Cerritos Rallies Past, Holds Off Cougars

After trailing by eleven points at halftime, Cerritos scored four touchdowns in the second half to take a lead, and when Canyons threatened to tie the game in the final minutes, the Falcons literally took the ball away and held on for a 31-24 win Saturday evening in Santa Clarita.

Daveon Barner's second touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run that capped a short drive with 4:05 left, gave Cerritos (6-2, 2-1) a 31-24 lead. But Canyons (5-3, 2-1) still had plenty of time to drive for a score, and got inside the Falcon 20 when Chris Metcalf stripped the ball away from COC's Alex Fagerstrom and Kamar Morrison recovered for Cerritos, allowing the Falcons to hold on for the win.

That was just the final chapter of a rather unusual game that featured five lead changes and saw Canyons lead by the rather unlikely score of 16-5 at halftime. The momentum shifted in the third quarter as Cerritos scored three touchdowns to take a 24-16 lead, but Canyons scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and made the two-point conversion to tie the game at 24, setting up the dramatic final sequence.

After COC's game-tying score, Cerritos drove deep into Cougar territory, threatening to take the lead right back. But COC's Antwan Smith intercepted a Kane Wilson pass at the 11 to halt that drive. However, COC was unable to move the ball and, after two penalties, had to punt out of its own end zone. Cerritos' Silver Viafanua caught Christian Nastos' 29-yard punt at the 33 and returned it 20 yards to the 13, and four plays later Barner scored on a 1-yard run to give Cerritos a 31-24 lead.

Still, Canyons had plenty of time to answer, and Justin Arias started leading Canyons down the field, scrambling for a 12-yard run to the Falcon 47. A little later, a 10-yard pass to Cameron Bailey got the ball to the 34. After an offsides call negated what would have been an interception by Cerritos' Tyrone Taylor (the Falcons were clearly offside - it was a risk-free throw by Arias), a 6-yard pass to Frankie Madero got the ball to the 23. But on the next play, Arias threw to Fagerstrom, and that's when Metcalf and Morrison combined to steal the ball away and clinch the win for Cerritos.

The game began with a first quarter that was dominated by the defenses and, perhaps in tribute to the World Series currently underway, ended with a baseball-like score of 3-2. Cerritos got on the board first when a bad Canyons punt snap went far over Nastos' head and into the end zone. Nastos managed to pick up the ball before Cerritos could arrive, but was immediately tackled for a 2-run error…er, safety. But Canyons' Everett Goldberg hit a 3-run homer…er, a 49-yard field goal, to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead after one inning…er, quarter. The theme continued when Cerritos went back in front early in the second quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Mets' closer Francisco Rodriguez…well, maybe he's not K-Rod but his name is Francisco Rodriguez.

Finally, in the last five minutes of the first half, Canyons scored the game's first two touchdowns when Arias rushed for one and threw for one. COC got the ball when Cameron Merchant jarred the ball loose from Wilson and Dashawn Cassell recovered the fumble at the Cougar 42. The Cougars put together a 9-play, 58-yard drive, and pushed their lead to 9-5 when Arias scored on an 18-yard run. Then, after a Cerritos punt, COC drove 80 yards in 9 plays, stretching its lead to 16-5 when Arias threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rickeem Jackson with 36 seconds left in the half.

Cerritos threatened to score in the final seconds of the half, but Smith intercepted a Wilson pass in the end zone on the final play before halftime. In the aftermath, tempers flared and Canyons was assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty, which would be enforced on the second half kickoff and set the tone for the third quarter. Counting those yards, Canyons would be penalized for 74 yards in that quarter alone as Cerritos rallied to take a lead.

Kicking off from the 15, Canyons saw the ball returned to the 42, but after the play the Cougars were assessed another 15-yard penalty to move the line of scrimmage into Canyons territory. Ten plays later, Barner scored on a 1-yard run for Cerritos to make it 16-11, though the Falcons unsuccessfully tried for a 2-point conversion.

Clearly the momentum had shifted, and after a Cougar punt, Cerritos got the ball near midfield and, after another 15-yard penalty on Canyons, were at the Cougar 36. Five plays later, Jaron Hytche scored on a 3-yard run to give Cerritos a 17-16 lead though, again, the Falcons went for the 2-point conversion and were again unsuccessful.

Less than a minute later, Cerritos' Keith McGill intercepted a Canyons pass and returned it to the Falcon 40. Ten plays later, Cerritos pushed its lead to 24-16 when Wilson threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Lindsey Anderson. The Falcons finally allowed Rodriguez to kick the extra point, making it 24-16 with two seconds left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Canyons put together the game-tying drive, evening the score when Arias threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Zirbel, who drifted out of the backfield unwatched, caught the ball near the line and burst through the middle of the defense. On the conversion, Arias found Cameron Bailey in the back of the end zone and threw him the ball for a 2-point score that made it 24-24.

