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COC football: COC now in must-win mode

College of the Canyons enters game 0-2 in conference for first time since 1999

Posted: October 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
College of the Canyons running back Matt Bowen runs the ball against Allan Hancock College on Oct. 22 at College of the Canyons. College of the Canyons running back Matt Bowen runs the ball against Allan Hancock College on Oct. 22 at College of the Canyons.
College of the Canyons running back Matt Bowen runs the ball against Allan Hancock College on Oct. 22 at College of the Canyons.

College of the Canyons has had its issues this year, but all indications show that things are about to get better.

Headed into a 7 p.m. matchup today at Cerritos College, COC head coach Garett Tujague points mainly to his offense, which struggled with consistency earlier in the year, but has recently found success.

“I think we may have turned the corner,” Tujague said. “I think there’s a great grasp of the offense by a lot of the players. I think players are playing unselfishly.”

One indicator of improvement was the Cougars’ offensive performance last week, which produced 506 yards and consistently strung lengthy drives together against Allan Hancock College.

In 12 possessions, COC punted it away just twice and scored five times, yet the game resulted in a 34-27 loss largely because three of the drives ended on fumbles.

As a result, for the first time since 1999, COC (3-4, 0-2) has begun conference play with two losses.

“This is a big game for us,” Tujague said. “It’s a must-win situation for us. Obviously there’s a mathematical chance we could still make the playoffs ... Every game in conference is a must win.”

This week will also mark the third straight COC opponent which is ranked in the state’s top 25 California Community College Coaches Poll.

No. 19 Cerritos (4-3, 2-0) has recovered from a difficult start to the season, due to the loss of several key components from last year.

“I’m not sure we’ve got three guys that can shave on the football team,” said Falcons head coach Frank Mazzotta of the youth. “They are puppies.”

At quarterback, for example, the Falcons shuffled multiple players in the early part of the season.

Now, in the wake of a two-game winning streak, the team appears to have settled on Brandon Denker, who has put up efficient passing numbers of 94-for-162, 1,370 yards and 17 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions for the year.

Denker is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 386 yards on the ground.

He’s behind only Thomas Gray on the team, who has 535 yards off 99 carries and four rushing touchdowns.

“We’re a little bit of everything. We can attack. We can do a lot of things,” Mazzotta said. “What we do well? I’m not sure yet. We played extremely well last week, but we’re not even close to as good as we can play.”

COC’s advantage might instead have to come against the Falcons’ defense, which allows 453 yards per game.

Tujague warns that those numbers are deceiving.

“They’ve got a ton of players,” Tujague said. “They rotate guys non-stop on defense. It’s funny. Everybody gets in to this many freshmen and this many sophomores. All I know is how many tackles a guy has and how many picks he has.”

Like Cerritos, COC has also played around with its quarterback position this season, but Chris Rini has emerged as the frontrunner after completing the entire game last week.

Another player who emerged for the Cougars last week was running back Matt Bowen, who broke off the team’s best single-game rushing performance of the season with 184 yards on 28 carries.

“I’ve always known him to be a very special running back,” Tujague said of Bowen. “That’s why we recruited him out of high school. He’s a good, solid running back.”

Bowen had just 64 yards in the previous five games.

All the yards in the world aren’t going to help if the Cougars can’t hang on to the ball though, and that could very well be the most telling statistic by the final whistle today.


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