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College football: Overtime woes

Canyons forces overtime late, but falls to Golden West

Posted: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Hart High graduate and College of the Canyons player Tim White stretches for more yardage as Golden West defender Ryan Watson tries to strip the ball at College of the Canyons on Saturday night.

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The College of the Canyons football team had high hopes of putting a subpar 2011 season in the rearview mirror as it hosted Golden West College in the regular-season opener.

COC received a stellar effort from its defensive unit, but the offense was largely unable to sustain drives and the team eventually fell in overtime.

Golden West quarterback Zackary Couey methodically drove his team down the field before taking it in on a 1-yard plunge to pin a heartbreaking 25-19 loss on the Cougars on Saturday night at Cougar Stadium.

Canyons head coach Garett Tujague summed up the end result by saying his team just made too many mistakes.

“We moved the ball pretty well but just didn’t finish,” Tujague said. “The key is finishing, and we’re going to have to work on that.”

Work must begin immediately, as unranked COC will host Saddleback College on Saturday in week two. Saddleback, ranked No. 10 in the state according to the CCCFCA’s preseason poll, was upended 51-48 in its season opener against No. 2 Mt. San Antonio College.

Tujague, who called the plays from the press box versus the No. 17 Rustlers, said there were times during the loss when his players seemed unsure of what they were supposed to do.

“You’re either coaching it or letting it happen,” said the sixth-year head coach. “It’s either young players not understanding in that moment exactly what needs to be done, or a lack of crystal-clear communication on my part as to what needs to happen.”

Cougars quarterback Ryan Kasdorf had a pretty good idea of what needed to take place to send the game into overtime. With his team trailing 19-12 in the waning seconds, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound freshman from Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks threaded the needle on a 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tim White as time expired.

But there was still the matter of that pesky extra point, and COC’s excessive-celebration penalty forced kicker Neil Franklin to have to launch it from 35 yards out.

The ensuing snap dribbled well short of holder Brandon Wikler, but the sophomore and Valencia High grad somehow managed to find the handle and tee it up for Franklin, whose drive wobbled to the port side but ultimately cleared the uprights.

“I haven’t seen a hold that good in that critical of a moment in a long time,” Tujague said.

Rustlers quarterback Couey (19-of-38 for 184 yards, two touchdowns and an interception) played a crucial role in his team’s victory despite exiting the contest with an ankle injury early in the third quarter.

The sophomore from Marina High of Huntington Beach, hobbling around the sidelines like Walter Brennan in a 1940s western movie, somehow found the wherewithal to reenter the game in the fourth quarter and threw a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Ryan Watson. The second of those TD tosses, a 33-yard aerial deep in the corner of the end zone, came with just 35 ticks left on the clock.

Tujague characterized Couey’s effort as heroic.

“Just an amazing desire,” Tujague said. “To stand up and put 80 dudes on your shoulder and carry them down the field with a half of a leg was pretty impressive.”

Also notable was COC’s defensive effort, especially in the first half, with the Cougars allowing just three points.

The scoring began with the two teams trading first-quarter field goals as Golden West’s Peter Marquez drove one home from 40 yards out, and that was followed by a 29-yarder off the big toe of Franklin.

COC took the lead when Franklin delivered again, this time from 21 yards to open the second quarter.

The Cougars were looking to extend their lead late in the first half, but Golden West applied the brakes on their own 20-yard line on fourth-and-2 with 2:19 remaining before the break, and COC took a 6-3 advantage into the locker room.

The Cougars’ first touchdown of 2012 came courtesy of the special teams unit in the third quarter. COC 6-foot-5 freshman Dan Vear, bursting through a hole opened up by linebacker Jake Woolley, blocked a punt deep in Rustlers territory, and teammate Omari Williams scooped it up and took it into the end zone.

But the joy was tempered when Golden West blocked the extra-point try, and the Rustlers’ Malcolm Smith sprinted with the football 98 yards all the way down the right sideline for two points, cutting COC’s lead to 12-5 with 11:23 to go in the third. That set the stage for Couey’s fourth-quarter surge.

Woolley said the Cougars have to clean up the mental errors and get back to basics.

“Unacceptable. We have a lot of work to do,” Woolley said. “We’ve got to go back to work on Monday.”

COC’s once-storied offense, piloted at various times on Saturday by three different quarterbacks — including former Canyon High standout Ben Longshore and Ron Clark — scored just a single touchdown in the loss.

Kasdorf concluded the night 13-of-23 for 162 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Longshore, who entered the game in the third quarter and gave the team a brief spark of momentum, completed 5-of-10 for 66 yards.

“We gave everyone the opportunity to play because we were trying to find out who’s the guy,” Tujague said.

The offense converted just four of its 16 third-down attempts and only two of six on fourth down, leaving the team unable to capitalize on timely defensive stops.

The Cougars, who are coming off their first losing record in 32 years, were looking to launch the 2012 campaign with some momentum. Instead, Tujague was left with the task of conducting a silver-lining search as he prepares his team for powerhouse Saddleback on Saturday.

“This is a great lesson for us as a program,” Tujague said. “I’d rather start off with a loss and learn a lesson and finish with wins than start off with a win like we’ve done the last few years — feeling pretty good about ourselves and that we’ve got it all together — only to disintegrate at the end.”

NOTES: COC’s Brandon Graves led the receiving corps with five catches for 56 yards. White finished with three grabs for 67 yards and a touchdown. Kasdorf was the team’s leading ground-gainer with a net 32 yards on 13 carries. Drew Phillips ran the ball 11 times for 27 yards as the Cougars gained only 89 total yards on the ground. On defense, sophomore cornerback Lance Poole paced the club with seven tackles (six unassisted), while sophomore strong safety Kahlil Bolling recorded six tackles (five unassisted). Freshman defensive end Semo Helamana had an interception. The Cougars managed 330 yards of total offense against 253 by Golden West. COC’s defense held the Rustlers to just 36 net yards on the ground. ... For Golden West, Watson, a sophomore, led the way with eight catches for 76 yards and the two scores. Sophomore running back Victor Moananu carried the football 17 times for 57 yards. Sophomore defensive back Trey Garrett guided his team with nine tackles (six unassisted). Sophomore defensive lineman Dupree Roberts-Jordan had two sacks. Golden West will travel to L.A. Harbor for a 6 p.m. game Saturday in week two.

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