteau that he returned 80 yards for a touchdown. The huge defensive play increased the SBCC lead to 34-7.

Saddleback made a change at quarterback inserting back Brandon Berwald and his dual threat ability changed the game. A 13-yard run by Kenny Manassero cut the Bobcats deficit to 34-14 and Berwald followed that up with a 12-yard touchdown run that brought Saddleback within 34-21 with 9:51 remaining in the game.

“I think when the coach felt there was a need to change at quarterback we got a little bit more electric,” said Saddleback head coach Kerry Crabb. “{Berwald} is such a different athlete when he gets out on the edge and that enabled him to make some plays.”

When Berwald connected with Tristan Duncan just inside the pylon on fourth-and-goal from the five-yard line cutting the SBCC lead to 34-28 with 6:16 remaining the Vaqueros were in big trouble. 

The Bobcats got the ball back with 3:39 remaining, but the SBCC defense held and forced a punt with just over two minutes to play. Four Cameron Woolsey carries for 26 yards put the game away and SBCC celebrated a signature early season victory.

The Vaqueros (1-1) will travel to Orange Coast College next week.


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