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Year in review: Canyon's experience pays

Cowboys got championships from veteran teams

Posted: June 24, 2013 8:34 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2013 8:34 p.m.

Jeremy Kimmer was one of the valley's top athletes in 2012-13.

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For Canyon athletics, the 2012-2013 year was highlighted by a historic moment in each athletic season.

On Oct. 5, Canyon senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky caught a 21-yard pass from junior quarterback Cade Apsay to move ahead of former Taft of Woodland Hills receiver Steve Smith (2000-2002) on the state’s all-time receiving yards and receptions list.

The University of Minnesota-bound Wolitarsky finished his career with 5,147 yards and 281 receptions as Canyon took second in the Foothill League.

Come winter, it was the girls basketball teams chance to add to the impressive legacies of four-year varsity players Alia McCoy and Jaya Schultz.

The duo led the Cowboys to a co-Foothill League title and quarterfinal run in CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA.

When the duo arrived at Canyon, the school hadn’t won a league title since 1973. This season, the team won its fourth straight.

The clincher came in dominant fashion, as the Cowboys defeated Hart 71-29 on Feb. 8 to finish in a first-place tie with Valencia. Canyon continued on to the quarterfinals before losing 43-39 to Lynwood on Feb. 23.

And it would be impossible to ignore Canyon baseball — by far the most unexpected champion at Canyon, and likely, in the Foothill League.

The Cowboys finished the 2012 season in fifth place with a 4-11 record.

In 2013, that was but a distant memory.

Head coach Adam Schulhofer led the Cowboys to a co-Foothill League title with West Ranch, clinching the crown with a victory over Valencia in the regular-season finale on May 9.

Senior pitcher Max Weinstein starred in his final campaign with the Cowboys, easily being named the Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year.

The common theme this season for Canyon was experience leads to success.

Wolitarsky, Schultz, McCoy and Weinstein were all seniors with a ton of varsity experience between them — and that led all four to historic seasons.

McCoy was named Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year and, along with Wolitarsky, was named All-CIF.

Wolitarsky also excelled on the track, winning the league title in the 100-meter race.

Weinstein was the All-SCV Player of the Year and earned All-CIF second team honors and Schultz was First Team All-SCV and All-Foothill League.

Also on the list of accomplished Canyon seniors this year were diver Connor Ferris, who won the Foothill League title and placed seventh at CIF-SS Division I finals and high jumper Jeremy Kimmer, who advanced to the state meet after finishing second in CIF-SS Division II and qualifying for state at the Masters Meet.

While other schools saw the emergence of talented freshmen and sophomores this season, Canyon did things the old-fashioned way — with talented seniors capping off illustrious careers.

The girls track and field team split the Foothill League title with Saugus for the Cowboys only other championship.

Outside of those accomplishments, though, the rest of the 2012-2013 athletic year was sparse on highlights, with many teams in the midst of rebuilding.

The football team was breaking in new quarterback Apsay, who took over for departed record-setting signal caller Jonathan Jerozal.

The Cowboys found success, too, as Apsay threw for 3,333 yards and 39 touchdowns to lead the team to a second-place finish before being upset in the second round of the CIF-SS Northern Division playoffs by Atascadero.

For most of the fall sports, though, it was a difficult year, with girls volleyball, girls tennis and girls golf all missing the postseason.

The Cowboys Zach Wims provided the highlight of the cross country season, winning Foothill League No. 1 on Sept. 20 with a time of 15 minutes, 22.88 seconds.

As the winter months rolled around, Canyon fans really saw how important experience could be.

While the girls basketball team was winning another title behind head coach Chuck Johns and Schultz and McCoy, the boys basketball team was learning to play under new coach Sean DeLong.

The Cowboys, who won the league title in 2012, lost senior leaders Coley Apsay and Clay Kasdorf, along with head coach Chad Phillips.

Under DeLong’s leadership, the Cowboys were hampered by injury problems and came away tied with Saugus in fourth before losing to Lawndale 73-63 in the first round of the postseason.

The girls soccer team was welcoming in a new coach, as well, as Derek Rusk led a resurgent program that vied for a league title until late in the season.

Behind sophomore goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy, the Cowboys finished third and advanced to the second round of the CIF-SS Division II playoffs where they lost to Wilson 1-0 on Feb. 19.

Boys soccer followed the pattern of the winter season.

With new head coach Lou Aguilera taking over, the Cowboys struggled to an 0-9-1 league record, finishing in last.

Inexperience wasn’t the problem in the spring, but outside of baseball, Kimmer and girls track, it was a toughyear.

Softball, boys volleyball and boys golf all missed the postseason.

Many teams at Canyon underwent significant change during the 2012-2013 school year. But those that had the potent combination — girls basketball and baseball chief among them — rode those qualities to Foothill League titles.

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