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The Cougars move forward

Posted: September 8, 2009 4:33 p.m.
Updated: September 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

COC defensive back Arron Fisher, right, gets by a teammate in practice Thursday.

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College of the Canyons head football coach Garett Tujague had a lot to think about as he walked off the Cougar Stadium field Dec. 6.

A mere 10 seconds away from a shot at another state and perhaps even a national championship, his team’s season was cut short in the Southern California championship game after the Cougars fumbled a kickoff that was returned for a touchdown in a heartbreaking 51-44 loss to Mt. San Antonio College.

“I’m not going to cry over spilt milk. It is what it is. We’ve taken a long look at the ‘1’ in the 12-1,” Tujague said, referring to his team’s record last year.

But it was tough for his players, too.

“We try not to talk about it,” said Arron Fisher, a returning All-National Division, Northern Conference defensive back. “We gave it all we had.”

However this year’s group combines speed and athleticism and gives the players plenty to look forward to, assuming they’ve learned from last year’s mistakes.

“There’s no better way to learn than through failure. You’re going to fail, but what do you do and how do you correct it,” Tujague said.

Mistakes and failure aren’t something typically associated with Tujague’s teams, which have consistently ranked among the best in the state over the last two years, reflected in the third-year coach’s 21-4 record.

But being able to consistently attract quality players from around the country has been, and this year’s squad boasts a less-experienced but very athletic team that earned a No. 4-preseason ranking, according to the preseason California Community College Football Coaches Association poll.

“We are athletic – point-blank. Period,” said Eric Brown, the team’s starting quarterback. “But focus is going to be a key part of this season.”

Brown said the loss of more than 30 sophomores definitely left a leadership void, but it’s one he spent a whole season preparing to fill last year.

“My role was to just study the offense and learn the right things to do. (Last season) helped a lot, because I played behind two really good QBs,” Brown said. “They gave a lot of good advice, but the main thing was their composure and patience — they never looked rattled.”

Replacing the production from quarterbacks Brad McClellan and Joey Frias, who combined for almost 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, a wide receiver who holds nearly every record the school has for the position in Hayo Carpenter and a running back in Fred Winborn, who broke the state’s single-game rushing record in the playoffs, won’t be easy.

Last year, it wasn’t uncommon to see Carpenter with more than three times as many receiving yards as the rest of his teammates combined in the stat box.

“It didn’t matter if you had two or three guys on (Carpenter), if you threw the ball in his general direction, he caught it,” Tujague said, adding that to a certain extent it almost made the offense “predictable” in some situations.

But Tujague said the team has to see the loss of Carpenter and Winborn as an opportunity, and this year he has six receivers he expects to contribute and a couple new faces in the backfield.

He listed six players expected to contribute from the wideout spot this season: Saugus graduate Mario Wright, who started on last year’s squad; Mychal Rivera, who transferred from the University of Oregon and will also play tight end; Canyon graduate Mark Urbina, who played at Moorpark College last season; D.J. Stephens, C.J. Atkins and Valencia High graduate Stephen London.

“Those aren’t just names,” Tujague said, going down the roster. “Those are all guys who can play.

“(The loss of Carpenter) put pressure on other guys to fill the void, and I think this is one of the best receiver corps we’ve ever had,” the coach said.

Brown said the receiver situation is much more balanced this year, and that having more options will make reads easier because they’re using more of the field.

“I believe (not having Carpenter) spreads the defense out because we have a lot of athletes this year,” Brown said. “Other teams’ defenses won’t be able to key in on just one guy.”

While B.J. Iverson said he also learned a lot from last year’s 12-1 season, it was clear coming up short in the playoffs left him less than nostalgic about the campaign.

“Last year was last year,” said Iverson, who will be part of a three-pronged running attack with Saugus graduate Ryan Zirbel and Valencia grad Nick Hale.

“We had a lot of leadership on that team. (Winborn) really coached me up and took me under his wing, and I learned a lot from him,” Iverson said. “And I’m here now.”

Iverson figures to be a big part of the offense for the Cougars alongside Hale and Zirbel, who Iverson described as all-around backs that combine agility and power.

“And they’re quick too, so we’ve got a little thunder and lightning going on,” Iverson added.

Zirbel is one of the more intriguing players on this year’s Cougars team.

