College of the Canyons over Antelope Valley

Santa Clarita, Calif. - It wasn't easy, and it certainly wasn't pretty, but host College of the Canyons (#16 in the JC Grid-Wire rankings) did just enough to come away with a 27-17 victory over local rival Antelope Valley in the season opener for both teams September 5th.

The two Canyons quarterbacks, Eric Brown and Justin Morales, each rushed for a touchdown and Brown threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Stephens to lead the offense.  And the defense, anchored by the stellar line and linebackers, held AVC to just 32 yards rushing on the night.  Despite 7 punts and 3 turnovers, the Cougars never trailed, and put the game out of reach on Nick Hale's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:45 left in the game.

The game began with the defenses firmly in control for both teams.  The results were a combined total of 8 punts and no points in the first quarter.  After one more punt - by AVC - early in the second quarter, COC finally put together the game's first scoring drive, albeit a fairly short one.  COC punter Brandon Behrad had pinned AVC at its own 7 with his last kick, and the COC defense forced a 3-and-out for the Marauders, giving COC the ball back at the AVC 40.  Brown then capped an 8-play drive with an 11-yard run to get the Cougars on the board for a 7-0 lead.

Canyons' second touchdown came much quicker, and was one of the few ascetically pleasing plays of the night from an offensive perspective.  After another AVC punt (the Marauders' 6th of the night, all before gaining a single first down), COC got the ball at the Cougar 26.  A 9-yard run by Brown gave the Cougars a 2nd-and-1 and the opportunity to take a chance.  On that second down play, Brown lofted a pass deep over the middle to Stephens, who had gotten just beyond the coverage.  The speedy sophomore receiver took the pass around the AVC 40 and raced towards the end zone, somersaulting across the goal line to give COC a 14-0 lead.

That seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the Antelope Valley offense, which put together its first drive on its next possession.  Behind the passing of Josh Firm, who completed a 20-yard pass to Taveon Burke for AVC's initial first down of the game, the Marauders reached the Cougar 10.  But AVC ultimately came away empty when Benjamin Royce's 31-yard field goal try from the left hash marks stayed left.

Moments later, however, AVC got the ball back when Chasman Davis sacked Brown and knocked the ball loose.  Chris Whitney recovered the fumble for AVC at the Cougar 30.  Five plays later, Firm threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Wells to cut the Canyons lead to 14-6 in the final minute of the half.  Royce's extra point try was low and into the line, keeping it 14-6 at the break.

AVC got a little closer in the third quarter, forcing a pair of Canyons punts and scoring the only points of the period.  A 19-yard pass from Firm to Burke, a 15-yard penalty against Canyons and a 16-yard pass from Firm to Ronald Pigee got the Marauders to the Cougar 13.  Then Royce booted a 30-yard field goal to make it a 5-point game at 14-9.

At that point, Canyons brought backup quarterback Morales into the game, and that sparked the COC offense.  Morales completed 5 passes on his first drive, and then finished the drive himself with an 8-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend Canyons' lead to 21-9.  Then Canyons got the ball back less than a minute later when Arron Fisher intercepted a pass from AVC's Brandon Mims, giving the Cougars the ball at their own 45. 

The Cougars reached the AVC 17, but then a pair of penalties halted their progress, forcing a punt with ten minutes left.  But Behrad's kick rolled out of bounds at the 3, pinning AVC deep in its own end.  The COC defense forced another punt, and COC got the ball back at the AVC 48 with 7:50 left in the game and a chance to finally put the pesky Marauders away.

Then Canyons' Ryan Zirbel fumbled the ball away, with Tyree McGowan recovering the loose ball in front of the AVC bench.  That was Canyons' 9th fumble of the night, the third recovered by the Marauders.  This one game AVC one last chance to get back in the game with 7:41 left from their own 44.

But AVC failed to move the ball.  On fourth down, the Marauders lined up to punt, but instead gave the ball to up-man Ezekiel White, who initially had some running room.  But the COC defense responded quickly enough to hold White to a 7-yard gain on 4th and 10, turning the ball over with 6:31 remaining and COC still holding a 21-9 lead.

Finally, the Cougars put together the game-clinching drive, and managed to hold onto the ball while doing it.  A 9-play, 48-yard march led by Morales ended with Nick Hale scoring from a yard out with 1:45 remaining to make it 27-9. 

AVC used a hurry-up offense to score a touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Firm to Mims with 29 seconds left, and converted the 2-point conversion on a trick play when reserve quarterback John Perez hit Wells in the corner of the end zone with a pass.  But that just made it 27-17.  AVC tried an onsides kick moments later, but COC's Mychal Rivera recovered the ball to end the game.

For Canyons, it was a very different type of win from what the COC faithful came to expect in 2008 when the Cougars averaged nearly 50 points and 500 yards of offense per game.  Brown finished 11 of 21 passing for 153 yards, and Morales was 8 for 11 for 94 yards.  Hale was the leading rusher with 55 yards on 8 carries while Brown had 53 yards on 11 attempts.  Really, the only standout statistical line for the offense was from Stephens, who had 5 catches for 118 yards, and most of that came on the 65-yard touchdown.  In all, COC had 363 yards of offense but also had 9 fumbles (3 lost) and 7 punts.
For AVC, Firm had a solid outing with 195 yards and 2 touchdowns from an 18-for-31 passing performance.  Mims had 7 catches for 64 yards while Burke had 6 catches for 65 yards.  But the AVC ground game managed a total of just 32 yards on 27 carries, gaining only one rushing first down.