For Cerritos, Wilson finished 19 of 29 for 234 yards, 2 interceptions (one on a desperation pass at the end of the first half) and one touchdown. Hytche led all rushers with 85 yards on 18 carries, and Barner had 52 yards and two touchdown on 19 attempts. Anderson had 3 catches for 76 yards, while Lucas Mealy and Dion Curry had 4 catches each.

For Canyons, Arias completed 24 of 36 passes (including one to himself on a bizarre play) for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he was also the leading Cougar rusher with 65 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Zirbel had 4 catches for 45 yards to lead COC receivers, and Bailey had 4 catches for 25 yards. Antwan Smith had a pair of interceptions for the Cougar defense.

With the win, Cerritos improves to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the National-North entering next week's game against first-place Bakersfield. Canyons falls to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference and will host Ventura next Saturday.

Cerritos Falcons 31
College of the Canyons Cougars 24

Saturday, October 30, 2010 - 7 pm @ Cougar Stadium, Santa Clarita
National Division - North Conference

1st Quarter:
Cerr - Safety - Nastos tackled in end zone 8:51 (2-0)
Can - FG Goldberg 49 yds 1:08 (2-3)

2nd Quarter:
Cerr - FG F.Rodriguez 29 yds 12:08 (5-3)
Can - Arias 10 yd run (kick blocked) 4:39 (5-9)
Can - Jackson 14 yd pass from Arias (Goldberg kick) 0:36 (5-16)

3rd Quarter:
Cerr - Barner 1 yd run (pass failed) 10:26 (11-16)
Cerr - Hytche 3 yd run (pass failed) 5:49 (17-16)
Cerr - Anderson 24 yd pass from Wilson (F.Rodriguez kick) 0:02 (24-16)

4th Quarter:
Can - Zirbel 22 yd pass from Arias (Bailey pass from Arias) 12:21 (24-24)
Cerr - Barner 1 yd run (F.Rodriguez kick) 4:05 (31-24)

Team Statistics:
First Downs: Canyons 18 (6 rush, 11 pass, 1 penalty), Cerritos 24 (10 rush, 11 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 27-62, Cerritos 43-120
Passing Yds: Canyons 193, Cerritos 234
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 24-36-1, Cerritos 19-29-2
Return Yds: Canyons 148, Cerritos 165
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 2-8, Cerritos 2-8
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 3-1, Cerritos 1-1
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 14-132, Cerritos 14-108
Time of Possession: Canyons 26:58, Cerritos 33:02

Individual Statistics:
Rushing: Can 18-Arias 13-65, 23-Osuchukwu 3-14, 5-Zirbel 6-12, 32-Wilson 3-5, team 2-(-34); Cerr 29-Hytche 18-85, 23-Barner 19-52, 4-Craig 1-0, 2-Wilson 3-(-12), team 2-(-5)
Passing: Can 18-Arias 24-36-1-193, 2 TDs; Cerr 2-Wilson 19-29-2-234, 1 TD
Receiving: Can 5-Zirbel 4-45, 85-Bailey 4-25, 11-Madero 3-51, 81-Jackson 3-31, 20-Fagerstrom 2-9, 88-Horton 2-5, 83-Golden 1-12, 31-Brown 1-9, 82-Green 1-7, 86-Jordan 1-4, 23-Osuchukwu 1-0, 18-Arias 1-(-5); Cerr 81-Mealy 4-46, 5-Curry 4-43, 11-Anderson 3-76, 6-Jenkins 3-26, 23-Barner 2-11, 9-Arredondo 1-17, 18-Lavulo 1-9, 4-Craig 1-6
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Can 1-A.Smith 2-0; Cerr 37-McGill 1-10
Fum Rec-Ret Yds: Can 91-Cassell 1-0 (forced by Merchant); Cerr 2-Morrison 1-0 (forced by 20-Metcalf)
Sacks: Can 91-Cassell, 53-Merchant; Cerr 44-Lehaulli, 9-Peppard ½, 45-Sierra ½
Punters: Can 46-Nastos 4-31.3 avg; Cerr 17-Sanchez 2-41.0 avg
Kick Returns: Can 86-Jordan 3-94, 23-Osuchukwu 2-30, 32-Wilson 1-15; Cerr 7-Gill 2-47, 5-Curry 2-25, 4-Taylor 1-20, 18-Lavulo 1-10
Punt Returns: Can 19-Prieto 1-9; Cerr 5-Curry 1-31, 3-Viafanua 3-22
Notes: Both teams entered 5-2 overall; Canyons was 2-0 in conference and ranked #7 in South, #16 in nation (JCGW) while Cerritos was 1-1 in conference and ranked #6 in South, #17 in nation. A bad punt snap resulted in the safety. Canyons' 1st TD came after Cassell's fumble recovery (Merchant forced the fumble). Gill blocked the XPA for Cerritos. Arias tried to pump-fake and was ruled to have completed a pass to himself (he was penalized when he tried to pass "again") for minus-5 yards. COC was driving for the tying score when Metcalf stripped the ball from Fagerstrom and Morrison recovered at the Cerritos 16 to preserve the win for the Falcons. Cerritos now leads the all-time series, 2-1 (the teams also played in 2001 and 2002).

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