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Cougars win slugfest

COC defense comes up big and offense makes key plays without Carpenter

Posted: November 22, 2008 10:14 p.m.
Updated: November 23, 2008 4:58 a.m.

College of the Canyons running back Fred Winborn scores two touchdowns in the Cougars 41-17 win over the Marauders on Saturday night at Cougar Stadium. COC now turns their attention to El Camino College.

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It was a much improved football team from Antelope Valley College that gave College of the Canyons its money's worth Saturday night in what began as a defensive battle at the Western State Bowl.

COC found the necessary momentum in the second half, posting four touchdowns and making timely stops on defense as the Cougars rolled to a 41-17 victory over AVC at Cougar Stadium.

COC head coach Garett Tujague, the 2008 conference Coach of the Year, said the geographical proximity of the two schools added to the competitiveness.

"Whenever you get a school that's close by, there's always going to be guys from each team who know each other, and they're not going to give up," Tujague said. "Their season was on the line, too. I just think we had a little more in our tank than they did."

The game doubled as the opening round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs. With the win, the Cougars (11-0) will host No. 4-seed El Camino College Saturday in the regional semifinals. El Camino earned the bid with its 31-28 victory over No. 5 Saddleback College last Saturday.

The Cougars won it without the services of sophomore wide receiver Hayo Carpenter, who drew a 72-hour suspension for what Tujague characterized as "conduct unbecoming of a Cougar." On Tuesday, Carpenter was named the National Division, Northern Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

The two teams previously met in the season opener Sept. 6, when COC pushed around the Marauders 54-14. Antelope Valley (6-5) improved steadily after that, winning six of its last seven games to close out American Division, Pacific Conference play as co-champion with Santa Barbara City College.

Meanwhile, COC won all 10 of its regular-season games, capturing the National Division, Northern Conference crown and earning the No. 1 seed in the regional playoffs as the only undefeated team in Southern California.

Now with each team fielding highly ranked defensive units, the game had the potential to be a low-scoring affair.

COC sophomore quarterback Brad McClellan felt the defensive squeeze as he threw a pair of interceptions and fumbled away the football while completing 13 passes on 27 attempts for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

McClellan said he might have been a little rusty after sitting out last week's win over Bakersfield with a sore shoulder.

"I didn't hardly practice much this week," McClellan said. "Antelope Valley did a couple of things that we didn't expect, but it was nothing we couldn't handle. We just came out a little sluggish, but we'll be fine."

After a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars struck on the first play of the second quarter as McClellan,
behind rolling protection from right guard Joe Thompson, threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nate Jones.

"I ran a little drag route, caught it, got some open space and I just got in," Jones said.

Ricky Drake's point-after try wobbled wide right.

Midway through the second, COC's Marquis Jackson blocked a 37-yard field-goal attempt by AVC kicker Javi Navarro, but a personal foul on the Cougars gave the Marauders back the football. Navarro made good on his second chance, a 25-yarder that cut COC's lead to 6-3 with 8:39 to play before the half.

A pair of long penalties against Antelope Valley propelled COC's subsequent drive. Fred Winborn capped it with a 3-yard touchdown plunge that extended the Cougars' advantage to 13-3 at 5:28 before the break, and that's the way it went into the locker room.

Winborn opened the third quarter with his second touchdown of the game. The sophomore running back, a First-Team All-Conference selection, sidestepped a pair of defenders before accelerating 39 yards down the left sideline. It gave the Cougars a 20-3 lead with 8:59 to play in the third.

The Marauders got it back on the wheels of wide receiver Eddie Russ. Russ caught a short pass from quarterback John Perez on a post pattern, shook off three Cougar tacklers and exploded down the center of the field for a 91-yard touchdown. A bad snap on the extra point kept the score at 20-9 COC.

A lengthy kickoff return by COC's B.J. Iverson set up the Cougars' next score, a 24-yard touchdown pass from McClellan to wide receiver Taveon Burke that staked Canyons to a 27-9 lead with 2:18 left in the third quarter.

A fourth-quarter fumble recovery by COC defensive back Zach Santos stole away the Marauders' momentum, but AVC struck with 2:43 left in the game on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Perez to Charles Johnson.

Jones answered by taking the onside kick unmolested into the end zone for a score.

"I just saw the ball, went after it and there was no one in front of me so I just kept running," Jones said.

Iverson turned out the lights with a 39-yard scoring sprint with just 16 seconds left in the game.

"I got to the red zone, and I got super hungry," Iverson said.

Antelope Valley College hasn't won a bowl game since it defeated Glendale College in the K-Swiss Classic II in 1993.

AVC second-year head coach Perry Jehlicka said his Marauders put forth the effort, but the Cougars were just too strong.

"We kept fighting, and then they'd make a few plays and we'd try and fight back in," Jehlicka said. "In the fourth quarter, they just made more big plays than we did."

One of those Cougars making big plays was defensive lineman Jackson, who had 11 tackles (10 unassisted), an interception and a pass breakup. Jackson, a freshman, was named conference Defensive Player of the Year.

"It's the start of playoffs. You've got to renew yourself," Jackson said. "Ten-and-0, it doesn't count. You've got to come out with a little bigger flame, to go in and try to end it."

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