Photo by Ed Beyer PhD
LANCASTER - If ever there was a "must win" for the Marauder football team, Saturday night against Pierce would be it.
Certainly that term is used far too much in sports, however, if the Marauders hope to keep their chances at a share at the conference championship alive, they must win. If they want to potentially play past next week in a bowl game, they must win.
"They're better than their record indicates," AVC head coach Perry Jehlicka said of Pierce. "They are very athletic and have a good group of athletes."
The Brahmas are coming off a shootout against Santa Barbara City in which Pierce came up on top with a 40-37 victory. The Marauders are suffering from the lingering effects of a tough loss to first-place Allan Hancock, 21-7, last week. In that game AVC could only muster nine yards of total offense in the second half.
"I really thought in the first half (against Hancock) we moved the ball really well. If you put two halves together then you're dominant against one of the better defensive teams," Jehlicka said. "I call it a tale of two halves. We didn't execute in the second half against a good defense. We didn't play a full four-quarter game, but I thought we did defensively. But give Hancock credit, they just played better in the second half."
The game was tied 7-7 at halftime, but the Bulldogs scored 14 points in the final two quarters to earn at least a share of the conference championship.
AVC didn't want to put itself in this position, but it can still claim at least a share of the title should it defeat Pierce and Hancock be upset by Citrus, which isn't a long shot. The Owls are entering the game against the Bulldogs riding a two-game winning streak. Five of Citrus' six losses have come by a touchdown or less. The Owls are also only allowing 102 rushing yards per game, which they'll need against one of the top rushing attack in the state.
Still the Marauders have to handle their business first, which is to defeat Pierce, which enters the game trailing the Marauders by one game in the standings. AVC must also win to possibly get it into a bowl game. A loss would almost certainly eliminate the Marauders from bowl talk.
AVC's strength of schedule should help as well. The Marauders played No. 1 San Diego Mesa tough as well as No. 2 Hancock. They also have a road victory against No. 4 East Los Angeles.
"Our strength of schedule plays in our favor. It also prepares us for the season," Jehlicka said. "(Last week) was a tough loss, but the kids are resilient. We've had tough losses before and they have bounced back. They know that game's in the past."
The Brahmas enter the game ranked No. 9 in the American Division and are trying to earn a bowl game themselves. A victory against the Marauders would certainly boost their chances. Pierce is averaging 374 yard per game and has a balanced attack averaging 215 passing yards and 159 rushing yards. Kyshawn Roberts and Sterling Salguero have combined for 1,099 rushing yards.
"Since Monday our focus has been on Pierce. We got the work in we needed to get in," Jehlicka said. "We are past that game (against Hancock). We understand the task at hand."
AVC holds a 7-6 overall record against Pierce including winning the last three victories and last year's 64-3 victory at Pierce. The game will be at 6pm at broadcast live on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJp-mFF02Q0