It was a wild game, full of offense, defense, turnovers, penalties and momentum shifts - what one would typically expect from a game featuring two of the two teams in junior college football. Mt. SAC could easily have led by far more than the two points it actually led by at halftime, and Canyons briefly took the lead in the third quarter. But then Mt. SAC scored a pair of touchdowns thirteen seconds apart, and after that it was Canyons who failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities, and the Mounties were able to come away with the victory.
Canyons took an early lead, capitalizing on the first big break of the game when Mt. SAC punter Daniel Colby fumbled the ball after receiving the snap for what would have been his second punt of the game. He recovered the loose ball, but since it was fourth down, possession went to Canyons at the Mt. SAC 9. After a pass interference penalty, Ryan Zirbel scored on a 2-yard run to give the Cougars a 6-0 lead, though Mt. SAC's Bojay Filimoeatu blocked the extra point try.
Mt. San Antonio answered quickly, however, taking a 7-6 lead less than three minutes later. Lamaison capped a 12-play drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Alonze Agwuenu one play after scrambling for 14 yards and a first down on 4th and 7 at the 26. At that point, each team had already had the ball three times on offense though the game was less than six minutes old.
After that, Mt. SAC threatened to extend its lead, only to come away empty after three drives deep into Canyons territory. The first drive ended when Josh Irvin intercepted a Lamaison pass inside the 5 yard-line. Then after a COC punt, which Finau Lomu returned 28 yards to the Cougar 23, Mt. SAC reached the Canyons' 15. But the drive stalled there, and Jeremy Brown's 32-yard field goal try missed wide left, keeping the score 7-6. After another Canyons' punt, Mt. SAC got the ball at the COC 49 and reached the 26 before a holding penalty and then a diving interception by Khalil Bass halted that threat.
Buoyed by Bass' interception, the Canyons offense put together an 8-play, 64-yard drive, taking the lead on an 11-yard run by Emanuel Osuchukwu in the first minute of the second quarter. The two-point conversion failed as a pass by Justin Arias was batted down, but COC had a 12-7 lead over the defending champs.
Then Mt. SAC began to rally in a rather unconventional way. A pooch punt by Colby pinned COC at its own 11, and the Cougars lost a yard on first down. On second down, Arias dropped back to pass, but was hotly pursued by Mt. SAC's Craig Payne. Arias retreated back into the end zone and then threw the ball away, but was flagged for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety that made it 12-9.
Mt. SAC's Torres-Keohokapu returned the ensuing free kick to the Canyons' 39, and on the next play Bryce McBride nearly scored after taking a short pass from Lamaison and heading down the left sideline. COC's Antwan Smith saved the touchdown by pushing McBride out of bounds at the 15, and that turned out to be a huge play when McBride fumbled two plays later and Bass recovered at the Canyons' 8 yard-line.
The score was still 12-9 when COC got the ball at its own 14 with 4:09 left in the half. After a false start penalty pushed the ball back to the 9, Arias dropped back to pass. He was sacked in the end zone by Loliniasi Leota, however, for Mt. SAC's second safety of the quarter, making it 12-11. Then Torres-Keohokapu returned the ensuing free kick to the Cougar 42, seemingly setting up another scoring chance. However, on the next play Irvin intercepted Lamaison for the second time in the half, giving Canyons the ball at the 44.
The COC offense failed to move the ball, and lined up to punt. But the punt snap went high over the punter's head, finally coming to rest at the Cougar 8. COC actually recovered the ball, but possession went over on downs to Mt. SAC. The Mounties nearly scored a touchdown moments later but Drake Anthony knocked down a Lamaison pass in the end zone, forcing the Mounties to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Jeremy Brown. Mt. SAC finally had the lead, but with all those chances a mere 14-12 advantage seemed far from indicative of how play in the first half had gone.
COC took the second half kickoff, and drove all the way to the Mt. SAC 15 before facing a 4th and 1 situation. Eschewing the potential go-ahead field goal, COC tried for the first down, and Arias was stopped for no gain on a quarterback sneak.
