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Foothill football: Almost all the way back

With a win, Canyon can reclaim title

Posted: November 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The Canyon High football team plays for at least a share of its first Foothill League title since 2006 tonight, while Golden Valley searches for its first league victory.


For one team, the season ends tonight.

For the other, the conclusion of tonight’s game is only the beginning.

But don’t expect either to be focused on the future.

When Golden Valley hosts Canyon tonight at Canyon High at 7 p.m., it will be the Grizzlies’ last chance this season to win their first Foothill League game in school history.

The Cowboys (8-1, 3-1), on the other hand, would clinch at least a share of the Foothill League title with a win — their first league title since their state-championship season of 2006 — as they prepare to enter the CIF-Southern Section playoffs for the third consecutive year.

"This game always concerns me the most," said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez. "It’s the last game of the year. You want to focus on what you do and you want to finish what you started. I was happy with what we did last week (in a 42-24 victory over Hart on Nov. 4) but that was last week and we have a new game (today)."

And there’s a very good reason Canyon isn’t looking past the Grizzlies (1-8, 0-4), despite Golden Valley only having one win on the season.

Golden Valley has made strides on offense in recent weeks, highlighted by running back Earl Johnson and quarterback Reid Soliman.

"I think Earl’s a phenomenal running back, (Soliman’s) a great quarterback, (wide receiver Isa Bey) is fantastic," Gutierrez said.

The Grizzlies’ defense will have its hands full against a Canyon offense that broke out last week against Hart, posting 42 points to put itself in position for a league title.

Quarterback Jonathan Jerozal leads the Foothill League in passing, and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky leads the league in receiving yards — and the weapons don’t end there.

Across from Wolitarsky, Coley Apsay has excelled this season as a No. 2 wideout, and the effectiveness of running back Max Archuleta has been a pleasant surprise for a Canyon offense which looked as though it would have to rely on its aerial attack to win games.

"They’re good," said Golden Valley head coach Robert Fisher. "Obviously, Wolitarsky and Jerozal have a great combination going and we know what we can do."

What Fisher hopes his team can do is duplicate its defensive performance from last week’s loss to Valencia.

Despite the Vikings scoring 35 points, Fisher felt the defense posted a solid performance.

"Our defense did really well and offensively we put (our defense) in a couple bad situations," Fisher said. "They had a short field and Valencia capitalized on those mistakes that we made."

Offensively, the Grizzlies will counter the potent Canyon attack with one of the Foothill League’s top rushers in Johnson.

Johnson has racked up 1,210 yards with nine touchdowns on the ground, and he’s thrown for two passing touchdowns.

The difference, though, will likely come in the play of the rest of the team — starting with Soliman.

"You have to play all facets of the game any given Friday night," Fisher said. "We’ve got to play sound assignment football and if we can do that we’ll see what happens. Let’s try to put our best product out there with our team and we’ll see what happens."

So when the two teams meet on the field in their Foothill League finales, it will be a tale of one team with nothing to lose, and another team with everything to gain.

"That’s exactly it," Fisher said. " We’ve got nothing to lose and we have 18 seniors. It’s 18 guys’ last game that they get to play for Golden Valley."



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