Canyons Overpowers El Camino

Justin Arias threw for a pair of touchdowns and scored another on the ground as College of the Canyons opened its National Division Northern Conference schedule with a 26-9 win over El Camino Saturday night in Santa Clarita.

Torri Zeno also returned an interception for a touchdown for the Cougars, who took advantage of six El Camino turnovers to get the win.

It wasn't particularly pretty, but Canyons got a needed win, thanks largely to a well-managed game by Arias as well as a strong performance by the defense. Antwan Smith had a fumble recovery and an interception, and the Cougars forced three interceptions and recovered three fumbles on the game while committing just one turnover themselves.

Canyons took the lead early on, taking the opening kickoff and marching down the field some 77 yards on 13 plays to score the game's first points on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Arias to Mychal Prieto midway through the first quarter. The Cougars had converted a key 4th down moments earlier when Prieto caught a swing pass from Arias and got to the 1-yard line.

El Camino got a big lift on the ensuing kickoff when Andre Buford returned the kick 57 yards to the Cougar 38. But the Warriors gained just six yards in four plays, turning the ball over on downs to Canyons at the 32. After that Canyons punted twice, sandwiched around an El Camino punt, with the Warriors getting the ball at their own 35 with 1:12 left in the first quarter and the score still 7-0.

Moments later, the score was 13-0 when Torri Zeno intercepted an Omar Herrera pass at the 42 and returned it for a touchdown to give the Cougars a two-score lead.

Neither team scored again until El Camino put together a 13-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Juan Sanchez with 6:07 left in the second quarter. But even that was something of a missed opportunity as on the previous play Herrera threw to receiver Joshua Brinson in the back of the end zone, who caught the ball but was unable to stay inbounds. The field goal made it 13-3. But Sanchez missed a 30-yard field goal later in the quarter, so the score stayed 13-3 at the half.

El Camino got the ball to start the second half, and got another big return when Ronald Gaudin returned the kickoff 47 yards to the Cougar 45. Two plays later, however, Herrera fumbled, and Justin Stevens recovered for Canyons at the Cougar 39. Then Arias led a 7-play, 61-yard drive, throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Bailey in the corner of the end zone to make it 19-3.

That led to several chances for Canyons to put the game away. First, the Cougars inexplicably went for a 2-point conversion, eschewing the kick that would have made it a three-score margin. Arias' pass fell incomplete, keeping it a two-score (16-point) game at 19-3. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, another excellent return by Gaudin was negated by a penalty, backing the Warriors up to their own 15. Then on the next play, Herrera again fumbled, and this time Dashawn Cassell recovered for the Cougars at the13.

But Canyons failed to score. An apparent touchdown pass to Randy Horton was negated by a penalty, and the Cougars had to settle for a 30-yard field goal attempt. However, Everett Goldberg's kick was blocked by El Camino's Darious Lane, who had also blocked an extra point try in the first half. The loose ball went to holder Jeff Flores, who picked up the ball and tried to pass a la Garo Yepremian of the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII. The ball fell harmlessly to the turf for an incomplete pass, but Canyons' lead was still just 16 points.

Then Canyons appeared to get the ball back on an interception by A. Smith, but the turnover was negated by a pass interference penalty (on other members of the COC secondary). Then, after an El Camino punt gave the Cougars the ball again, Arias scrambled for a short gain but was hit hard by El Camino's Mose Denton, who jarred the ball loose for a fumble that Matthew Moro recovered at the El Camino 43.

At this point, Dax Lucci entered the game at quarterback for El Camino, and the 6-1 freshman led the Warriors on a 9-play drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Peter Walton with 2:08 left in the third quarter. That made it 19-9, but on the two-point conversion Gaudin, lined up in the wildcat position, was stopped well short of the goal line so the score stayed 19-9.

After that, El Camino never really threatened to rally, undone by its own mistakes. The Warriors got the ball back after a COC punt late in the third quarter, but Khalil Bass intercepted a Lucci pass with 14:23 left in the game. After another Canyons punt, El Camino got the ball again but lost it on a fumble by Mike Miller after he caught a Lucci pass. A. Smith recovered the loose ball for the Cougars. Then after another Canyons punt, El Camino drove to its own 44 but faced a 4th and 6, and Lucci's misfire on attempted screen pass resulted in an incomplete pass and possession to Canyons with 5:55 left.

Then, finally, Canyons got the clinching touchdown to put the game away. On the very next play, Ryan Zirbel took a handoff and started to the right, and Emanuel Osuchukwu delivered an outstanding block to free him. The result was a 31-yard run to the El Camino 13. That led to Arias' 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak with 2:22 left, making it 26-9 and sealing the win. Then A. Smith intercepted Lucci's final pass attempt of the night with 41 seconds left and the Cougars ran out the clock.

For Canyons, Arias had relatively modest overall numbers - 10 of 25 passing for 107 yards and 23 yards rushing on 11 attempts - but had a strong performance in terms of game management. COC's having only one turnover - compared to six for El Camino - was probably the key statistic of the night. Zirbel had 69 yards rushing and Osuchukwu had 53 for the Cougars.

