Photo by Ed Beyer, PhD
SANTA BARBARA - When Marauder football head coach Perry Jehlicka said he thought his team could pound the football; he was right.
In a big way.
Enter freshman phenom DJ Payne.
Payne, a 6-foot, 200-pound punishing back, carried the ball a career-high 32 times for a career-high 244 yards and AVC's defense was like a brick wall which all resulted in another dominant performance as the Marauders remained perfect in conference play, along with Allan Hancock, with a convincing 17-7 victory on the road against Santa Barbara City College, Saturday afternoon in sunny Santa Barbara.
"I thought we played a great game. We had a great game plan coming in and we executed that game plan," Payne said. "We just have to take things game by game and every day is a day to get better. We're chipping away at getting better each game. We don't want to leave it in someone else's hands. This was a huge game for us and it gives us more confidence than we had in the last win."
It was Payne's best game of the season as he bested his previous personal best game against College of the Desert in which he rushed for 177 yards. His 651 yards this season rank him 15th in the state. In addition, his 244 yards rank him tied for seventh in Marauder history with Hall of Famer Bob Keyes in 1956. It was also the first 200-yard rusher since Dominique Blood (234 yards) in 2008.
"I thought we'd be able to run against them. I don't think we've run the ball that well in the 10 years I've been here,"Jehlicka said. "I thougth we dominated the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively."
With the exception of the 13-play, 80-yard drive that the Vaqueros (3-4, 0-2) used in the first quarter giving them a 7-0 lead, AVC's defense only allowed 123 yards the rest of the game.
"I think we have a few things to clean up," Jehlicka said. "But I thought it was a fairly dominating performance. I thought we were two or three plays away from blowing the game wide open. This was a really good win for us."
Trailing 7-0, the Marauders promptly erased that deficit only two minutes later following a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Armani Edden.
Just before the half with 30 seconds remaining, Edden, who was only 8-of-22 for 84 yards, connected with John Johnson from 18 yards out giving the Marauders (4-3, 2-0) a 14-7 lead. It was Edden's 14th touchdown toss of the season, ranking him 14th in the state.
"I thought we struggled a little bit keeping drives going," Payne said. "We just need to sustain drives better. We're a lot better than we were at the beginning of the season."
The Vaqueros' Emmanuel Nwosu, who entered the game averaging 131 yards per game, was held way below his average as he managed only 71 yards on 20 carries, his second worst rushing output of the season.
"That's the defense we've always been looking for. That was an entire AVC defense where you shut people down and hold people down," said defensive lineman Robert Robinson, who finished with six tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. "You have to play as a unit. If you play as one whole unit, you will play well. It's all about communication. We practice as a whole and we play as a whole. I'm pleased with the performance, but I know we can do a lot better."