The 2008 Foothill League Offensive Player of the Year and three-year varsity starter at Saugus High was recruited by Portland State, but the school wanted him as a slot receiver.

Zirbel will look to prove himself at COC as a running back.

“A lot of people doubted him and his ability to play college football,” Tujague said. “I told him, ‘You’re at COC to prove the naysayers wrong.’”

Helping lead the way for the offensive backs will be Louiszell Alexander, a 6-foot-4-inch, 300-pound right tackle named as a preseason all-american. “He’s the real deal,” Tujague said describing the offensive line’s massive bookend.

David Padilla, the offense’s other returning starter, will also provide leadership on the line at center, and Eric Ivarsson will play opposite Alexander at left tackle, but both guard positions are still being fought for.

Defensively, the Cougars have the same number of starters returning — two. But Fisher said one of his goals this year is to inspire the same kind of tenacity that characterized last year’s team.

Fisher said the only time he thought about last season was the example he learned from the team’s sophomores.

“Last year, the defense was hungry. They were ball hogs,” Fisher said. “And (last year’s squad) really enjoyed playing together, and that brought us closer as a team.”

He said adjusting to the speed of the game was generally one of the hardest things for a player to do coming in from high school, but this year’s group was quick to the ball from all over the field and shouldn’t have as steep of a learning curve.

While Tujague was taking a long, honest assessment of “the 1,” he said he also thought there was a consistent problem that needed to be addressed.

“Historically, College of the Canyons has struggled with special teams. It’s been our Achilles’ heel if you will,” he said.

Tujague’s solution — hiring the best special teams coordinator he could find. That man is Sean Cheevers from Moorpark College.

“He’s going to bring a philosophy of success and demanding coaching style,” Tujague said, citing Cheevers’ ability at Moorpark to consistently produce all-conference and all-american kickers and punters.

For his team this year, Tujague said he has three goals on the field.

“Our goals are real simple – we try to win our conference, that’s the most important thing. Then get a bid to the playoffs and win a national championship.”

The Cougars’ first chance at that goal will be at home at 7 p.m. against Antelope Valley.

