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Vaqueros drop APC opener at L.A. Pierce, 23-7

Clifton Taylor, a sophomore running back from Chicago, scored the Vaqueros' TD on a 5-yard run. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Clifton Taylor, a sophomore running back from Chicago, scored the Vaqueros' TD on a 5-yard run. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

There wasn't a lot of offense in Saturday night's American Pacific Conference football opener but L.A. Pierce benefitted from eight sacks and three SBCC turnovers to post a 23-7 win in Woodland Hills.

The Brahmas, who were coming off back-to-back 43-point games, improved to 3-3 and 1-0 while the Vaqueros lost their fifth straight and fell to 1-5 and 0-1.

Pierce had just seven rushing yards and 197 total yards. The Vaqueros ran for 80 yards and 135 total yards. The Vaqueros had more first downs (12-11) and had nearly a 12-minute advantage in time of possession.

Tamir Walker had his second straight 100-yard rushing game, picking up 112 yards on 31 carries. SBCC was down to its fourth-string quarterback due to injuries and Franco De Luca made his first college start. The left-hander from Chicago, Ill., completed 9-of-16 passes for 55 yards with one interception.

Santa Barbara fumbled a handoff on the second play of the game and Pierce's Dante Wicher recovered at the SBCC 23. The Brahmas took a 3-0 lead on a 38-yard field goal by Erik Castro.

The Brahmas drove 53 yards in seven plays on their next possession, then lined up for a field goal. Marcus Johnson acted like he was trying to rush off the field, then turned upfield and caught a 24-yard TD pass from the holder Corey Horvath on the fake field goal. Castro kicked the PAT for a 10-0 lead at 5:51 of the opening quarter.

Pierce led 10-0 at the half and stretched it to 16-0 by going 80 yards in three plays. Quarterback Jonathan Saavedra threw a 55-yard bomb to Christian Graves that moved it to the SBCC 5. On first down, David Kates ran for the TD and a 2-point PAT pass failed.

David Williams intercepted a De Luca pass late in the third quarter and returned it 16 yards to the Vaquero 42. Saavedra hooked up with Giomanni Perez on a 41-yard pass down to the 2-yard line. On third-and-goal, Doma Morris took a pitch to the right and scored to make it 23-0.

The Vaqueros drove to the Pierce 23, then turned it over on back-to-back sacks. In the fourth quarter, De Luca hit RJ Tolson for a 13-yard gain on fourth-and-3 and they moved to the 12 before another sack pushed them back. De Luca threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-15 from the 17.

A poor snap led to fumble on the next Brahma series and Ryan Strickland pounced on it, setting up the Vaqueros at the 5-yard line. On first down, Clifton Taylor burst up the middle for a touchdown. Martin Ahlstroem added the PAT to make it 23-7.

Javan Gail and Matthew Molina led the Vaquero defense with seven tackles apiece. Molina forced a fumble and recovered it in the third quarter.

The Vaqueros will play three of their last four at home, starting Saturday when they host L.A. Harbor for a 6 p.m. game.