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Canyon escapes with victory

Posted: October 18, 2013 11:16 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2013 11:16 p.m.

Canyon wide receiver Zach Cuha, right, breaks through a tackle attempt by Saugus defensive back Brandon Bailey at Canyon on Friday.

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On Friday night at Canyon High, the Canyon Cowboys football team played frustrated and angry while the visiting Saugus Centurions exhibited discipline. And for the better part of the night it appeared that discipline would prevail.

But a 29-yard potential game-tying Centurions field goal sailed just right as time expired, giving the Cowboys a 23-20 win in a Foothill League thriller that played out differently than many had anticipated.

“A win like this shows that we need to practice harder, stay focused and never give up,” said Cowboys junior receiver Liam Cabrera, who reeled in five passes for 64 yards on Friday.

Canyon got off on the wrong foot during the first quarter of action, fumbling the ball on the Saugus 1-yard line before seeing its second drive derailed by three consecutive penalties.

And a determined Centurions team took advantage.

Down 2-0 due to an early safety, Saugus (3-4 overall, 0-2 Foothill League) rebounded to take a 6-2 lead late in the first quarter behind a 5-yard touchdown run by Centurions senior all-purpose player Blake Austen.

That was when junior quarterback Cade Apsay got to work for the Cowboys (6-1, 2-0).

On the ensuing drive, the Canyon signal caller took his team on a 6-minute, 64-yard touchdown drive to put Canyon up 9-6, going 3-for-3 on third down passes in the process. Apsay finished 20-of-31 for 230 yards and an interception through the air, adding 80 yards on the ground for a Canyon team that struggled to establish the ground game against a formidable Saugus front seven.

Yet, the common theme Friday was that Saugus just would not go away. Centurions running back Mark Langford answered Canyon’s drive with a 50-yard kickoff return before finishing things off with a 3-yard touchdown run to put his team on top 13-9 with 4:14 remaining in the second quarter.

Once again Canyon answered a score with a score, when Canyon junior running back Myron McAfee capped a two-minute drill with a 3-yard touchdown run of his own to give the Cowboys a 16-13 lead with just seconds remaining in the second quarter.

After playing to a stalemate in the third quarter, the Centurions retook the lead with 9:47 remaining in the fourth quarter when running back Reid Rupe punched it in from a yard out to bring the score to 20-16.

On cue, Apsay responded with a 57-yard quarterback scramble that brought the ball to the Saugus 20-yard line with 4:36 remaining.

Twenty seconds later, the Cowboys were back on top 23-20 after Apsay scored on a quarterback keeper at the goal line.

But the Centurions made it clear that if the Cowboys were going to win, they would have to make a stop. And after allowing Saugus to drive deep during the game’s final minutes, the Cowboys finally got that stop.

Saugus was unable to get out of bounds on a screen pass with 30 seconds remaining in the game, and with one timeout remaining, Centurions head coach Jason Bornn elected to let the clock run out and bank on senior kicker Caleb Vanderhorst to tie the game from 29 yards out.

Unfortunately for the Centurions, who have lost their four games this season by a combined 22 points, the gamble didn’t pay off and Vanderhorst’s field goal sailed wide right.

Canyon is now 2-0 in league after surviving Friday night’s thriller, and will have to regroup quickly in preparing for a road showdown with Valencia next week.

Things don’t get easier from here for Saugus, which faces Hart next.

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