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COC football preview: Aiming for redemption

Cougars look for payback after worst season in 32 years

Posted: August 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 30, 2012 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons offensive linemen Tyler Phillips (75) and Lloyd Tunstill (72) block in practice on Wednesday.

 

Last season can’t be ignored, especially with the standard that College of the Canyons football has set.

Head coach Garett Tujague likes to say that no team in the state has won more games than the Cougars the last 15 years.

Yet last season was nothing short of a disaster.

It was the first time since 1979 that the Cougars had finished with a losing record (4-6, 1-4 National Division, Northern Conference).

When asked to come up with who some of the key losses from last season’s team were, Tujague struggled to find names.

It was like last year was something he hoped to forget.

He revealed, as did some of his players, that there was a divisiveness the program hadn’t seen since he’s been its head coach — five seasons.

“You always have guys on the team who don’t want to work as hard as others. You have to find those leaders who expose the ones that don’t and show them that hard work pays off,” said returning defensive end Justyn Eddins, the only returning starter on the defensive line. “There would be guys who influenced guys into the wrong direction and now that those guys are off the team, it’s a way better experience.”

Tujague said he wasted too much time last season on the guys who didn’t care, which took away valuable time he could have devoted to the guys who did care.

So there are now three simple words that will define COC in 2012 — redemption, opportunity, payback.

“Sometimes people don’t understand or realize the opportunity they have to be at COC and those players from the past, what they sacrificed. These players now have an opportunity to bring that chemistry, that environment that when we step on the field we mean business. We’re coming to do work,” Tujague said. “Redemption is if you look at it in its purest form, its definition, there’s been something that’s been taken from you or is no longer yours and you have to physically go get it. And payback, people who have come in here or we’ve gone into their place and maybe they felt like they just won the Super Bowl when they beat us. They know who they are. We know who they are, There’s some people we’re anxious to play.”

One thing that Tujague is excited about for this season is depth.

At every position, there are playmakers.

On the offense, 20-year-old quarterback Ryan Kasdorf — the 2008 Gatorade State Player of the Year at Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks — looks to have won the starting job in a competition with 2006 Canyon High state champion quarterback Ben Longshore.

Tujague said both will see playing time.

At running back, there are multiple options and many will play, including Golden Valley graduate Earl Johnson.

Freshman wide receiver, Hart graduate and high school track star Tim White — The Signal’s 2011-12 Male Athlete of the Year — gives the Cougars another gear.

It could be any one of 10 guys who could be a key contributor at receiver.

Unanimous All-National Division, Northern Conference left tackle Lloyd Tunstill, an NCAA Division I recruit, will lead a young, big, promising line.

On the defense, the secondary is deep, but returning sophomore Jake Woolley is the key player in a linebacking group that Tujague said is the strength on that side of the ball.

It’s so good, Tujague said Woolley has to keep elevating his game to stay ahead of his teammates.

“My main boys, Brett Melton, Joey Cicoria, Cash Barden, they started early in spring. They’re getting a leg up on everything,” Woolley said. “They’re always on my tail. I’m always making sure I’m working as hard as I can because they could step in.”

It’s a telltale sign that this is a different team when a teammate competing against others for playing time refers to them as “my main boys.”

“We’re a lot closer unit, that’s for sure,” said sophomore slot receiver Matt Szymanski. “The guys know their assignments a lot better. I can’t say enough about where I think this team is headed. But I have a really good feeling.”

COC goes into this season not ranked in the state’s top 25.

Tujague can’t remember the last time that has happened, but guessed it might have been when the program was resurrected in 1998 after a 17-year football absence.

A restructure of the National Division, Northern Conference makes it weaker than last season.

Cerritos is the class as the No. 7, followed by Ventura at No. 14 and Allan Hancock at No. 18.

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