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Canyon football: Second go-around

Prep football: Cowboys look to avenge last season’s loss to St. Bonaventure

Posted: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez, left, and wide receiver Lyndan Coleman, right, congratulate receiver Drew Wolitarsky after he hauls in a 77-yard touchdown against Palmdale on Friday at Canyon High. Wolitarsky has 17 touchdown receptions this year.

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In the first round of the playoffs, Canyon got all its scoring done in one quarter.

Today at 7 p.m. when it faces St. Bonaventure of Ventura at Ventura High School, the Cowboys might need a bit more to keep up in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division postseason.

“It’s going to impact the game a lot,” said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez of his offense, which scored all of its points in the second quarter of a 21-0 win against Palmdale last week. “With (St. Bonaventure) being one of those super teams, they’re a team where we’re going to have to go out and perform four quarters, whether that be on offense or defense.”

If the Seraphs play anything like last year when the teams last faced off, the Cowboys (9-2) could be in for a battle.

In last year’s matchup, which also took place in the second round at Ventura High, St. Bonaventure outdid Canyon 45-21 behind strong performances from quarterback Marc Evans and running back Shaun Wick.

Both players are back and they have the addition of Zachary Green in the backfield as another weapon in the running game.

“It’s a work in progress,” said St. Bonaventure head coach Todd Therrien. “I like some things we’re doing. We’re close to two 1,000-yard rushers and almost have a 2,000 yard passer.”

Canyon might catch a break in the passing game though, where the Seraphs will likely be without wide receivers Jordan Farris (ankle) and Elijah Henderson (knee).

Still, in order to stop a team like St. Bonaventure (9-2), which Calpreps.com has as the 12th ranked team in the state, Canyon may have to follow up its stellar defensive showing from its first-round win on Friday.

Palmdale gained 135 yards of total offense in the game and just six passing yards as the Cowboys completed their first playoff shutout since Nov. 22, 1985 in a 53-0 first-round win over Serra of Gardena.

“I am very happy with the performance of the (defense),” Gutierrez said. “Over the season, they’ve done extremely well. It’s staying disciplined, being instinctual, all those things.”

But St. Bonaventure brings a different type of challenge than Canyon has seen this year.

Offensively, it often shifts formations at the line of scrimmage to keep opponents guessing.

“They can come out and look like a spread, five-wide and then all the sudden come out in a two-back, bunch, overload package,” Gutierrez said.

The defensive game plan for the Seraphs centers around applying pressure from all different angles, which is made possible with their 3-4 base defense.

Therrien said the fist order of business will be to stop the Max Archuleta-led running game of the Cowboys.

“If you stop the run and just take it away from the game plan, there’s a lot of things you can do to get to the quarterback,” Therrien said.

Pressuring Cowboys signal caller Jonathan Jerozal will be important, Therrien said, because he remembers how capable he is at finding the open receiver.

Last week, for example, Jerozal completed passes to seven different targets, but threw both of his touchdowns to Drew Wolitarsky, who caught his 16th and 17th scores on the season.

“It’s amazing how Wolitarsky finds a way to get open,” Therrien said.

Last year against the Seraphs, Wolitarsky caught five passes for 57 yards but was held out of the end zone.

This time around, Canyon also has the added options of Coley Apsay, Zane Patterson and Brenden Stach through the air. The three wideouts have combined for 14 touchdown receptions.

None of the offensive weapons will matter for the Cowboys if they can’t win the battle up front on both sides of the ball.
That’s where Canyon ran into trouble last time they took on the Seraphs.

“They physically were dominating us on the interior and eventually they were able to just move the ball at will,” recalled Gutierrez, who was the team’s defensive coordinator last season.

There’s no getting around it, Canyon has a colossal task in front of it today.

Then again, for a team that already had a win and a Foothill League title taken away due to CIF rule violation earlier in the year, adversity is nothing new.

“We’ve gone through so many things on an emotional, physical and mental level,” Gutierrez said. “I’m just so proud of these guys and everything they’ve overcome.”

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