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Matchup problems

Valencia graduate Josh Gibbs and Saugus graduate Mario Wright are reasons for hope at COC this seaso

Posted: September 8, 2009 4:40 p.m.
Updated: September 5, 2009 4:30 a.m.

College of the Canyons defensive back Josh Gibbs, left, and wide receiver Mario Wright look to provide the team sophomore leadership in 2009.

 

Problems. That’s what College of the Canyons wide receiver Mario Wright and defensive back Josh Gibbs present to opponents.

It’s a problem when Wright, standing at 6-feet-5-inches tall, towers over a defender.

It’s a problem when the 6-foot tall, 200-pound Gibbs plows into an offensive player.

The pair, together, is a solution for the Cougars.

These two sophomores are key returners for a College of the Canyons football team that lost some key members from the 2008 football team that finished 12-1.

In fact, the team returns only four starters combined on offense and defense.

Wright will play a big role for a Cougars team that lost possibly its greatest wide receiver ever in current University of Minnesota wideout Hayo Carpenter.

The former Saugus High football and basketball player is the Cougars’ most productive returning receiver from a year ago.

Though his numbers weren’t gaudy — 12 catches for 101 yards — COC head coach Garett Tujague is excited about the possibilities for this season, especially when considering where Wright started his college career.

“He is an extremely gifted and unbelievable athlete,” Tujague says. “When he got here, there were some people in the program that weren’t sure if he was going to be big enough to play, but he has put on 30 pounds of muscle in the last year.”

Wright has been impressive so far, says those within Cougars camp.

“He is just so tall that sometimes there are balls that he can get to that no one else out there can get to,” Gibbs says.

As for Gibbs, the Valencia High graduate made a smooth transition last season.

Gibbs was a defensive lineman for the Vikings before being switched to safety in 2008 with the Cougars.

Tujague says the coaching staff recognized Gibbs’ athleticism and moved him back.

It also made sense because Gibbs’ size didn’t translate the same on the college level.

Last season, Gibbs led the team with four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.

In 2008, most of the hype regarding College of the Canyons football revolved around its potent offense, but Tujague remembers a play from his defense first when looking back on the Cougars’ final game, a 51-44 loss to Mt. San Antonio College in the Southern California championship game.

On the first play from scrimmage, Gibbs forced a fumble that begat the Cougars’ opening touchdown drive.

“That play was an example of how he plays the game,” Tujague says. “They were already going to be into our territory after one play, and he came up with the big hit that let us get the ball and set the tone. There are times when he catches guys in the backfield and you have to wonder how he got there because he starts at the deepest position on the field. We have a quick-striking offense, so our defense knows they are going to be on the field a lot and Gibbs is our leader out there.”

He finished the season third on the Cougars with 53 tackles.

It’s his physicality, Wright says, that is his strong suit.

“You know you better have your head on a swivel with Josh out there. He’s all over the place so if you aren’t careful you’re going to get popped,” Wright says.

Wright and Gibbs, both local high school products, should have a major impact on the Cougars this season.

They present matchup problems for opponents.

There’s one thing they hope other teams don’t have for them.

Solutions.

Kevin Damore contributed to this story.

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