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The No. 1 team in the state, COC, loses in a shootout

Posted: December 6, 2008 10:13 p.m.
Updated: December 7, 2008 4:57 a.m.

College of the Canyons' Brandon McDonald is consoled by Mt. San Antonio College's John McDowell after the Cougars lost the Southern California Championship 51-44 Saturday at Cougar Stadium.

Tyler Vanderzee's 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Edwards with 10 seconds left to play tilted a seesaw battle in the winning direction for Mt. San Antonio College in a battle for the ages against College of the Canyons in the Southern California Football Association Championship.

Mt. SAC place-kicker Jacob Harfman drove home the extra point to give the Mounties a one-point lead.

Then Mt. SAC's Kerel James recovered B.J. Iverson's fumble on the ensuing kickoff and took it all the way into the end zone to give the Mounties a 51-44, come-from-behind victory Saturday night at Cougar Stadium.

"Cougar football will survive," a philosophical COC head coach Garett Tujague said. "It's on me. I could have come up with something different to give my guys an advantage. It's just really frustrating."

COC running back Fred Winborn turned in a career performance in his final game in a Cougar uniform as he broke his own school record by compiling 275 rushing yards. The previous mark was 256. Winborn carried the football 30 times and scored a touchdown.

The Achilles heel for the Cougars (12-1) was a less-than-stellar special teams effort. COC gave up an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown, and normally reliable Canyons place-kicker Ricky Drake missed a pair of extra points, drove a field goal attempt wide of the mark and had another one blocked.

"For these kids to do what they did and not have it work out, it's on my shoulders, as far as attacking Mt. SAC's scheme," Tujague said. "I needed to put my players in a better position to be successful."

COC quarterback Brad McClellan finished his career 20-of-28 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. McClellan willed the Cougars back with a 4-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion keeper to put COC into the lead at 41-38 with 8:32 left to play in the game.

Harfman's 50-yard field goal try would have tied it, but the football veered off to the right. Drake's 32-yard field goal extended COC's lead to 44-38 with 2:15 to go.

From there, Mt. SAC (12-1) mounted its comeback and earned a bid to the California State Championship Saturday at 5 p.m. at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. The Mounties' opponent will be Butte College of Oroville, which defeated Reedley College 24-21 in the State Center Bowl Nov. 22.

At 11-0, Butte is the only undefeated team in the state. The Roadrunners, who have played two fewer games than National Division, Central Conference champ Mt. SAC, will take the field on three weeks rest.

COC's Marquis Jackson, the National Division, Northern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, injured his right ankle in the first quarter and was lost for the game. After that, the Cougars had trouble containing Mt. SAC's backfield and finishing tackles.

Canyons defensive back Josh Gibbs recovered a Mt. SAC fumble on the game's first play from scrimmage. The Cougars struck first with four running backs and no quarterback in the backfield. Winborn took the snap and ran a reverse, with Hayo Carpenter cruising in for a 9-yard touchdown.

Tyler Vanderzee started at quarterback for the Mounties in place of NDCC Offensive Player of the Year Nick Lamaison, who sustained a high-ankle sprain in Mt. SAC's double-overtime, semifinal victory over Fullerton College a week earlier. Vanderzee, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound freshman, engineered a long drive capped by running back Isaac Garcia's 1-yard plunge.

The teams then traded long touchdowns. Mt. SAC's Dominique Gaisie returned a punt 85 yards for a score, immediately followed by McClellan's 80-yard rainmaker to a streaking Carpenter. Drake's extra-point attempt sailed wide right, and Mt. SAC led 14-13 with 4:36 to play in the first quarter.

Harfman's 33-yard field goal extended Mt. SAC's lead to 17-13 midway through the second.

COC regained the lead with 1:30 to play before halftime on McClellan's 6-yard touchdown toss to Winborn, but after Drake missed his second PAT of the night, the Cougars took a 19-17 lead into the locker room.

Vanderzee finished the game 18-of-28 for 274 yards and three touchdowns.

In an odd footnote, this was the first time the two perennial football powerhouses had ever met.


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