Hard-nosed Vaqueros fall short

Owen Grohman and Owen Grohman

The Santa Barbara City College football team failed to win in front of the home crowd in their final opportunity to do so this season with Saturday’s 28-12 loss to Los Angeles Pierce College.
The Vaqueros did not win at La Playa Stadium for the fifth time in as many chances this Fall. They are also winless in league play, the only Western State Conference North Division team in that position.
“This is a building process,” said coach Reggie Bolton. “It’s gonna take some time, but we will turn this around.” Bolton described the rebuilding effort as a three to five year plan.
City College (1-8, 0-6) still has a chance to pick up that elusive first intra-conference win next week at rival Allan Hancock College of Ventura. That will be more difficult than originally hoped, as the injury bug continues to bite the Vaqueros.
With starting Quarterback Preston Maloney sidelined with a concussion, backup Brandon Thomas started on Saturday. But Thomas had to leave the game in the first quarter with a head injury, leaving third-stringer Brett Palmer as the last option for coach Bolton. and his staff.
Palmer, a freshman, raised some eyebrows on his first drive of the game, completing 3 of 6 passes for 29 yards and gaining 17 yards on the ground on a 15-play, 86-yard trip that led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Dusty Stutsman. That score cut the Brahmas lead to 7-6, as backup kicker Jason Hansen missed the PAT.
But that was as close as it would be all game. Palmer could not repeat his initial success, at one point missing on 10 passes in a row and routinely struggling with his touch even on screen and swing passes. Even so, Palmer will make his first start next week.
“I think he played great,” said Bolton, who pointed out that as the third-string quarterback, Palmer rarely gets practice snaps with the first team offense.
The defense stepped it up from the previous home effort, a 28-3 loss to Bakersfield, as 14 of L.A. Pierce’s points came on two quick scores near the end of the game. The Vaqs forced and recovered a fumble in the first half and also picked off Brahmas quarterback Thomas Herringshaw twice.
Sophomore linebacker Daniel Abikasis, a team leader on defense, also had to leave the game due to what was initially diagnosed as torn MCL but later downgraded to a sprained knee. Abikasis will start against Allan Hancock. He made his presence felt in Saturday’s game with some big hits, including a third quarter blow to a Brahmas receiver on third down just as the ball was about to be caught. The hit forced a turnover on downs and ignited what had been a silent crowd.
But the offense could not take advantage of the momentum swing, as a three-and-out ensued.
“It’s been hard, because we started the year struggling on defense, and now we’re struggling on offense,” said Bolton.
There were, however, some encouraging developments for the Vaqueros. With the quarterback situation getting ugly, the running game had to step up to give the Vaqs a chance. Freshman Dusty Stustman rushed 17 times for 70 yards and a touchdown, wresting the starting job from Jeff Bomberger.
This weekend’s matchup has major implications for the Vaqueros. Bolton has repeatedly mentioned the importance of beating local rivals for recruiting purposes. Next season’s prospects aside, this is also the last chance Santa Barbara has to pick up a win in 2004.
“This is a huge game,” said Bolton. “We’ve just got to find a way to win.”