After managing just three first downs in the opening half, Antelope Valley got its offense in gear on Saturday night at La Playa Stadium in a 28-14 football victory over Santa Barbara City College.

The Antelopes (1-3, 1-0) won their American Pacific Conference opener, thanks to four plays of 47 yards or more in the first 17 minutes of the second half, including a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown by Eddie Russ.

Conner Rehage threw his first TD pass of the year, a 48-yarder to Sean Hutchinson that cut the deficit to 14-7 late in the third quarter, and Austin Civita directed a 55-yard scoring drive in the closing minutes, but it wasn’t enough for the Vaqueros (0-4, 0-1).

SBCC outgained the visitors 160 to 47 yards in the first half and reached the AV 24- and 16-yard lines without scoring. Jeremy Ybarra‘s 39-yard field goal try with 39 seconds left in the second quarter went wide left.

“We had our opportunities in the first half,” Vaquero coach Craig Moropoulos said. “We need to get to the point where we don’t self-destruct. We’re insecure right now as an offensive team and we’re putting too much pressure on our defense. Our defense broke down in the second half and allowed some big plays.”

Devon Whitson broke free for the game’s first TD — a 65-yard sprint on the fourth play of the third period. After an exchange of punts, Russ took off up the left sideline for his second long kick return for a TD in as many weeks, boosting the lead to 14-0.

Whitson (85 yards, 11 carries) and Dominique Blood (124 on 21 tries) combined for 209 of the Maruaders’ 245 rushing yards. AVC outrushed the home team 201 to minus 18 in the second half. Blood’s 47-yard run early in the fourth quarter set up his 3-yard TD that boosted the lead to 28-7.

Rehage, a 6-4 sophomore from Dos Pueblos High, completed 10 of 24 for 128 yards with a TD and an interception while Civita was 3-6 for 22 yards. Civita capped the 55-yard, 10-play scoring drive with 21 seconds left by finding Xavier Johnson in the back left corner of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 19.

“We’re a young team, and we need to get some positive things going,” Moropoulos said. “That’s why it was real important for us to score at the end. They still had their starters in there and we were moving the ball. It showed out guys that we can score, we can put the ball in the end zone. That was important.

“Conner and Austin are both doing good things. The problem is when the bad things happen, how bad are they? Conner has a better feel for the game and the system but Austin does some real good things himself.”

The Marauders, who committed 11 penalties for 120 yards, sacked SBCC’s quarterbacks five times for minus 36 yards. Nate Goldie led the Vaquero defense with nine tackles and two fumble recoveries.

Dave Loveton is Santa Barbara City College‘s sports information specialist.