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Citrus rushes past injury-riddled Vaqueros, 34-13

RJ Tolson reaches for a pass near the goal line. He caught his first college TD and Jeremiah Nicholson threw his first TD on a 27-yard connection in the first quarter. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
RJ Tolson reaches for a pass near the goal line. He caught his first college TD and Jeremiah Nicholson threw his first TD on a 27-yard connection in the first quarter. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

James Brown and Justyn Alexander both eclipsed the 100-yard mark on Saturday, leading Citrus to a 34-13 football win over SBCC at La Playa Stadium.

The Owls (3-1) outrushed the Vaqueros 304 to 56 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry. They scored two TDs in a 2:32 span of the second quarter and led 28-7 at halftime.

Brown picked up 117 yards on 12 tries (9.8 avg.) and Alexander gained 111 yards on 13 attempts (8.5 avg.). Brown scored the game's first touchdown on a 26-yard run up the middle that capped a 72-yard drive with 4:47 to go in the first quarter.

After a 21-yard SBCC punt, the Owls started at their own 40 and needed just four plays to get into the end zone. Alexander ran for 7, 42 and 5 yards on the last three plays, extending the lead to 14-0.

SBCC was hit by injuries in the first three games and that trend continued on Saturday as backup quarterback Jeremiah Nicholson left with a leg injury in the third period. Will Bayonne, the Vaqueros' top running back, was also hurt and had to be helped off the field with 8:15 to play.

"This has been a real challenging year," said 12th-year head coach Craig Moropoulos. "We have a lot of good kids with good attitudes who are playing hard. To possibly lose our top two quarterbacks in the first four games, that's pretty tough.

"The guys played hard and we found a way to get into the end zone. Not being able to get into a rhythm throwing the ball and not getting a run game established … then all of a sudden, we do that in the second half."

The Vaqueros started near midfield on their first two third-quarter possessions and drove to the 24 and 20-yard lines, leading to field goals of 41 and 37 yards by Martin Ahlstroem that cut the deficit to 15 points, 28-13. The Vaqueros converted two fourth-down plays on the second drive on a 6-yard run by Bayonne and a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Citrus had 10 penalties for 107 yards and the Vaqueros had four for 20.

The Owls got their last TD after Tamir Walker muffed a punt at his own 30 and Jaccques Milborn fell on the ball for Citrus. On first down, Austin Zavala hit Major Lee on a wide receiver screen on the third play of the final quarter and Lee sprinted 29 yards into the end zone. The PAT kick failed and the visitors led 34-13 with just over 13 minutes to play.

Clifton Taylor ran 22 times for the Vaqueros, picking up 61 yards. Nicholson completed 6-of-18 passes for 58 yards and a TD. RJ Tolson caught five balls for 50 yards, including a 27-yard TD with 17 seconds to go in the first quarter.

Nicholson was injured trying to elude the Owls' rush on a pass play. Jacob Villarreal, a freshman from San Marcos High, replaced him with 4:48 to go in the third quarter. Villarreal was 5-11 passing for 31 yards.

"We got things going in the third quarter and that's something we need to build on," said Moropoulos. "We didn't tackle very well today and we didn't throw it well. Our receiving corps is almost non-existent. Mainly because of new guys and we don't have the kind of speed we've had in the past.

"It's a work in progress and we've just got to keep on getting after it and staying positive."

The Vaqueros will play their final non-conference game on Saturday when they travel to Antelope Valley for a 6 p.m. kickoff.