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2011-12 Canyon Year in Review: Of triumphs and troubles

Posted: June 25, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 25, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Canyon senior quarterback Jonathan Jerozal.

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On-field accomplishments were plentiful for Canyon High School in the 2011-12 athletic year.

Unfortunately, a couple off-field snafus took place as well.

The football and boys soccer teams both had to forfeit games due to ineligible players, and in the both cases, it cost the Cowboys a Foothill League title.

But the school more than hauled in its fair share of honors. Take the boys basketball team, for example.

The favorites entering the 2011-12 season, the Cowboys had a lot to live up to. They responded by losing just once in preleague and just four times all year, finishing with the best record in program history at 24-4.

Along the way, they clinched a share of their first league title since 2006, with Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year Coley Apsay leading the way. The senior point guard averaged 18 points and three assists per game, and he received ample help from forward Clay Kasdorf, who led the team in scoring at 21.2 points per game and scored 48 points on Feb. 3 against West Ranch, and Canyon’s trademark suffocating defense.

The Cowboys lost to Tesoro 62-56 in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs on Feb. 21, marking the end of 12-year head coach Chad Phillips’ tenure. But they had already given Phillips more than enough of a high note on which to make his exit.

Phillips, who finished his career with exactly 200 wins, will take over as athletic director at the school. And as good as his final team was, the best basketball team at Canyon High might have been the girls’ squad.

For the third year in a row, Canyon won at least a share of the Foothill League title, and for the third year in a row, the Cowboys reached the CIF-SS quarterfinals, this time falling to Mark Keppel 57-56 on a late shot on Feb. 25.

Powered by the frontcourt trio of Tiffini Stone, Jaya Schultz and Alia McCoy, the Cowboys finished 22-7 and continued to build a new legacy for girls basketball at the school.

Stone, meanwhile, added to her own legacy in the spring.

As strong as her track and field career had been before this season, Stone had yet to win either a CIF-Southern Section individual title or a Foothill League team title. She broke through in both areas, first helping the Canyon girls win their first league title since 2005 with a perfect 5-0 record, and then winning the CIF-SS Div. II crown in the triple jump with a school-record mark of 38 feet, 5 1/2 inches at Mt. San Antonio College on May 19.

Stone won league titles in the long jump and triple jump, bringing her career total to six in the jumps, and she finally reached the state meet in Clovis, where she wound up 14th in the long jump.

Her track and field teammate, Taylor Thomas, capped an undefeated league career in the hurdles by winning league titles in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles on May 4 at College of the Canyons. Thomas also broke through at the CIF-SS Div. II finals, winning the 100 hurdles with a league-record time of 14.18 seconds.

Like the girls, the boys track and field team finished atop the Foothill League, albeit in a three-way tie with Hart and Golden Valley. The boys team produced four individual league champions and a championship 4x100 relay team, and three Cowboys reached the CIF-SS Div. II finals, with Robert Wolfe winding up sixth in the pole vault at 13-9 to record the best finish.

The school’s most high-profile team, the football squad, had a strong season under first-year head coach Rich Gutierrez, though not without controversy. On the field, the Cowboys lost just twice en route to finishing as league runner-up, but an ineligible player forced them to forfeit a 51-28 victory over Saugus on Oct. 14.

The initial report of the ineligible player was filed by Golden Valley, but video evidence later surfaced that the player had participated in the game against Saugus earlier in the season.

Still, quarterback Jonathan Jerozal and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky led a potent offense and Canyon reached the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinals, where it fell to Marmonte League power St. Bonaventure 38-17 on Nov. 25.

The boys soccer team endured controversy of its own in the winter season, with more drastic consequences. On the pitch, Canyon was arguably the league’s best team in 2011-12, but once again, an ineligible player was found to have participated during the league season.

The player, who was 20 years old, took part in eight league games, all of which Canyon forfeited as a result on Feb. 8. That sent the Cowboys tumbling from second place with 19 points and a 6-3-1 record to fifth place with six points and a 2-8 record.

Head coach Khris Savage took partial blame for the mistake, but he also blamed the school’s eligibility procedures. Savage is now no longer the coach for the Cowboys.

The baseball and softball teams didn’t make the postseason either, but both weren’t too far away. The baseball team finished 8-19 overall and fifth in the Foothill League at 4-11, losing a ton of close games but also beating eventual league champion and CIF-SS Div. I semifinalist West Ranch 4-3 on April 12.

The softball team, meanwhile, was the only team to beat West Ranch during league play, earning a 4-2 victory over the Wildcats on March 24. The Cowboys wound up 17-11 overall and 4-6 in league to finish fifth.

The girls cross country team made a triumphant return to the postseason, reaching the CIF-SS Div. II finals behind All-Santa Clarita Valley runner Madison Hills.

The boys diving team also produced a pair of CIF finalists in brothers Connor and Logan Ferris. Connor finished eighth with a score of 331.5 at the CIF-SS Div. I Swim and Dive Finals, while Logan finished ninth at the same meet with a score of 324.85.

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