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Canyon's recipe for success against Hart

Posted: November 9, 2013 7:08 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2013 7:08 p.m.

Canyon's Cade Aspay (1) scores a touchdown against Hart during Friday's game at Canyon High School.

 

Canyon head football coach Rich Gutierrez met with a pastor friend of his on Monday at Starbucks.

It was the week of the annual Canyon-Hart game, arguably the best rivalry game in the Santa Clarita Valley.

And the 45-38 Canyon win did a lot for the argument.

The pastor suggested Gutierrez read this book called “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance.”

The pastor also talked to the coach about the kids in Canyon Country.

“Canyon kids are survival kids. When you’re a survivalist, you’re grinding all the time,” Gutierrez recalled the pastor telling him. “You have to move to where your comfortable in success.”

Canyon football players, frustratingly to Gutierrez, keep on that survival mode. They always have to fight to attain something. And when they achieve success, they are uncomfortable because they have the mind set that survival is comfort.

It could be a major reason why the Cowboys surrendered a 22-point lead in the third quarter on Oct. 25 in a 35-28 loss to Valencia.

And here Canyon was again on Friday night at their own stadium, up 31-10 after a Dominic Pennucci 4-yard touchdown run with 7:51 to play in the third quarter.

That’s where the Cowboys, apparently, found discomfort.

Hart came at them like a locomotive.

If one could have been on the sidelines on the Hart side, they could have seen the calm demeanor of head coach Mike Herrington delivering plays to an equally cool Hart quarterback Brady White.

White had incredible first half carrying the load — completing 20-of-32 passes for 243 yards.

But he made one big error.

He was looking to put Hart up 17-10 early in the second quarter on third-and-goal pass from the Canyon 10-yard line.

But Israel Cabrera took the pass 100 yards the other way for a Canyon touchdown and a 17-10 lead.

As Canyon kept piling up points, a raucous crowd (which gathered before the game inside the gymnasium for a groundshaking rally) got even livelier.

Then comfort hit for Hart.

Hart’s had adversity this year.

It had to withstand a late charge to beat Santiago of Corona on the road 56-49 in the season opener then had to fight off a two-point conversion attempt the next game in a 55-54 win over the current No. 6 team in the state, Chaminade.

Veteran varsity wide receiver Trent Irwin then took over.

He turned a 15-yard gain into a 26-yard touchdown reception, dragging two Canyon defenders nearly 10 yards.

Then he caught an 8-yard pass for a score.

After Canyon went up 38-24 on a spectacular touchdown pass in the corner from Canyon’s Cade Apsay to Zach Cuha, Irwin caught a third touchdown pass.

He caught 10 passes in the game for 136 yards.

Before he even caught the pass, he put two moves on Foothill Defensive Player of the Year candidate Tevon Priestley — in and out.

He was free for the score.

Five minutes later a banged-up Connor Wingenroth, who separated his shoulder Oct. 4 — scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the game 38-38.

“Connor played a hell of a game,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington. “He’s not in the shape he was in before the injury.”

Now Canyon was comfortable again.

Colorado-bound quarterback Cade Apsay needed his moment. Despite the fact that he is statistically the league’s best player at his position the last two years, his play has been sometimes overshadowed by the success of other players and other teams.

On the game-winning drive, Apsay had his moment.

He completed a 19-yard pass to Zach Cuha on a third-and-16 from the Cowboys’ 24-yard line.

He ran the ball 33 yards on the ensuing play to set up a 23-yard scoring pass to Alec Abbinanti to give Canyon the 45-38 lead.

Apsay said in last week’s Signal after in a 28-6 win over West Ranch that the Cowboys were “adversity magnets.”

Gutierrez was slightly annoyed by the comment.

It was a comment that declared once again that the Cowboys know they like to play with a chip on their shoulders.

But adversity kept coming last night.

The game was far from over with 5:20 to play in the fourth quarter.

Luckily for Canyon, Liam Cabrera intercepted White twice in the game’s final 3:25, the final one coming on the Cowboys 29-yard line with 33 seconds to play.

“We played a good football team. We just made a couple of key errors early,” Herrington said. “We tied it up, but couldn’t (get more). The kids showed a lot of character and kept fighting.”

So did Canyon.

Fighting.

It might be the only thing the Cowboys know.

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