Moorpark College’s Larry Roberts returned early from an injury to get in some work.
The Raider fullback, out since Oct. 8 because of a separated shoulder, could have delayed his return until next Saturday’s Western State Conference showdown with Glendale.
Instead, his return came all too soon for Santa Barbara City College.
Roberts scored Moorpark’s first touchdown and gained 70 yards in 20 carries to lead the Raiders to a 28-7 conference victory Saturday over Santa Barbara at Moorpark.
Moorpark (7-0, 6-0 in conference play), off to its best start in school history, improved to 2-0 in the WSC Northern Division.
The game served as a tuneup for Moorpark and Roberts heading into a duel with Glendale that will go a long way toward determining the WSC Northern Division champion.
“They want our running game strong against Glendale because we’re going to be going head to head against them,” Roberts said.
John Brown, who anchored the Moorpark running game during Roberts’ absence, led all rushers with 100 yards in 11 carries. He scored Moorpark’s final touchdown on a 41-yard run with 5:45 left.
The Raider defense limited the Vaqueros to 96 yards, including 39 yards rushing.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Moorpark Coach Jim Bittner said. “I expected more of an offensive thrust from them. This team was the most balanced we’ve faced. But they could not run against us.”
Moorpark, which has outscored its past 3 opponents, 133-7, took a 7-0 lead on Roberts’ 14-yard run with 38 seconds left in the first quarter. Defensive lineman Johnny Ruiz recovered a Santa Barbara fumble at the Moorpark 46-yard line to set up drive.
Quarterback Jayson Merrill connected with wide receiver Darren Romano on a 40-yard scoring pass with 7:45 left in the first half to give Moorpark a 14-0 halftime lead. Romano finished with 7 catches for 124 yards.
A Moorpark turnover early in the third quarter set up Santa Barbara’s touchdown. Linebacker Keoni Nobrega recovered a Romano fumble at the Vaquero 33. Santa Barbara (2-5, 2-4) then moved 67 yards in 7 plays and took advantage of 3 Raider penalties to set up Mario Robinson’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Merrill, who completed 9 of 15 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns, connected with Rick Wright on a 21-yard scoring pass with 2:38 left in the third quarter to give Moorpark a 21-7 lead.
Troy Thomas intercepted a Merrill pass at the Santa Barbara 25 to set up Moorpark’s final touchdown. The Raiders drove 75 yards in 7 plays for the score.
Moorpark, ranked No. 6 in the state, compiled 486 yards in total offense, including 330 rushing yards in 58 carries.