[WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE]
The College of the Canyons football team came away with a convincing 32-19 over visiting Antelope Valley College on Saturday, as the Cougar defense pounced all over the Marauders in the season opener at Cougar Stadium.
Canyons (1-0) looked strong on both sides of the ball, but was led by a stifling defensive attack that recorded 11 sacks, an interception and forced three fumbles, including the one defensive lineman Dorian Gerald recovered for a third quarter defensive touchdown.
Gerald (two sacks, four tackles for loss) combined with fellow defensive lineman Brodie Felkel (eight tackles, 2.5 sacks),Sione Taufahema (three tackles, sack), Javon Brown (four tackles, sack) and Aurellio Gilder (two tackles, sack) to keep AVC quarterback Blake Shepherd under relentless pressure all night.
COC linebackers Noel Iwuchukwu (six tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced fumble) and Brandon Shook (five tackles, two sacks) and cornerback DeAndre Henderson (four tackles, forced fumble, interception) were also key contributors for the Cougars.
In fact, the Marauders (0-1) were not able to muster any offensive points until putting together back-to-back scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Prior to that the only AVC scoring play had come on a 63-yard fumble return by linebacker Jad Cheetany that gave the Marauders a short-lived 7-6 advantage.
It was Canyons that got on the board first with a nine-yard touchdown run by freshman quarterback CJ Williams. COC kicker Kevin Neitzke had his PAT attempt blocked, but the Cougars were in business with a 6-0 lead.
Trailing 7-6, CJ Williams put the Cougars back on top with a 1:25 to play in the first half when the freshman signal caller found wide receiver Marquise Brown on a 10-yard scoring strike.
COC’s two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 12-7 heading into the locker room at halftime.
The second half featured more COC highlights.
Following the defensive score by Gerald, which came on a strip sack in the end zone, COC wide receiver LeBronze Allen hauled in a short pass and took it 48-yards for another Cougar touchdown. The ensuing PAT failed, but Canyons still led 25-7.
Williams finished the game 13-of-21 for 150 yards and two touchdowns in his first start for the Cougars. He also added 37 rushing yards on nine carries.
Allen was the Cougars’ top receiver, finishing the game with three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Brown also had three catches for 38 yards and a touchdown.
COC running back Leo Lambert III had a good night, rushing for 52 yards on 10 carries and adding 34 receiving yards on three catches.
With COC head coach Ted Iacenda rotating his quarterbacks late in the game it was freshman Louis Eusebi who led the next scoring drive.
Eusebi finished the game 3-of-3 for 40 yards passing and 18 yards on the ground, including a four-yard touchdown run with 13:22 to play.
Neitzke’s PAT was good and the Cougars were in control with a 32-7 advantage.
Down but not completely out, AVC made things interesting with its final few possessions.
Marauder running back Travon Willis finally found the end zone for AVC with 9:10 to play on a three-yard scoring run. But the missed PAT kept it a 32-13 COC advantage.
Then, after successfully recovering an onside kick, the Marauders scored a second offensive touchdown with 6:39 to play on a 12-yard pass from Shepherd to receiver Jordan Wayne. AVC’s 2-pt conversion attempt was no good, leaving the score at the final 32-19.
COC entered the game as the No. 21 ranked team in the state according to the California Community College Preseason Football Poll, as compiled by the JC Athletic Bureau. AVC was unranked to begin the season.
Canyons will remain home to host Orange Coast College (1-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at Cougar Stadium.
The COC Athletics department is inviting all veterans and active duty military (with proper ID) to attend Saturday’s game free of charge.
—Jesse Munoz/COC Sports Information
—Photo Credit: Jim Bloomfield/COC Sports Information