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COC football: Battle of margins

College of the Canyons forces six turnovers in victory

Posted: October 17, 2010 12:01 a.m.
Updated: October 17, 2010 12:01 a.m.

College of the Canyons lineman Jackson Smith, right, lifts wide receiver Cameron Bailey, center, in the end zone after Bailey caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter of the Cougars’ 26-9 win over El Camino on Saturday at COC.

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The College of the Canyons football team has struggled with turning the ball over for weeks.

This time, the turnover margin was on the Cougars’ side.

COC forced three fumbles, intercepted three passes and held a high-powered El Camino offense in check to win its National Division, Northern Conference opener 26-9 on Saturday night at Cougar Stadium.

El Camino came into the game averaging over five touchdowns per game, but was held to only one by COC.

“I don’t care about stats, other than that one right up there,” said Cougar head coach Garett Tujague as he pointed up at the scoreboard. “The offense did what it needed to do holding onto the ball and killing the clock when they needed to.”

With quarterback Justin Arias’ one lost fumble representing COC’s lone turnover of the game, it was the team’s fewest giveaways this season.

The Cougars set the tone early, opening the game with a 13-play, 77-yard drive with a mix of runs by tailback Ryan Zirbel and short passes, including the 6-yard touchdown strike from Arias to wide receiver Mychal Prieto to put COC up 7-0.

Zirbel gained a team-high 69 yards on nine carries.

“This is huge. Not only is it huge to win our first game in conference, but it helps build our confidence,” said Arias, who went 10-for-26 with 108 yards and two touchdowns.

After that, the defense took over.

On several occasions, the Warriors drove the ball deep into Cougar territory, but each time, COC’s defense came up with a key turnover.

The first one came in the quarter, when Torri Zeno picked off Warriors quarterback Omar Herrera and took it back 45 yards for the score.

A blocked extra point left the Cougars up 13-0 with 1:09 to play in the first quarter.

Not much went right for ECC (0-6, 0-1) after that, as the offense was held to 371 yards, which was well under the unit’s 491.6 yards per game average coming into Saturday.

“You can’t play the way we played tonight and expect to beat a team like College of the Canyons,” said ECC head coach John Featherstone.

All El Camino managed was a 37-yard field goal from Juan Sanchez in the first half against a fired up COC defense.
The Warriors trailed 13-3 at halftime.

“I was very impressed with our performance,” said Cougars linebacker Khalil Bass. “Practice was live all week, and we came out today and did a good job.”

Bass tallied a team-high six tackles in addition to an interception and a forced fumble, both of which stopped promising ECC drives in the second half.

“This was by most impressive win we’ve had so far,” Tujague said.

Arias’ second touchdown pass came in the third quarter on a 32-yard pass to Cameron Bailey. He added a 1-yard touchdown on a keeper up the middle with 2:22 left in the game.

The score came after the Warriors turned the ball over on downs.

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