Lancaster, CA (Football) -- By all statistics and measurements, Saturday night’s game at Antelope Valley College should have been a blowout for the Fighting Owls. Citrus outgained the Marauders by over 200 yards, had twice as many first downs, and held the ball for nearly 11 minutes longer than Antelope Valley. Despite all that, Citrus won by just a single score, and needed a last second interception to seal the deal in their 37-30 victory.
Citrus started Saturday’s game on their heels as Antelope Valley scored 16 of the first 22 points of the game. The Owls’ only score came on their second drive of the game, when they marched 69 yards down the field, scoring in 12 plays when freshman full back Jesus Vargas crossed the goal line from one yard out. The score made it 7-6 in favor of the Marauders after a missed Citrus extra point.
Antelope Valley would then capitalize on Citrus’ mistakes turning a safety and interception that eventually led to a score into a 16-6 lead. The Fighting Owls finally got it going late in the second quarter when a Rodney Fredrick-Mathews pick that he returned deep into Antelope Valley territory resulted in Citrus’ first score in nearly 16 minutes of game action when Blake Loncar connected with sophomore wide-out Kevlin Chatham from 21 yards out to make the score 16-13.
On the next Marauder possession, Citrus forced a three and out, and Citrus got the ball back again with just over three minutes left in the first half. The Fighting Owls made good on the opportunity using nine plays and 1:54 on the clock to go 80 yards. The drive was capped off by a Loncar strike to freshman wide receiver Isaiah Kepley from five yards away, and the score would give Citrus their first lead of the game 20-16 headed into halftime.
Citrus would keep it going in the opening drive of the third quarter, when the Owls moved the ball all the way down to the Antelope Valley 15 yard line before settling for a 32 yard field goal off the foot of Andres Magallon. The score gave Citrus a seven point lead that they would hold onto for a few more possessions until Antelope Valley tied the game up late in the third. The Marauders drive would come off a missed field goal attempt by the Owls.
With the game knotted up at 23 all, Citrus broke the tie two drives later when Ricky Johnson took a Loncar pass and went 36 yards to the house to put Citrus up 30-23. The Owls would score again at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Loncar connected with freshman Aaron Dockery from 43 yards out to give Citrus a 37-23 advantage.
Up by two scores, the Citrus defense wore down on the ensuing Antelope Valley possession. The Marauders made their way all the way down to the Citrus six yard line thanks to back to back big passing plays and a pass interference call. The Marauders were in the end zone moments later, and Citrus’ lead was cut back to one score with just under nine minutes on the clock.
On the very next Citrus possession, Loncar threw his second pick of the game. The Owl defense held strong though forcing an Antelope Valley punt. Citrus’ next drive did little more than take time off the clock, and Antelope Valley found themselves with the ball again on their own 22 yard line with 3:05 to go. The defense showed up big again picking off the Marauders for the second time of the night at the AVC 39. Unfortunately for Citrus they returned the favor when Loncar was intercepted for the third time at the AVC 24.
With two minutes left in the game, the Marauders took possession of the ball on their own 46 yard line. Antelope Valley proceeded to pick at the Citrus secondary, completing three straight passes of 10 yards or more to get down to the Owl 25.
Antelope Valley would eventually move all the way down to the Citrus 14, where they took a shot at the end zone with time winding down. That’s when the Owls D came up with their biggest play of the night as Fredrick-Mathews intercepted his second ball of the game in Citrus’ own end zone to end the threat and the contest.
Loncar would finish the day 31 of 62 for four touchdowns and 456 yards passing. The attempts and yards are both program single game records, while the four touchdowns ties the program best mark, something he had done two times prior. Loncar also set the program’s career mark for completions (303) in Saturday’s game. The four touchdowns also gave him 18 for the season, also a new program standard beating the previous mark of 15 set three times previously in 1988 and 1989 (Matt Ipsen) and last year by Loncar himself.
Kepley would haul a game high 9 catches for a game high 111 yards and one touchdown. Chatham wasn’t too far behind him with seven balls for 94 yards and a score, his seventh of the season, and just two away from the single season program record. Sophomore running back Ricky Johnson had 127 all-purpose yards (72 rushing, 45 receiving) and one score through the air.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore Steven Arceo led the way with a team high seven tackles and two sacks. Fredrick-Mathews had three tackles to go along with his two interceptions and a pass break-up. As a whole, the Owl defense had five takeaways matching the team’s best effort since the season opener against West LA.
With the win, Citrus improves to 4-3 on the year and 2-0 in West Conference play. The Owls are now tied for first place with Long Beach City College who is also 2-0. It’s the first time, Citrus has been over .500 this late in the year since the 2007 season. The Owls will be back at home next Saturday with another huge conference test. Citrus plays host to LA Harbor College (4-3, 0-2) with kick-off set for 1:00 PM.