Next week, Antelope Valley opens its new, rebuilt Marauder Stadium against Ventura. will be on hand for the festivities, with the game scheduled for a 7 pm start.

Canyons hits the road next Saturday for a game at Santa Barbara at 6 pm.

College of the Canyons Cougars 27
Antelope Valley Marauders 17

Saturday, September 5, 2009 - 7 pm - Cougar Stadium - Santa Clarita

1st Quarter:    
No Scoring

2nd Quarter:   
C - Brown 11 yd run (Rodriguez kick) 10:22 (7-0)
C - Stephens 65 yd pass from Brown (Rodriguez kick) 8:41 (14-0)
AV - Wells 17 yd pass from Firm (kick blocked) 0:30 (14-6)

3rd Quarter:   
AV - FG Royce 30 yds 9:02 (14-9)

4th Quarter:    
C - Morales 8 yd run (Rodriguez kick) 14:52 (21-9)
C - Hale 1 yd run (kick blocked) 1:45 (27-9)
AV - Mims 23 yd pass from Firm (Wells pass from Perez) 0:29 (27-17)

Team Statistics:
First Downs:  Canyons 18 (8 rush, 9 pass, 1 penalty), Antelope Valley 13 (1 rush, 10 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds:  Canyons 36-116, Antelope Valley 27-32
Passing Yds:  Canyons 247, Antelope Valley 195
Comp-Att-Int:  Canyons 19-32-0, Antelope Valley 18-33-1
Return Yds:  Canyons 78, Antelope Valley 83
Sacks-Yds:  Canyons 2-13, Antelope Valley 3-32
Fumbles-Lost:  Canyons 9-3, Antelope Valley 0-0
Penalties-Yds:  Canyons 11-120, Antelope Valley 8-75
Time of Possession:  Canyons 31:08, Antelope Valley 28:52
Individual Statistics:
Rushing:  COC 21-Hale 8-55, 7-Brown 11-53, 12-Zirbel 3-15, 3-Iverson 6-10, 8-Morales 7-(-2), team 1-(-15); AVC:  24-Martin 3-14, 25-Teasley 8-12, 20-White 1-7, 41-Blake 3-4, 16-Mims 2-3, 2-Firm 4-1, 5-Whitson 6-(-9)
Passing:   COC 7-Brown 11-21-0-153, 1 TD; 8-Morales 8-11-0-94; AVC 2-Firm 18-31-1-195, 2 TDs; 16-Mims 0-2-0-0
Receiving:   COC 11-Stephens 5-118, 81-Rivera 5-32, 3-Iverson 3-34, 85-Wright 2-18, 1-Atkins 1-21, 5-London 1-10, 24-Bailey 1-9, 18-Urbina 1-5; AVC 16-Mims 7-64, 1-Burke 6-65, 17-Wells 3-53, 12-Pigee 1-16, 18-Stearns 1-(-3)
Interceptions-Ret Yds:  COC 2-Fisher 1-0; AVC none
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds:  COC none; AVC 7-Whitney 1-0, 26-McGowan 1-0, 52-Holmes 1-0
Sacks-Yds:  COC 19-Harrington 1-10, 56-Jermar Cushnie 1-3; AVC 7-Whitney 1-17, 9-C.Davis 1-9, 52-Holmes 1-6
Punters:   COC 96-Behrad 7-40.0 avg; AVC 98-Quintero 9-40.6 avg
Kick Returns:  COC 24-Bailey 2-34, 1-Atkins 1-16; AVC 31-McLaughlin 3-48, 5-Whitson 2-30
Punt Returns:  COC 11-Stephens 3-18; AVC 31-McLaughlin 1-5
Missed FG:  COC none; AVC 97-Royce 31 yds (wide left)

Notes:  Season opener for both teams.  Canyons was ranked #3 in the South, #4 in California (CCCFCA/JCAB) and #16 in the nation (JC Grid-Wire); Antelope Valley was ranked #16 in the South and #29 in California (CCCFCA/JCAB).  The teams combined for 8 punts and a fumble in the scoreless 1st quarter.  AVC's 1st TD came after Whitney's fumble recovery, which was caused by a sack by C.Davis.Brown started at QB for COC; Morales entered with 4:52 left in the 3rd quarter, promptly led COC to its 3rd touchdown and played the rest of the way.  AVC tried a fake punt play with 6:31 left but White was stopped well short of the 1st down, all but ending any real chance for a comeback.  McGowan appeared to block the XPA try for AVC; AVC's unsuccessful extra point try was low into the line.  COC's fumble count:  Morales 3, Brown 2, Atkins, Zirbel, Stephens, team but only Brown's 2 and Zirbel's were recovered by AVC.  COC now leads the all-time series, 8-4, and has won the last 5 including 3 in the last two seasons.

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