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COC football primed for a battle

Posted: November 6, 2009 11:27 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

COC's defense lines up against Valley College on Sept 19. The Cougars' defense will have a key role as the team faces a potent Pasadena air game that is averaging 281.4 passing yards per contest. The teams play tonight at 6 p.m.

A tough 23-6 loss to Ventura College on Oct. 24.

And then a bye week.

Needless to say, the College of the Canyons football team had plenty of time and motivation to prepare for Pasadena City College tonight at 6 p.m.

Head coach Garett Tujague promises his team won't disappoint.

"We're healthy and not all banged up. Our defense has been practicing at full swagger all week. Our offense has been doing great against our ‘D.' I'm getting excited for the game just talking about it," Tujague said. "I think it's going to be an impressive showing."

Tujague said his team learned a few lessons from trying the double wing formation in the loss to the Pirates two weeks ago.

The coach said it was something they had tried in the 2007 playoff run when the team ran well on a stout Bakersfield defense.

The team somewhat abandoned the passing game against Ventura, resulting in a season-low 15 passing attempts.
While the offense only netted a late touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Morales to wide receiver Mychal Rivera, Tujague said his personnel showed a lot of promise.

Morales will get the nod under center as the Cougars' other starter, Eric Brown, will be serving a one-game suspension for a fight.

Tujague wouldn't reveal whether he was ready to abandon the experiment, but he said the loss made him realize ball distribution would be key for the team's success.

"We have a lot of great athletes," Tujague said, "and we have to make sure we can get them the ball."

The coach mentioned the performances of running backs Nick Hale, Ryan Zirbel and B.J. Iverson and the late emergence of Anthony Johnson in the backfield as proof.

"We have to get the ball to players like (wide receiver) D.J. Stephens too," Tujague said.

The Lancers' offense should be able to provide a solid counter-punch and a good test for the COC's defense, which has been the most consistent facet of the Cougars this year.

"We run a spread offense and we're very pass-friendly," said Pasadena's second-year head coach James Kuk. "Our biggest challenge has been to find a triggerman to make that offense go and give us the big play."

Pasadena has used a variety of different players under center due to injuries.

Regardless, Pasadena's passing offense has been strong all season, averaging 281.4 yards per game, good enough for fourth among Southern California community colleges.

Lancers freshman quarterback Caleb Fore will get the start this week. Kuk described him as a quarterback with "athletic ability both in his ability to run and keep plays alive while he breaks down the defense."

Kuk added that Fore's decision-making is a key to the team's success because of the offense's complexity.

Anthony Pines, a 5-foot-8-inch, 190-pound running back from Cathedral High in Los Angeles, has been Pasadena's lead back. John Roberson is also used situationally but is more of a natural receiver.

The Lancers' defense is led by its linebacker corps of sophomores Roman Pula at strong side linebacker, Jeremy Aguilar at middle linebacker and freshman Kevin Ayers at the weak side spot. Ayers, whose brother Akeem Ayers is redshirt sophomore linebacker at UCLA, has a great combination of athleticism and game instincts according to Kuk.

Safety Julian Harris has also been a leader, a 6-foot-2-inch rangy defensive back "with great closing speed." Kuk added that Harris had been receiving interest from Pac-10 schools.

But Tujague said a great week of practice has his squad prepared.

"At first, I thought it had a negative effect," Tujague said, referring to the loss and then a bye. "But it put us in check and made us ask ourselves if we're still doing what we need to be doing."


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