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College football: COC takes stand

Cougars force six turnovers in rout of Antelope Valley

Posted: September 4, 2010 11:12 p.m.
Updated: September 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons defensive back Antwan Smith holds the ball over the goal line as he scores a touchdown from an interception against Antelope Valley College on Saturday at Antelope Valley College. The Cougars won the game 35-7.

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In a game full of penalties and turnovers, College of the Canyons used its defense to beat Antelope Valley College on Saturday night at Brent Carder Marauder Stadium.

The Cougars forced six turnovers, highlighted by defensive back Antwan Smith's 28-yards interception return for a touchdown, to beat the Marauders 35-7.

By the midway point of the second quarter, COC hadn't allowed a single AVC first down.

"Defensively, I was very impressed. We had great speed," said COC head coach Garett Tujague

Neither team avoided the first-game jitters in their respective season openers, combining for 27 penalties for 336 yards.

"We knew who our opponent was and what we had to bring, but we just shot ourselves in the foot," said Marauder head coach Perry Jehlicka.

Smith's interception of AVC quarterback Josh Firm opened the scoring early in the first quarter.

"We watched a lot of film this week, and I've seen that play a few times," Smith said.

In all, the Cougar defense only allowed AVC 130 yards of total offense and just 13 in the second half.

COC had possession of the ball for just over 44 minutes compared to AVC's 16.

"We did a great job," Smith said. "We've just got to fix some mistakes and get back to it next week."

After stalling on its first two series, Cougars quarterback Justin Arias and the offense began to settle into a groove, scoring twice in a span of 26 seconds.

The first score came at the conclusion of a 78-yard drive that was capped by a 5-yard touchdown strike from Arias to wide receiver Rickeem Jackson.

The Cougars recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and took just two plays to get back into the end zone again. Saugus graduate and COC running back Ryan Zirbel punched in the score from 5 yards out for a 21-0 lead.

Zirbel finished with 120 all-purpose yards on 15 carries and five receptions.

"We just wanted to show everybody what we can do," Zirbel said. "We had a lot of turnovers, but those kinds of things are fixable."

The Cougars fumbled the ball seven times but only lost two of them.

However, it was a revealing day for Arias, who won the starting job among three other candidates coming into the season. He completed 32-of-51 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to running for a score in the second quarter.

Tujague said Arias' job as starter is secure after today's game, which was Arias' first live football since his recovery from a torn ACL last year.

"It's been over 12 months since he played, and he did phenomenal," Tujague said.

The Cougars will have little time to celebrate the win as they face defending state and national champion, Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday in Walnut.

 

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