Still, the score remained 14-12 well into the third quarter. Then COC got the break it needed when Mt. SAC lined up to punt only to have Antwan Smith find a way to kicker Evan Highley and block the ball. That gave Canyons possession at the Mt. SAC 34, and on the very next play Arias threw a touchdown pass to Cameron Bailey that gave the Cougars a 19-14 lead with 8:04 left in the third quarter.
From that point on, however, it was Mt. SAC who took advantage of opportunities and Canyons who made the key mistakes, and that was how Mt. San Antonio ended up winning the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Torres-Keohokapu again punished the COC special teams, returning the ball 56 yards before being tripped up by kicker Everett Goldberg at the Cougar 36. This time, however, Mt. SAC didn't let the opportunity slip away. Just four plays later, McBride took a handoff and burst through the middle of the COC defense and didn't stop until he reached the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown run. That gave Mt. SAC a 21-19 lead.
And just 13 seconds later, that lead grew wider. COC returned the ensuing kickoff to the 31, but on the next play Richard Thorpe intercepted an Arias pass and returned it 37 yards for the touchdown. That made it 27-19 with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
Still, Mt. SAC missed the opportunity to make it a two-score game when Brown missed first the extra point (wide right) and later in the quarter a 42-yard field goal (wide left). So it was still a one-score game entering the final quarter.
Now, however, it was Canyons' turn to move the ball deep into enemy territory only to come away empty. Early in the fourth quarter, COC drove to the Mt. SAC 10, but faced a 4th and 2 situation. The handoff went to Zirbel, but he was stopped for a one-yard loss, giving Mt. SAC possession with 13:51 left in the game. Then, after a punt, COC got the ball back and drove to the Mt. SAC 13. On the next play, Arias tried to loft a pass into the left corner of the end zone. The ball seemed headed right for the receiver's hands when, out of nowhere, came Mt. SAC's Treyvon Ralph. He not only caught the ball, but somehow got a foot down before tumbling out of bounds, his interception foiling what would be COC's last attempt to tie the game.
Then the Mt. SAC offense moved quickly down the field, with Lamaison picking up a key first down with a 24-yard scramble and then throwing a 45-yard completion to Torres-Keohokapu to the COC 16. Three plays later, Lamaison hit Michael Edwards with a 17-yard touchdown pass to extend Mt. SAC's lead to 34-19 with 8:03 left.
Canyons put together one last drive, but again came away empty. The Cougars reached the Mt. SAC with just over three minutes to go, but Arias lost the ball on an attempted option toss, and Filimoeatu recovered the loose ball, ending any last chance Canyons might have had for a rally.
For Mt. SAC, Lamaison completed 19 of 41 passes for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns, though he did have the 3 first-half interceptions. McBride led all rushers with 88 yards and a TD on 23 carries. Eleven different Mounties caught at least one pass, led by Michael Harrell, who had 5 catches for 39 yards. Leota (2 sacks), Thorpe, Payne and safety KjaeVaifale, who was a visible presence before leaving with an injury in the second half, led the defense. And the trio of Torres-Keohokapu, Isaiah Williams and Lomu had a big impact on special teams with a combined 259 return yards.
For Canyons, Arias completed 32 of 61 passes for 297 yards and a TD, and also led COC with 24 yards rushing on 16 carries (58 yards on 12 carries if the sacks are subtracted out). And Bailey had a huge game with 9 catches for 102 yards and a TD, and Chris Rivas had a nice effort with 6 catches for 73 yards. But the Cougar running game overall was ineffective, and special teams coverage was a problem all day.
