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College football: No quit in Cougs

College of the Canyons wins third straight game to finish bowl eligible

Posted: November 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.

College of the Canyons running back Drew Phillips (28) heads into the end zone as Allan Hancock defender Colin Hodges (25) trails during Saturday's game at COC. It was one of two touchdowns scored by Phillips, one rushing and one receiving, in COC's 47-36 victory.

The College of the Canyons football team was drifting hopelessly into oblivion midway through the season with just a single win it its first five games.

But Canyons head coach Garett Tujague never stopped preaching the team’s mantra: “Nothing in life is where you start, it’s where you finish.”

And his players bought in.

The team’s stunning turnaround six games into the 2012 campaign culminated in a rousing conference victory over Allan Hancock College on Saturday night as the Cougars used a pair of fourth-quarter gems from defensive lineman Antonio Guy to beat back the Bulldogs 47-36 in the regular-season finale at Cougar Stadium.

Now the Cougars (6-4, 4-2) find themselves sitting anxiously by the phone waiting to learn today whether they’ve been selected to participate in one of five Southern California bowl games.

COC quarterback Ryan Kasdorf, who threw four touchdown passes in the win and completed 15-of-20 passes for 328 yards, said he was proud of the way his team persevered through all the adversity they faced this season.

“To come so far where we are now eligible for a bowl game is crazy,” Kasdorf said. “I just thank God for the team that I have around me and the resilience of these guys. We came together at the perfect time, and now it looks like we’ve got another week to play.”

Southern California Football Association officials will announce bowl selections today, and those games will be played outside of the state’s postseason playoff system. If the Cougars draw the nod, the game will be played Saturday, with the opponent and venue to be determined.

The game against Hancock (5-5, 2-4) was knotted at 34 entering the fourth quarter when COC running back Andre Davis cruised into the end zone from 22 yards away to put the Cougars ahead 41-34.

After that, the Cougars got a big play from Guy, who bolted through the defense and blocked a punt deep Bulldog territory.

“I just got in my stance and took off,” Guy said. “I went straight through, saw the ball, put my hands together and flattened up. There was no one there to stop me.”

No one got in Kasdorf’s way on the next play as he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kwasi Washington, but the extra-point attempt was blocked and Hancock’s Evan Aguilar returned it all the way for two points to keep his team within 11 at 47-36.

Guy responded, this time teaming up with Omari Williams to throw Bulldog sophomore running back Cameron Artis-Payne for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the Cougar 1-yard line with 6:02 left to play.

Artis-Payne entered the game as the state leader in yardage and touchdowns and has verbally committed to attend Auburn University, but it didn’t matter much to Guy and Williams.

“We had worked on that play all week in practice, and we were well aware that he was the No. 1 running back in the state,” Williams said. “Right before that play happened, I told Antonio, ‘It’s you and me,’ so I just looked at him, he gave me a nod and I gave him the eye.”

Hancock head coach Kris Dutra said his team simply ran out of players in the fourth quarter.

“We only came here with two wide receivers, and they knocked both of them out of the game,” said Dutra, now in his 12th year. “We were kind of scrambling, trying to figure out if we would be able to do anything else.”

Hancock got on the scoreboard just 61 seconds into the ballgame when quarterback Brandon Jefferies threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Rogers. The point-after attempt failed.

Jefferies completed 7-of-19 passes for 145 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

A lengthy run by Davis set up the Cougars’ first touchdown, an 11-yard scoring toss from Kasdorf to wide receiver Tim White, who had two TD receptions on the night.

Hancock answered with Artis-Payne’s 3-yard touchdown bolt before a 75-yard scoring sprint by COC’s Drew Phillips put the Cougars ahead 14-13 with 6:04 to play in the first quarter.

The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter, first a 68-yard Kasdorf-to-Phillips aerial and a blocked extra point, followed by Marcell Blow’s 26-yard scramble that sent the teams into the locker room at halftime locked in a 20-20 tie.

COC’s 2012 campaign got off to a rough start, with the team dropping four of its first five games — a month-long run of bad luck that was capped by a 45-7 road loss to archrival Bakersfield, the Cougars’ widest margin of defeat since football was reinstated at the college 14 years ago.

From there, the Cougars won three of their next four games, punctuated by back-to-back, last-second victories over Moorpark and Cerritos. During that stretch, the team picked up another victory when the SCFA ruled that College of the Desert would forfeit its Sept. 15 win over COC due to an ineligible player.

That midseason turnaround vaulted the Cougars to an overall record of 5-4, needing a victory over Hancock on Saturday to achieve the minimum of six needed for bowl eligibility.

So now the team will wait to hear if it will have the opportunity to extend the season by one more game — and Tujague’s mantra now comes into sharper focus.

“I think that early in the season, we were young enough maybe to not understand that philosophy,” Tujague said. “But as the season progressed and guys watched film together and they realized, ‘Hey, we’re this close and we can do this,’ they kept believing in each other. We’ve got great sophomore leadership from the few that we have left, and they’re showing these guys how to be winners.”


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