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Vaqueros Bested at Winter Festi-Bowl, Figueroa Sets All-Time Field Goal Record

Vaqueros Bested at Winter Festi-Bowl, Figueroa Sets All-Time Field Goal Record

ESCONDIDO – Playing in its first bowl game since 2016, the SBCC football team fell to Palomar Saturday afternoon in the 2021 Chick-fil-A Winter Festi-Bowl 44-24 at Escondido High School.

"There are no negatives whatsoever in this game," head coach Craig Moropoulos said. "We lost the game, but getting invited to a bowl game is a great honor and we're fired up about it. It's a celebration of a very, very good season."

The Comets (6-5) never trailed, jumping out to a 10-0 lead six minutes into the game, but Santa Barbara (7-4) answered with 10 straight to tie things up.

Late in the first quarter, kicker Jorge Figueroa put three points on the board from 21 yards out to open the scoring for the Vaqueros. With his 12th make of the year, he tied Jeremy Ybarra (2017) for the SBCC all-time single-season record.

"Jorge has come a long way," Moropoulos said. "He's a very confident young man, it was a very good season for him, and I'm proud of him. Tying the record was a special event."

After a Mekhi Norfleet 16-yard rushing touchdown several minutes into the second, Palomar embarked on a 27-0 run. During the extended spurt, SBCC turned the ball over three times.

"We were a very young team, and that showed early in the year," Moropoulos said. "But it also showed as they started to mature, where they ended up, and that's what's so rewarding and such a neat thing as a coach. This is what you want – to progress, mature, get better, learn from mistakes. That's what coaching's all about, and they did, and the culmination was a bowl game bid, so nothing negative, all positive."

Freshman quarterback Trenton Luera entered the game in the second half and put together a stellar line, completing 77% of his passes (10-13) for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

"The toughest job in football is the backup quarterback," Moropoulos said. "Trenton just came in and was very calm and very cool and did a great job running the offense. That's what he does, he's very intelligent and very coachable and I'm proud of him."

Wide receiver Cyrus Wallace returned from a four-game absence to post a season-high 113 receiving yards, nearly half of which came on a 1st-and-15 pass from Luera of 54 yards down to the Palomar 4-yard line. On the next play, Luera found wide receiver Max Lopez for a four-yard score. It was Lopez's first of the year and Luera's first touchdown toss in over two months.

Luera hit receiver Chase Wells from 10 yards out late in the fourth for SBCC's final score of the year. Wells pulled in seven receptions for the fourth time in five games, racking up 82 yards.

Linebacker Zach Schipper led all players with eight tackles and season-bests of 2.5 sacks and three tackles for a loss. Defensive linemen Koby Sarna and Darius Hurd added one and 0.5 sacks, respectively, with Sarna also forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Taylor Hiatt in the fourth quarter.

"I told the team afterwards, this is the most fun team I've had in a while," Moropoulos said. "We spend more time with these guys than they do with their families, so that's why we feel like that's what we are: a family. Guys were hugging each other and it was really a cool sight at the end of a loss. It could be negative, but we just said we're not going to be negative, this is a very positive thing and we're looking forward to next year."