College of the Canyons opened the 2017 season with a big win over Antelope Valley College, as the Cougars were able to hold off the Marauders in a 42-30 shootout at Marauder Stadium.
The Cougars' offense shined all night, starting on their first possession of the season which featured a 12-play, 60-yard drive, that was capped off by a one-yard Alonso Reeves touchdown run. The PAT by Louis Eusebi made it a 7-0 COC advantage.
AVC answered right back, putting together a 10-play drive of its own, as the Marauders were able to tie the game when quarterback Armani Edden found receiver Jordan Wayne for a nine-yard touchdown pass, evening the score at 7-7 with 4:43 to play in the first quarter.
Canyons was then able to retake the lead with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended with freshman signal-caller Andrew Brito throwing a perfect strike to receiver Hunter Schuessler for 31-yard touchdown. The big play gave the Cougars a 14-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
Antelope Valley's offense was not phased, however, as the Marauders continued to go toe-to-toe with COC.
Brito's scoring strike with promptly answered with another long possession from AVC, which marched down the field with a 12-play, 89-yard drive. The Marauders tied the game for a second time when Edden threw his second touchdown of the half, this time hitting Blake Verrett for a seven-yard score to make it 14-14.
The Cougars refused to be stopped though.
On the first play of the ensuing drive Brito found receiver Jarrin Pierce on a 41-yard deep ball, putting the Cougars in business at the AVC 28-yard line. Brito later threw his second touchdown pass of the half, as RB Marlow hauled it in for the 12-yard score and put the game at 21-14.
AVC still would not go away, however, as the Marauders went on another sustained drive, which was aided by a roughing the passer penalty against the Cougars.
Antelope Valley was able to capitalize on the mistake, and eventually tied the game for a third time when Edden hooked up with Wayne once again to knot it up at 21-21 heading into halftime.
Notably, the game's first six possessions each ended with touchdowns.
After the break, the Cougar defense started to find its rhythm with highly-touted sophomore pass rusher Dorian Gerald able to record his first sack of the season early in the third quarter. The big play helped shift the momentum back in the Cougars' favor and allowed the Cougar offense to take over in AVC territory.
A subsequent Marauder penalty helped to set up Brito's third touchdown pass of the game, as he again found Schuessler, this time on a 27-yard pitch and catch that made it a 28-21 ballgame.
Antelope Valley continued to keep things close spurred in part by a 52-yard kick return and a COC personal foul penalty that gave the Marauders excellent field position at the COC 25-yard line.
But the Cougar defense came up big once again, holding AVC to a 36-yard field goal that made the score 28-24.
That score would hold until early in the fourth quarter, when COC sophomore DeSean Holmes returned a punt 43-yards to the AVC 18-yard line to put the Cougars in business. Brito did not waste the opportunity, quickly finding Holmes on a 13-yard scoring strike for his fourth touchdown pass of the night. The score gave COC some breathing room at 35-24.
Later in the quarter, Canyons stuffed the Marauders on a fourth down play to set COC up with prime field position once again. Brito capitalized again by throwing his fifth touchdown pass of the night, this time finding Pierce on a 23-yard completion that put the Cougars in complete control at 42-24.
AVC scored once more when Marauder quarterback Michael McPeek hit Parris Jones for a three-yard scoring play. But the two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the game would eventually end with a 42-30 Cougar victory.
Andrew Brito finished the game 16-of-33 passing for 243 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for a team-high 22 yards.
Pierce was COC's leading receiver on the night with five receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. Holmes finished the game with four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown, while Schuessler picked up 58 yards on his two touchdown catches. Eusebi was a perfect 6-of-6 on PAT attempts.
Reeves led the COC defense with five tackles to go with his first quarter touchdown run.
The Cougars have not lost to AVC since the 1998 season, COC's first campaign after reinstating its football program.
Canyons (1-0) will next travel to Orange Coast College (0-1) on Saturday, Sept. 9, for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
— Tim Strong/COC Sports Information