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On another quest

College of the Canyons is getting ready for a follow up to a 12-1 season

Posted: August 25, 2009 8:35 p.m.
Updated: August 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Defensive back Rob McIntyer breaks free from the pack during a practice at College of the Canyons.

 
College College of the Canyons was perfect for three months of the 2008 season.

But the Cougars were not perfect long enough to achieve what they set out to do.

Mt. San Antonio College beat COC 51-44 in the Southern California Football Association championship game, stopping the Cougars short of the goal they carry into 2009: winning the championship.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t joking around between training sessions and practices.

“We know what we want to accomplish this season,” said sophomore safety Josh Gibbs. “As a guy who was here last year, I know that all of us that were here want to set an example for the guys coming in, but we know there is still time to have fun.”

One place where there won’t be much joking around is at wide receiver, where the Cougars are looking to replace Hayo Carpenter, who caught 16 touchdowns in 2008.

“I think we know we have to step up as a group to fill the roles that need to be filled,” said sophomore wide receiver Mario Wright. “I have been close to winning a title before so I know what it feels like to fall short like we did last year, but this time I want to get it done. I don’t think there is a guy on this team that has forgotten what it was like to get as close as we got and to not get what we set out to get.”

While the focus is clear for COC, teammates and coaches still aren’t above poking fun at each other.

During a recent photo shoot, Wright was hounded by teammates getting ready for practice with shouts of, “Oh my God, it’s Mario Wright. I know that guy,” and, “Who put the rock star in pads?”

And while the barbs may have come quick and often in Wright’s direction, the reason they may have been so prevalent is due to the sheer depth of the Cougars’ roster.

“There are some new guys here, but it’s still the same plan as we had last year,” said wide receiver DJ Stephens. “I think we are more focused than we were last year. There is still plenty of time to have fun, but we know that we have a lot of work to do if we are going to get what we are going for.”

COC brought 131 players to camp this summer and may have the deepest squad in the time Garrett Tujague has been head coach.

“We have been able to get after it a lot quicker this year in practice,” Tujague said. “Last year, we were more cautious as far as full contact early because we had to protect guys a little bit, but this year we have been able to get after it because we are so deep.”

With a No. 4 ranking in the California Community College Coaches Association Poll to open the season, the Cougars have good reason to go hard from day one of practice.

Many have been spending the offseason training with Robert dos Remedios, COC’s head strength and conditioning coach.

“We joke around some times,” said cornerback Aaron Fisher. “We’ll have fun with the coaches and all that, but we are focused on getting bigger, faster and stronger. That’s what we want more than anything, and we work hard for that.”

Wright, for example, is 30 pounds heavier than he was when he first arrived on the COC campus.

“It’s hard work, but it is what we want to be doing,” Wright said. “We know if we don’t work as hard as we can then we won’t be where we want to be at the end of this season. We have a group of guys that works really hard. I think of it like if I’m not working my hardest, then how would I be able to expect the guy next to me to be doing the same?”

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