Antelope Valley Continues to Surprise

Antelope Valley went to Victorville and left with a convincing 34-10 win over last year's Foothill Conference runners-up, the Victor Valley Rams (1-4, 1-2). The tough road victory raises the Marauders' season record to 5-0 overall, 3-0 in the Foothill. AVC remains one of only three teams undefeated in conference play.

With 3:20 remaining in the first period, the Marauders went up 6-0 on the strength of a 6-yard Rodney Dorsette (6-0, 190 Fr.) touch down pass to Terrance Shepard (5-11, 175 Fr.), capping an 80-yard drive. The subsequent PAT attempt was blocked, but moments later Antelope Valley tacked on another TD – this time with the PAT - after VVC turned the ball over at their own 6 yard line. AVC closed the quarter leading 13-0. Although the final score was not reflected in the stats, the Marauders minimized mistakes, maintained control of the scoring and never relinquished the lead for the remainder of the game.

"Our kids are playing hard and that's giving us a chance to win every Saturday," said AVC head coach Perry Jehlicka.  His team's play has been characterized by a stalwart defense, a steadily improving offense and a minimum number of mistakes.   The Marauders are one of the most disciplined teams in the conference, surrendering only 57 yards per game in penalties and maintaining a positive turnover margin of 1.2, in both cases 2nd best in the Foothill.

Eric Leon (6-2, 230 Fr.) leads the best scoring defense, best rushing defense, and best overall defense in the Foothill Conference, and among the best in the country.  After 14 tackles (10 solo), 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 interception return for a touchdown, coach Jehlicka called Leon's play "phenomenal," adding that "he makes those big plays that you need" in the course of a game. After Saturday's big plays, Coach Jehlicka nominated Leon for his fifth straight selection as Foothill player of the week.  

Throughout the game, the Marauder defense put the fledgling offense in a position to score. Three of the Antelope valley scores were set up by turnovers inside the Victor Valley red zone. First, a bad snap on fourth down at the 6, leading to the second score. Next, a 13-yard interception return and an 11-yard fumble recovery. Sam Murphy (5-8, 180 So.), made two of the three interceptions, running them back for 38 yards.

"Offensively we've picked it up a lot. Our quarterback is a different player today than he was 2-3 weeks ago. We're playing five freshmen on O-Line and they just keep improving and getting better with every game," says coach Jehlicka of his offense. Although unspectacular, this inexperienced offense has managed to avoid mistakes, present a balanced ground and air attack, and take advantage of opportunities presented the defense.

Quarterback Dorsette completed 8 of 14 passes for 67 yards, 3 touch downs and only 1 interception. He was sacked twice. Dorsette's favorite targets were Shepard, who scored a touchdown on 2 of his 6 receptions for 67 yards, followed by Eddie Russ, Jr., (6-2, 185 Fr.) with a 16-yard TD reception, Sam Murphy (doing double duty as both offensive and defensive back) and Kevin Smith (6-2, 190), with one catch each.

Dominic Blood (6-0, 200 Fr.) led AVC rushers with 37 net yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He was joined by the aforementioned Kevin Smith with 29 yards, and six additional runners and scramblers for a grand total of 100 net yards rushing.  Kicker Javi Navarro (5-9, 200 Fr.) was 4 of 5 on extra points, and he missed a 41-yard field goal attempt. AVC's total for offensive yardage was 178 yards, but they keep the ball for 36 minutes and 28 seconds of regulation play, and capitalized on 4 of 5 red zone scoring opportunities.

By contrast, Victor Valley's prolific running back, Isaac Newton (5-10, 201), was held to only 38 net yards on 12 carries, which added up to negative yardage on the ground when combined with the sacks.  In five games, Newton has amassed 567 yards rushing, tops in the Foothill Conference. Even after being held in check by Antelope Valley, Newton's per-game rushing average is still greater than 113 yards, ranking third in the conference.

Ram Quarterback Travis Hunter (6-1, 180) turned in a credible performance, completing 14 of 33 passes for 265 yards and a touch down, but he also threw the 3 interceptions and was sacked 5 times. Victor Valley finished with 228 total offensive yards.

"Victor Valley is a good football team, the best 1-4 team in the state! They had a tough pre-conference schedule and always deliver big-play, aggressive defense. We knew we would have some negative plays on offense, because VVC comes after you. The thing we worked on was to stay with our game plan and improve our execution."

While praising his young team, coach Jehlicka also noted that "We have not yet played our best football – it is important for us to continue to improve each Saturday. Our motto each week is to try and go 1-0."

The Marauders will have to wait a week to live up to their motto, as they have drawn a bye for the first weekend in October. Their next game is at home against San Bernardino Valley on the 13th of October.  Kick off is 7 p.m.  SBVC is currently one of only three Foothill teams undefeated in conference play.

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