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Road goes through El Camino

Cougars face a still challenge in state’s No. 6 team

Posted: November 28, 2008 11:40 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2008 4:55 a.m.
College of the Canyons quarterback Brad McClellan (7) hands off to Cougars running back Fred Winborn (center) Nov. 22 against Antelope Valley College. College of the Canyons quarterback Brad McClellan (7) hands off to Cougars running back Fred Winborn (center) Nov. 22 against Antelope Valley College.
College of the Canyons quarterback Brad McClellan (7) hands off to Cougars running back Fred Winborn (center) Nov. 22 against Antelope Valley College.
One comment from All-National Division, Northern Conference defensive lineman Jonathon Hollins resonated louder than any other about El Camino College.

"There are people who say we haven't played anyone," said the College of the Canyons football sophomore. "Now we're going to find out."

It resonates loudly because it is somewhat of an odd statement.

The Cougars, having defeated the Nos. 3, 16 and 25 teams in the state, according to the last state poll, have played solid competition.

Additionally, there are many pollsters who believe COC (11-0) might be the best team in the country.

But Hollins is accurate in his assessment that tonight's matchup at 7 p.m. with the Warriors at Cougar Stadium in the Southern California Semifinals could truly prove how strong the Cougars are.

Both COC's Garett Tujague and El Camino head coach John Featherstone have stated that this game should be a matchup on a grand scale.

"A lot of people don't know just how good JC football is," Featherstone said.

This game, he added, will show that.

Tujague praised El Camino (10-1) as a team that's similar in talent to his very own.

According to Featherstone, his team produced 30 NCAA Division I college football players from last season's team.

The Warriors have recovered from the large batch of transfers to garner the No. 6 ranking in the state's final regular-season poll.

El Camino defeated Saddleback Nov. 22 in the first round of the state's regional playoffs 31-28. They trailed early 21-0.

On the other hand, College of the Canyons fought off Antelope Valley Nov. 22 in a Western State Bowl 41-17 victory and had to deal with a team that, due to being a hefty underdog, gambled and gave the Cougars some unorthodox looks.

Tonight's game, Tujague said, will be force versus force - less gimmicks.

In two of its last three games, the Warriors have knocked off one of the state's best teams, beating No. 12 Cerritos Nov. 15 and defeating No. 8 Saddleback.

What's more, the team's only loss this season was against No. 4 Mt. San Antonio 26-21 on Nov. 1.

That loss might be a major difference between the two squads this season.

Though each team has its conference's respective Defensive Player of the Year - COC's Marquis Jackson and El Camino's Daniel Stewart - as well as high-scoring offenses and staunch defenses, it can be argued that the Warriors have tasted more adversity.

The loss is one difference, but El Camino trailed Riverside by six points late in the fourth quarter before an eventual 27-24 overtime win on Oct. 4.

But it also may say something else about the Warriors.

El Camino is a youthful team that has shown some struggles.

The Warriors turn the ball over more than their opponents and are penalized more.

Though they are experienced now, after 11 community college games, they've been mistake prone.

Yet experience comes from quarterback James Coy.

Coy has been accurate, having completed 63.7 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns to three interceptions. He has shown an ability to beat teams with his arm with 2,755 passing yards, and with his legs, adding 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

He has two big-play targets in William Bullock (43 catches for 800 yards) and Kembrell Thompkins (42 catches for 746 yards).

College of the Canyons' own big-play target Hayo Carpenter returns after a one-game suspension.

His return should help a passing game that struggled last week as Brad McClellan was 13-of-27 for 109 yards and two interceptions in the Cougars' 41-17 victory.

Featherstone thinks that was an anomaly.

"We've got to try and slow down that offense," he said. "We know what we're getting ourselves into. We're used to tough games in the Mission Conference. We've had so many tough games this year. We know we have to be patient offensively. We're capable of good long drives and we have big strike potential."


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