The Long Beach City College football team has had plenty of balls bounce the other team’s way this season. The Vikings have been one play short of a few big wins this season, but they came up on the right side of the razor-blade line between winning and losing Saturday night in their final game of the season. A dominant defense and a muffed punt recovered for a touchdown ended up being the difference for the Vikings in a win over Southwestern in the Southern California Bowl, 20-16.
“We came up one yard short of our big goals for the season, but how can I be anything but proud of this team?” asked Vikings coach Brett Peabody after the game. “They fought back every time, they were such a joy to coach all season long. And a conference championship, and our fifth bowl win in six years, I can’t complain about any of that.”
The Vikings under Peabody have been known for their effective and efficient offense, but the team’s defense, and particularly its defensive line, have been great too. This year’s team had either the best or second best defense of the Peabody era, and they proved that Saturday night against the Jaguars.
LBCC fell in a 10-0 hole early after a field goal and a touchdown run by the Jaguars. The Vikings battled back as quarterback Derrach West hit Julian Woodard for a short touchdown, impressive given that West was falling on his shoulder as he was releasing the pass.
“I knew it was going to hurt but he was open, and I was feeling good when I got up and saw he caught it,” said West.
The Vikings took their first lead of the game, 13-10, when West hit Poly alum Zion Bowens for a 42-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. But the Jaguars answered back shortly before halftime as Davion Johnson hauled in a 49-yard score to make it 16-13 Southwestern.
The deciding touchdown ended up coming on a Vikings punt with 1:25 left in the half. The ball bounced up into the Jaguars’ returner’s helmet, and then landed in the end zone, where two Vikings as well as the Southwestern return man quickly hopped on it. After officials pulled off the layers of the pile, LBCC’s Alex Brown came up with the ball to make it 20-16 LBCC at halftime.
In the second half, the Vikings couldn’t put the game away, as injuries depleted their offensive line to the extent that they had defensive linemen switching jerseys to chip in on offense.
Meanwhile, the LBCC defense put on a clinic, pitching a 30-minute shutout in the second half. The Vikings had three sacks and two interceptions, as Dallas Branch and D’Anthony Jones both came up with late picks to help seal the win. Shane Irwin had a sack with time running down as the Jaguars were driving with less than a minute left.
“We’re the best defensive line in the state and the best defense in the state, no questions asked,” said Bowl Game MVP Divine Obichere, who had two sacks and a team-high seven tackles.
With the win, LBCC ends its season at 7-3, as co-conference champions and Southern California Bowl champions.