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College football: Off and running

Cougars pick off Antelope Valley three times in opener

Posted: September 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons running back Jamie Wilson (10) heads for the end zone during the third quarter against Antelope Valley College on Saturday at COC. It was one of three touchdowns Wilson scored in the game.

 

Early on, it looked like the story of College of the Canyons’ season opener against Antelope Valley College would be a defensive battle.

In the end, though, the story was about one team — the Cougars.

The COC defense forced three turnovers in the first half — all interceptions — and benefited from two muffed punts, while the offense accounted for 507 total yards in the 44-23 win over AVC on Saturday night at Cougar Stadium.

Despite trailing the entire game though, the Marauders (0-1) had their chances to win.

Showing life in the third quarter and trailing 23-15 after forcing a Canyons punt, momentum was squarely on their side.

Standing on his own 10-yard line, AVC wide receiver Isiah Culver muffed the punt after calling for a fair catch and the Cougars (1-0) recovered on the 2-yard line.

On the ensuing possession, COC’s Jamie Wilson drove through tacklers on the 1-yard line and scored to put the Cougars ahead 30-15 with 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Wilson would finish with 14 carries for 88 yards and three touchdowns.

“We run to pass, or we can pass to run,” said COC quarterback Chris Rini. “Once we get that run game, get the guys to come down, we can start throwing the ball around.”

And that’s just what they did.

Rini finished the game 10-of-18 for 141 yards with one running touchdown.

“It had been three years since he’s started a football game, that’s a big thing to overcome,” said Canyons head coach Garett Tujague. “The thing I was most impressed with ... was how he was going to respond to pressure, he did a great job.”

It took three possessions for the Cougars to earn a first down without the aid of penalty or turnover. But once they did, the Cougars’ offense rolled.

That third drive culminated in a 2-yard quarterback draw for a touchdown by Rini to push the Cougars lead to 10-0 with 1:42 left in the first quarter.

Four plays into the next AVC possession, quarterback Cameron Coon threw an interception to COC’s Jake Woolley, who returned the ball 54 yards to the Marauder 1-yard line.

Coon would finish 24-of-38 with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

That interception set up a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle by M. Ajani Shanks to give the Cougars a 17-0 late in the first quarter.

After backup quarterback Chris Owens threw an interception in the second, the Cougars returned the favor on the next play, when Howard Wilder intercepted Coon and returned the ball 56 yards to the Marauder 42-yard line.

Rini came back out to start the second half, leading a methodical 7-minute, 14-second scoring drive which ended in a 10-yard run into the end zone by Wilson off an option pitch to give the Cougars a 23-7 lead with 7:46 left.

The Marauder’s refused to go away though, battling back in the third quarter as running back Frank Brown rumbled into the end zone with 6:30 remaining in the quarter to pull AVC within 10 points at 23-13.

In the end though, AVC mistakes proved to be too much.

“I thought our team showed flashes of fight ... we didn’t play ourselves a complete game, and they played pretty close to a complete game,” said AVC head coach Perry Jehlicka. “We’ve got to play four quarters, and some of the turnovers we made, special teams turnovers, you can’t do that.”

The win marks the fifth season in a row COC has opened up by defeating the Marauders.

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