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College football: COC tops Cerritos 27-10, on verge of outright conference title

Posted: November 9, 2013 10:56 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2013 10:56 p.m.

College of the Canyons tight end Michael Mandic (85) catches a pass to score COC's first touchdown at COC on Saturday.

 

It was full-speed ahead for the College of the Canyons football team as the Cougars won their eighth game in a row in a bare-knuckle defensive battle versus National Division, Northern Conference rival Cerritos College.

Canyons combined three timely interceptions with clutch play on offense to defeat the Falcons 27-10 Saturday night at Cougar Stadium.

The win guarantees the Cougars (8-1, 5-0) at least a share of the conference crown, and a victory next week in the regular-season finale at Allan Hancock College would lock up the title outright.

Saturday’s victory over Cerritos (6-3, 4-1) also gives the Cougars an automatic bid to the Southern California regional playoffs, a road the team must travel for a chance at a state championship.

So with lots of unfinished business on the table as the Cougars round destiny’s clubhouse turn, one thing is certain: This team has momentum.

“We’re making fewer mistakes than the other teams we’re playing, and we’re capitalizing on those mistakes,” said COC head coach Ted Iacenda. “We’re a very opportunistic offense, and our defense is obviously top notch, so when you add that together, we’re tough to beat, no doubt about it.”

There was no question what play was the most pivotal, and it came as the Cougars were protecting a three-point lead with 4:58 to play in the third quarter.

That’s when Tony Dawson hurled an 83-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Strange. Strange caught the ball at the near sideline and zig-zagged his way across the field, picking up a key downfield block from Dan Vear that paved the way to the end zone.

Strange, a wide receiver from Palmdale High, said the only thing going through his head was catch the ball and get to his blockers.

“I saw Dan out of the corner of my eye and I went straight to him so I could get a block,” Strange said. “I was out of gas and I barely made it to the end zone, but it worked.”

The play pushed COC’s lead to 20-10. A fourth-quarter interception for a touchdown by Cougars linebacker Cory Harris and a timely pick by teammate Joey Cicoria rolled up the sidewalks.

Cerritos head coach Frank Mazzotta, now in his 36th season at the helm, said his team struggled against COC’s smothering defense.

“We couldn’t block some of their players to save our souls,” Mazzotta said. “Our quarterback (Cody Clements) hasn’t been making those kind of mistakes, but I think that’s their defense — they forced him into making bad decisions.”

Clements finished the game 14-of-25 for 149 yards, no touchdowns and three costly interceptions.

Dawson and signal-calling Cougar counterpart Jake Dashnaw went a combined 8-of-16 for 175 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.

COC running back Matt Bowen carried the ball 16 times for 105 yards and a score. It was Bowen’s third consecutive game with more than 100 yards.

Canyons used a 16-yard touchdown pass from Dawson to Michael Mandic and a 3-yard scoring slingshot up the middle by Bowen to build a 13-7 advantage at halftime. Safety Austin Murillo’s acrobatic interception and 45-yard return set up the Bowen score.

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