 
College of the Canyons Football
2009 Roster
NO.      NAME          POS.      YEAR      HIGH SCHOOL   
1     Atkins, C.J          WR     SO     Cleveland, CA
2     Fisher, Arron          DB     SO     West Orange, FL
3     Iverson, B.J.          RB     SO     Santiago, CA
4     Lewis, Dominique     DB     SO     Rosamond, CA
5     London, Stephen          WR     SO     Valencia, CA
6     Gibbs, Josh          DB     SO     Valencia, CA
7     Brown, Eric          QB     SO     Gate-Chili, NY
8     Morales, Justin          QB     FR     Carlsbad, CA
9     Smith, Antwan          DB     FR     Lackey, MD
10     Sweet, Marc          LB     SO     Crespi, CA
11     Stephens, D.J.          WR     SO     Kennedy, CA
12     Zirbel, Ryan          RB     FR     Saugus, CA
13     McIntyre, Robert     WR     SO     Saugus, CA
14     Jackson, Rickeem     WR     FR     Ocoee, FL
15     Powell, Kalen         DB     FR     Southridge, OR
16     Zeno, Torri         DB     FR     East St. John, LA
17     Shanahan, Kenny     DB     FR     Canyon, CA
18     Urbina, Mark         WR     SO     Canyon, CA
19     Harrington, Evan     LB     SO     Bowie, MD
20     Miller, Matt         DB     SO     Saugus, CA
21     Hale, Nick         RB     FR     Valencia, CA
22     O’Donnell, Barney III     WR/QB     FR     Washington, IA
23     Smith, Larry         DB     FR     Edward H. White, FL
24     Bailey, Cameron         WR     FR     R. Nelson Snider       
25     Bass, Khalil         LB     FR     Crespi, CA
26     Bedgood, Curtis         RB     SO     Mayfair, CA
27     Smith, Tony         RB     SO     Providence Christian, SC
28     Johnson, Anthony     RB     SO     West Orange, FL
29     Stevens, Justin         LB     FR     Canyon, CA
30     White, Gomez         DB     FR     Piqua, OH
31     Williams, Lequan     DB     FR     Miami Jackson, FL
32     Spriggs, Kayvone     RB     FR     HD Woodson, DC
33     McKillop, Justin         LB     SO     Saugus, CA
34     Aaron, Chris         DB     FR     Saugus, CA
35     Gage, Russell         DB     FR     Santa Clarita Christian, CA
36     McKillop, Ryan         LB     SO     Saugus, CA
37     Terry, Jeff         DB     FR     Winter Park, FL
38     McGill, Dwayne         DB     SO     Kingstree Sr., SC
39     Baptiste, Eluimable     DB     FR     Homestead, FL
40     Bacon, Ross         DB     FR     West Ranch, CA
41     Swift, Fred         DB     FR     Garfield Heights, OH
42     Spagnola, Michael     LB     FR     Canyon, CA
43     Medina, Joel         DB     SO     Paraclete, CA
44     Johnson, Gary         LB     FR     Woodlawn, MD
45     Tillery, Harold         DL     FR     Palatka, FL
46     Wilson, Jamal         DB     FR     Northwestern, MD
47     Cudworth, Justin     LB     FR     Agoura, CA
48     Anthony, Drake         DB     FR     Dunbar, DC
49     Ketchum, Robert     RB     FR     Sylmar, CA
50     Padilla, David         OL     SO     Valencia, CA
51     Obi, Chuck         LB     FR     Bishop Alemany, CA
52     Boone, Jeremy         DL     FR     Shaker Heights, OH
53     Holder, Vincent         LB     FR     Friendly, MD
54     Porter, Brooks         OL     FR     Bishop Alemany, CA
55     Alexander, Louiszell     OL     SO     Highland, CA
56     Cushnie, Jermar         DL     SO     Fairlawn, NJ
57     Cushnie, Jermaine     DL     SO     Fairlawn, NJ
58     Bennett, Kourtney     DL     FR     Winslow Township, NJ
59     Dolan, Tim         LB     FR     Valencia, CA
60     Todd, Justin         OL     SO     Highland, CA
61     Wallace, Jon         LS     SO     Saugus, CA
63     Gonzalez, Daniel     LB     FR     San Fernando, CA
64     Diaz, Leandro         LB     FR     San Fernando, CA
65     Davis, Darran         LB     FR     Taft, CA
66     Morse, Andrew         LB     FR     Valencia, CA
70     Ivarsson, Eric         OL     FR     Fountain Hills, AZ
72     Tepper, Jake         DL     SO     Grant, CA
74     Barton, Karim         OL     FR     Verdugo Hills, CA
75     Jackson, Dominique     OL     FR     Dunbar, DC
76     Melkonian, Hagop     OL     FR     Holy Martyrs, CA
77     Namoa, Viliami         OL     FR     Waianae, HI
79     Hauptmann, Caylin     OL     FR     Beverly Hills, CA
80     Monson, Justin         WR     SO     Saugus, CA
81     Rivera, Mychal         WR     FR     Birmingham, CA
82     McCrory, Ronald     WR     FR     Chaminade, CA
83     Prieto, Mychal         WR     FR     Santa Barbara, CA
84     Shigley, Ken         K/P     SO     Riverwood, GA
85     Wright, Mario         WR     SO     Saugus,     CA
86     Rodriguez, James     K/P     FR     Martin Luther King, CA
87     Goldberg, Everett     K/P     FR     Mesa Ridge, CO
88     Gilabert, Dwight         LB     FR     Saugus, CA
89     Correa, Larry         RB     FR     Seminole, FL
90     Melo, Lucas         DL     FR     Lake Mary, FL
91     Cassell, Dashawn     DL     FR     Shawnee, NJ
92     Sellarole, DJ         DL     FR     Santa Clarita Christian, CA
93     Smith, Eddie         DB     SO     Saugus, CA
94     Pittman, Brandon     DL     SO     Lynwood, CA
95     Thompson, Ikeem     DL     FR     Woodrow Wilson, DC
96     Behrad, Brandon     K/P     FR     Taft, CA
97     Diegueye, Andre         DL     FR     Dr. Henry A. Wis, MD
98     Jackson, Marquaveus     DL     FR     Seabreeze, FL
99     Koleosho, Emmanuel     DL     FR    Academy of Holy Angels

 

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