Starnes carries the load for AV College

LANCASTER – Antelope Valley College freshman running back Cole Starnes had a breakout night, the team showed some defensive prowess, and the Marauders handed the Mt. San Jacinto Eagles their first loss of the season Saturday night with a 28-14 win at home.

Starnes rushed for 145 of yards on 22 carries. Before Saturday, he had only carried the ball 15 times and averaged 34.3 yards per game.

Sophomore quarterback Blake Shepard went 10-for-21 passing for 161 yards.

Coming into the game, the Marauders (3-2) had a challenge on their hands. The Eagles (3-1) allowed only 11.7 points per game, and their star freshman running back Jomari Becnel came into Saturday averaging 143 rushing yards per game.

But the Marauders stifled Becnel, who only had 35 yards in the first half on 10 carries. He finished the game with 58 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Instead, it was Starnes who shined rushing the football throughout the game. He outrushed Becnel, who leads the state in average rushing yards per game among all community college players.

Marauders head coach Perry Jehlicka said before the game that his team would have to tackle well for the entire game in order to stop Becnel.

Jehlicka also talked about the task that lied ahead of Antelope Valley.

“We’re playing against one of the best defenses in the state, so it’s a challenge to our offense to put the ball in the end zone,” Jehlicka said.

But the Marauders had no problem scoring on Saturday.

The Marauders started the game with good defense, forcing a three-and-out. On the second play of the next drive, Antelope Valley’s Shepard threw a 31-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Donte Ross for a first down.

Two plays later, on second down and 12, Starnes rushed 64 yards for a touchdown.

Then Antelope Valley freshman running back Brandon Edwards recovered his team’s own kickoff at the Eagles’ 27-yard line. Shepard later ran 16 yards for a first down inside the 10-yard line.

The Marauders scored again on a 1-yard rush by freshman running back Travon Willis. Within the first six minutes of the game, Antelope Valley held a 14-0 lead.

Before the end of the first half, Antelope Valley’s defense came to play again after stopping an Eagles drive that threatened a second touchdown. But the Marauders forced the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs.

Late in the third quarter, Marauders freshman John Huntley sacked Eagles quarterback Jake Newton to force a fourth down. In the fourth, the Marauders recovered an Eagles fumble.

Antelope Valley scored its final touchdown on the first few plays of the fourth quarter. On a 12-play drive that totaled 73 yards, sophomore wide receiver Carlon Smith picked up dozens of passing yards, and Shepard ended the drive with a 1-yard rush for the touchdown.

Marauders freshman kicker Mark Berrera’s extra point gave the Marauders a 28-8 lead.

The Eagles scored at the start of the second quarter on a drive that lasted 12 plays, went 75 yards and bridged the first and second frames.

Becnel rushed for a 6-yard touchdown, but the extra point was blocked by the Marauders. The Eagles, however, recovered the ball and scored a 2-point conversion.

The Marauders returned the favor with 1:58 left in the first half after a six-play drive that ended with Willis rushing 2 yards into the end zone. The successful extra point by Berrera gave Antelope Valley a 21-8 lead.

The Marauders were without sophomore running back Tre Coleman, who has averaged 67.3 yards per game this season and has scored three touchdowns in four games. Coleman sat out Saturday’s game due to an undisclosed injury.

The Marauders will play its first conference game at Citrus College on Oct. 15.