After last season’s memorable 10-1 Mountain Conference championship, the Southwestern College football team opened the 2013 season ranked 15th in the state, but also a major rebuilding project. A high-octane offense that led the state with 559.8 yards and 45.3 points per game in 2012 lost all 11 of its starters.
Someone forgot to tell the Jaguars as they lit up the scoreboard against a strong West Los Angeles College team in a runaway 58-27 season opener.
Quarterback Frank Foster, who came off the bench to lead SWC to the 2012 American Championship Bowl and earn the game’s Offensive MVP award, had 415 total yards (281 passing, 108 rushing) and four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). Running back Cedrick Agyeman ran for 134 yards and a TD, and running back Junior Nemorin gained 72 yards and scored two TDs on only six carries. Wide receiver Cameron Lee racked up 108 receiving yards. Lee said the move to a new position gave him more opportunity to get involved.
“Now I play outside, I can cover for Bryant Mitchell and Vernon Johnson,” said Lee. “It doesn’t matter where they put me, I get the job done.”
SWC’s offensive line held strong, limiting the Wildcats to one sack and opening up enough holes for the team to total 343 rushing yards. It effectively neutralized West L.A.’s star tackle Dayan Dunn, who is rated as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com.
“A lot of the new offensive starters played a lot last year,” said head coach Ed Carberry. “30 plays a game.”
While the offense is reforming, the defense returns many key playmakers, including the 2012 Mountain Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Jeremy Burgos, and All-State linebacker Khaalid Abdullah. Safety Daniel Castro is back after recording 41 tackles last year and looks to anchor the secondary. Defensive lineman Jalal Yousofzai led the conference with seven sacks last year. Lineman Alfonso Hampton, listed at 6’6” 300 lbs., is being recruited by universities across the country.
Hampton showed why he is such a highly touted recruit by blocking an extra point attempt against West L.A. Burgos led the team with seven tackles and freshman linebacker Blake Wilson returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown.
By no means were the Jags flawless. SWC’s defense played well, limiting a West L.A. team that averaged 493 yards per game last year to 326, but they were susceptible to the big play. The Wildcats scored on a 93-yard kick return, a-33 yard shovel pass, a 37-yard run, and a 1-yard pass that was set up by a 44-yard run.
Turnovers also hurt. Agyeman lost a fumble and Foster had a pass picked off by West L.A. cornerback Chris Glover. With 17 rushes, Foster was quick to leave the pocket.
“A lot of the runs weren’t designed,” he said. “It’s just when I’m unsure, I run.”
SWC also cost itself 137 yards thanks to 15 penalties.
“We stopped ourselves two or three times (due to penalties),” said Carberry. “We’re not going to suddenly stop making mistakes.”
SWC has one pleasant problem, deciding who should be the kicker, freshmen Anthony Herrera or Van Saban. Herrera made a 47-yard field goal look easy in practice and in the team’s scrimmage he kicked one from 52 yards out. Saban kicked a 48 yarder in the same scrimmage. They split the kicking duties against the Wildcats, with Herrera making all three of his extra point attempts. Saban converted both of his extra points, as well as a 28-yard field goal.
Carberry said he was happy with the win, but said there are two goals he remains focused on.
“One is transferring every eligible sophomore football player to a university,” he said. “The second is playing at the absolute highest level we can compete. If we take care of those things, winning seems to come along with it.”
If the Jaguars can maintain their performance while cutting down on the mental mistakes, both goals are certainly within reach. So is another conference championship.