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Vaqueros struggle in red zone, fall to Antelope Valley, 14-7

Will Bayonne ran for 61 yards and caught the Vaqueros' fourth-quarter touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Bradley Kleven. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Will Bayonne ran for 61 yards and caught the Vaqueros' fourth-quarter touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Bradley Kleven. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

The red zone wasn't a happy place for SBCC on Saturday night as the Vaqueros went 0-for-2 on drives inside the 20-yard line and dropped a 14-7 football game to Antelope Valley at La Playa Stadium.

"We need to get better in the red zone and find a way to shore up the protection," said Vaquero coach Craig Moropoulos. "We need to throw it better, run it better, block the plays better. We could have laid down and given up but we kept playing hard. I'm very proud of them and I enjoy coaching this team.

"Now, that being said, we're still 1-4. We seem to have found a way in two straight games to shoot ourselves right in the toenails. And that is a frustrating thing. We have some plays that are wide open and we need to execute better. And we can't turn the ball over."

The Marauders (3-1) took a 7-0 lead by driving 62 yards in five plays on their first possession. Quarterback Brian Adams hit Jaylen Miller on a 26-yard TD pass. AVC struck again in the third quarter, covering 84 yards in seven plays. Adams hit a wide-open Davon Jones on a fly pattern up the left sideline and he was gone on a 42-yard TD that made it 14-0.

The Vaqueros (1-4) cut it to 14-7 on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. They started at the AVC 42 following a facemask penalty on the punt return. Seven plays later, on fourth-and-3 from the 23, Bradley Kleven rolled to his left, then threw a lob back to an unguarded Will Bayonne who grabbed it at the 18 and sprinted inside the right pylon.

The Vaqueros got to the Marauders' 6 and 15-yard lines but couldn't score any points. They missed two field goals of 39 and 44 yards by Lucas Eilbacher (wide right) and Jesse Mollkoy (hit right upright). A second-quarter drive to the 15 ended when a Scotty Forbes pass was intercepted by Jalen Perdue in the end zone.

SBCC put together another long drive early in the third quarter and got to the Antelope Valley 34. Kleven hit Jahmal Cornwell on a short pass-and-run down to the 4 but SBCC was called for a block in the back, bringing the ball back to the 39.

Kleven was 11-23 for 107 yards with one TD and one interception. Forbes was 11-15 for 78 yards and an interception.

"We saw more positives than we've seen in a while," said Kleven, a 6-5 sophomore from Riverside. "We threw our first TD pass since Week 2 and the line really stepped up today. We got some linemen back and we did a good job of running the ball."

Bayonne rushed 14 times for 61 yards and Cornwell caught nine passes for 61 yards.

Adams led the Marauders by completing 14-23 for 168 yards and two TDs.

After cutting the deficit to seven points, the Vaqueros punted on their next two possessions. AVC took over on its own 29 with 4:26 to play. SBCC's defense forced a three-and-out but the Vaqueros ran into the punter and AVC got a first down at the 41.

"That was really unfortunate," said Moropoulos. "We talked about it and said, 'Hey do we want to block it?' and I said, just take good angles because we don't want to rough him. Our guy took a good angle but he reached out and grabbed the punter's leg instead of the ball."

The Marauders ran out the clock on five straight running plays. Defensive lineman Kalai Clark (6-1, 296 pounds) was the fullback in their three-back power formation and he ran it twice for 13 and 11 yards.

The Vaqueros will take next week off, then host L.A. Pierce in their American Pacific League opener on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m.