For El Camino, Lucci finished 9 of 17 for 156 yards after entering the game in the third quarter. Walton led all rushers with 103 yards on 16 carries and he scored El Camino's only touchdown. Buford led all receivers with 5 catches for 58 yards, and he also had the 57-yard kickoff return.

But for El Camino, the loss continues perhaps the most precipitous fall in the history of American team sports. Just two weeks ago, the Warriors entered the 4th quarter of its game against Palomar with a 21-6 lead, seemingly on the verge of attaining a 5-0 record. Now, after losing that lead and, during the bye week, forfeiting its previous four wins this season, El Camino falls to 0-6 on the season with the loss to Canyons.

Canyons improves to 4-2 and will travel to Allan Hancock next week before returning to face Cerritos October 30th at COC.

College of the Canyons Cougars 26
El Camino Warriors 9

Saturday, October 16, 2010 - 7 pm - Cougar Stadium - Santa Clarita
National Division- Northern Conference

1st Quarter:
C - Prieto 6 yd pass from Arias (Goldberg kick) 7:58 (7-0)
C - Zeno 42 yd interception return (kick blocked) 1:02 (13-0)

2nd Quarter:
E - FG Sanchez 37 yds 6:07 (13-3)

3rd Quarter:
C - Bailey 22 yd pass from Arias (pass failed) 11:49 (19-3)
E - Walton 2 yd run (run failed) 2:08 (19-9)

4th Quarter:
C - Arias 1 yd run (Goldberg kick) 2:22 (26-9)

Team Statistics:
First Downs: Canyons 16 (7 rush, 8 pass, 1 penalty), El Camino 18 (7 rush, 10 pass, 1 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 39-157, El Camino 33-162
Passing Yds: Canyons 107, El Camino 230
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 10-26-0, El Camino 19-37-3
Return Yds: Canyons 172, El Camino 134
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 2-8, El Camino 2-12
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 3-1, El Camino 3-3
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 8-50, El Camino 12-93
Time of Possession: Canyons 29:03, El Camino 30:57

Individual Statistics:
Rushing: Canyons 5-Zirbel 9-69, 23-Osuchukwu 11-53, 18-Arias 12-23, 35-Dominguez 2-9, 86-Jordan 1-6, 32-Wilson 3-(-1), team 1-(-2); El Camino 35-Walton 16-103, 37-A.Johnson 4-44, 4-Westbrook 4-10, 17-Lucci 4-8, 8, 5-Buford 1-1, 7-Gaudin 1-1, 11-Herrera 3-(-5)
Passing: Canyons 18-Arias 10-25-0-107, 2 TDs; 49-Flores 0-1-0-0; El Camino 17-Lucci 9-17-2-156; 11-Herrera 10-19-1-74
Receiving: Canyons 23-Osuchukwu 3-30, 19-Prieto 3-13, 85-Bailey 1-22, 88-Horton 1-17, 15-Anderson 1-14, 25-Rivas 1-11; El Camino 5-Buford 5-58, 2-Brinson 4-32, 88-Miller 2-34, 8-Abraham 2-25, 4-Westbrook 2-14, 7-Gaudin 2-5, 23-Norrell 1-45, 83-Nichols 1-17
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Canyons 7-Zeno 1-42, 1-A.Smith 1-32, 2-Bass 1-0; El Camino none
Sacks-Yds: 6-Boone 1-6, 56-Brownlee 1-6; El Camino 33-Lockwood 1-8, 10-Brooks 1-4
Fumble Rec.-Ret Yds: Canyons 1-A.Smith 1-12, 9-Stevens 1-0, 91-Cassell 1-0; El Camino 3-Moro 1-0
Punters: Canyons 46-Nastos 7-39.0 avg; El Camino 66-M.Williams 3-40.7 avg
Kick Returns: Canyons 23-Osuchukwu 1-35, 16-Bacon 1-29, 7-Zeno 1-22; El Camino 7-Gaudin 3-74, 5-Buford 1-57
Punt Returns: Canyons none; El Camino 7-Gaudin 2-3
Missed FG: Canyons 87-Goldberg 30 yds (blocked); El Camino 30-Sanchez 30 yds (wide left)
Notes: National-North conference opener for both teams. Canyons entered 3-2, ranked #13 in South and #22 in nation (JC Grid-Wire). El Camino entered 0-5 with 4 forfeit losses but ranked #6 in the South (in last poll - prior to forfeits). Herrera started at QB for El Camino; Lucci entered in the 3rd quarter. 38-Lane blocked both the extra point and the field goal try for El Camino. Bailey's TD came after Stevens' fumble recovery. After the blocked FGA, holder Flores picked up the ball and tried to pass a la Garo Yepremian in Super Bowl VII but with Mike Bass retired and unavailable to catch the wayward ball it fell to the turf for an incomplete pass. Walton's TD came after Moro's recovery of an Arias fumble that was caused by a big hit by 26-Denton. Zirbel broke free for a 31-yd run thanks largely to an outstanding block by Osuchukwu that set up the clinching TD for COC. Canyons now leads the all-time series, 3-0.

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