Mt. San Antonio Mounties 34
College of the Canyons Cougars 19
Saturday, September 11, 2010 - 1 pm - Hilmer Lodge Stadium - Walnut
C - Zirbel 2 yd run (kick blocked) 12:02 (0-6)
M - Agwuenu 12 yd pass from Lamaison (Brown kick) 9:08 (7-6)
C - Osuchukwu 11 yd run (pass failed) 14:26 (7-12)
M - Safety - intentional grounding in end zone 11:42 (9-12)
M - Safety - Arias tackled in end zone 4:03 (11-12)
M - FG Brown 23 yds 0:31 (14-12)
C - Bailey 34 yd pass from Arias (Goldberg kick) 8:04 (14-19)
M - McBride 26 yd run (Brown kick) 6:33 (21-19)
M - Thorpe 37 yd interception return (kick wide right) 6:20 (27-19)
M - Edwards 17 yd pass from Lamaison (Brown kick) 8:03 (34-19)
First Downs: Mt. SAC 21 (11 rush, 9 pass, 1 penalty), Canyons 23 (5 rush, 13 pass, 5 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Mt. SAC 46-158, Canyons 31-3
Passing Yds: Mt. SAC 231, Canyons 297
Comp-Att-Int: Mt. SAC 19-41-3, Canyons 32-61-2
Return Yds: Mt. SAC 317, Canyons 79
Sacks-Yds: Mt. SAC 4-34, Canyons 3-20
Fumbles-Lost: Mt. SAC 2-1, Canyons 2-1
Penalties-Yds: Mt. SAC 10-83, Canyons 5-29
Time of Possession: Mt. SAC 32:04, Canyons 27:56
Rushing: Mt. SAC 3-McBride 23-88, 7-Lamaison 7-46, 30-Wagner 9-30, 32-Botello 4-3, 22-Umebayashi 1-2, 24-Joseph 1-1, 88-Colby 1-(-12); COC 18-Arias 16-24, 23-Osuchukwu 2-11, 5-Zirbel 12-3, team 1-(-35)
Passing: Mt. SAC 7-Lamaison 19-41-3-231, 2 TDs; COC 18-Arias 32-61-2-297, 1 TD
Receiving: Mt. SAC 14-Harrell 5-39, 4-Torres-Keohokapu 2-52, 3-McBride 2-34, 6-Edwards 2-24, 15-Iaea 2-15, 82-Ross 1-21, 1-Brun 1-14, 81-Agwuenu 1-12, 17-Parham 1-7, 32-Botello 1-7, 30-Wagner 1-6; COC 85-Bailey 9-102, 25-Rivas 6-73, 11-Madero 6-25, 81-Jackson 3-26, 84-Williams 2-42, 19-Prieto 2-20, 23-Osuchukwu 2-6, 5-Zirbel 1-2, 20-Fagerstrom 1-1
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Mt. SAC 45-Thorpe 1-37, 25-Ralph 1-0; COC 22-Irvin 2-16, 2-Bass 1-0
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: Mt. SAC 55-Filimoeatu 1-0; COC 2-Bass 1-0
Sacks: Mt. SAC 93-Leota 2, 9-Payne, 90-Asuega; COC 93-Koleosho, 4-Johnson, 6-Boone 1/2, 98-Merchant 1/2
Punters: Mt. SAC 88-Colby 4-42.3 avg, 71-Highley 2-41.0 avg + 1 blk; COC 46-Nastos 7-34.0 avg
Kick Returns: Mt. SAC 4-Torres-Keohokapu 5-160, 16-Williams 1-43; COC 86-Jordan 2-41, 7-Zeno 1-22
Punt Returns: Mt. SAC 46-Lomu 5-56; COC 85-Bailey 2-4, 1-A.Smith 1-(-4)
Missed FG: Mt. SAC 49-Brown 32 yds (wide left), 42 yds (wide left)
Notes: Both teams entered 1-0. Mt. SAC was ranked #1 in the nation by JCFootball.com/JC Grid-Wire. Mt. SAC punter Colby fumbled after taking the snap for what would have been his 2nd punt; he recovered but COC got the ball at the Mt. SAC 9 and scored immediately after. Filimoeatu blocked the XPA. COC's 2nd TD came after Bass' interception. Payne forced Arias into the intentional grounding penalty in the end zone and the safety. Leota sacked Arias for Mt. SAC's 2nd safety. A.Smith blocked the punt for COC; Bailey's TD came on the next play. But Torres-Keohokapu returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yds, setting up Mt. SAC's go-ahead TD, and Thorpe's pick six came 13 seconds later. COC appeared to have scored the tying TD when Ralph made an amazing interception in the end zone; Mt. SAC then drove 80 yds for the clinching TD. Mt. SAC also won the other time these schools have ever faced each other (2008 SoCal Championship game).