Canyons Edges Ventura

Ryan Zirbel broke a 24-all tie with a 3-yard touchdown run on fourth-down with less than six minutes remaining, and Justin Stevens clinched the win with a pick-six interception return as host Canyons kept its playoff hopes alive with a 37-24 win over Ventura Saturday evening in Santa Clarita.

With the score tied at 24, COC's Cameron Coon recovered a muffed punt at the Ventura 12 with 7:36 left. Four plays later, on 4th and 1 from the 3, Zirbel carried the ball into the end zone to give COC a 30-24 lead. That capped a strong night for Zirbel, who had a game-high 84 yards rushing on 13 carries for the Cougars.

Still, Ventura would get two more chances to take the lead, and trailed by just six points after COC missed the extra point on Zirbel's touchdown. The first series ended with a punt, but the Pirates got the ball back again with 2:18 left at their 31. Two plays later, however, Stevens intercepted an attempted screen pass and returned it 39 yards for the win-clinching score.

Ventura had rallied from a 17-7 second-quarter deficit, taking a 21-17 lead at halftime after scoring in the final seconds of the first half. Canyons went back in front, 24-21, early in the third quarter before Ventura got a 32-yard field goal from David Brown to tie the score at 24 midway through the third quarter. The score stayed 24-24 until the punt muff began the dramatic final sequence midway through the final period.

Canyons got on the board first in the first minute of the game on a play that went into the scorebook as a 48-yard touchdown pass from Justin Arias to Rickeem Jackson. That hardly describes what happened, however; the play began as a flea-flicker with Zirbel taking a handoff to the left and then handing the ball off to wideout Cameron Bailey, who was heading to the right. He was to pitch the ball back to Arias. However, the Ventura defense arrived a little earlier than expected, and nearly tackled Bailey before he could get rid of the ball. As he was being dragged down, he kind of rolled the ball on the ground back to Arias, who calmly fielded the grounder and threw the 48-yard touchdown pass to the wide-open Jackson.

Ventura used more conventional means to even the score, scoring on a short drive when Dezerek Reed carried the ball in from three yards out midway through the first quarter. The Pirates got the ball at the Cougar 25 after an interception by Kentrell Everett. And the big play was an absolutely amazing scramble by Ventura quarterback Antavius Sims, who seemed trapped in the backfield but avoided a pair of tackles before managing a 23-yard run to the Canyons 3. Reed scored on the next play to make it 7-7.

Canyons went back on front later in the first quarter when Arias found tight end Randy Horton in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass to cap a five-play, 39-yard drive that started after Dashawn Cassell recovered a Sims fumble at the Ventura 39. Then Canyons extended its lead to 17-7 on a 25-yard field goal by Everett Goldberg just over two minutes into the second quarter.

Ventura scored a pair of touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the second quarter to take a 21-17 halftime lead. First, Sims threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Timothy Vizzi with 7:39 left in the quartet to make it 17-14. Then, in the final minute of the half, Ventura put together an 8-play drive that ended with Sims powering through the defense for an 8-yard run with 16 seconds left to give the Pirates a 21-17 lead at the break.

Canyons went right back in front early in the second half on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Arias to Alex Fagerstrom with 12:34 left in the third quarter. That came moments after Cassell recovered another Sims fumble, this one at the Ventura 18. Ventura got a 32-yard field goal from Brown with 8:30 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 24, which is where things stood until the final six minutes of the game.

For Canyons, Arias completed 14 of 29 passes for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he also rushed for 55 yards on 17 carries. And the COC defense sacked Sims 8 times on the night, led by Antwan Smith and Jimmy Moorman, who sacked him twice each.

For Ventura, Sims put on an amazing show. He completed 15 of 44 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown, and he also rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries (126 yards on 16 carries if the sacks are subtracted out). However, he also had two interceptions and two fumbles. His favorite receiver was definitely Vizzi, who had 8 catches for 128 yards on the night.

With the win, Canyons improves to 6-3 overall and, more importantly, 3-1 in conference play entering next week's showdown against arch-rival Bakersfield. That will likely decide second place and the remaining playoff berth in the National Division's North conference. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 pm at Memorial Stadium.

With the loss, Ventura falls to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference.

College of the Canyons Cougars 37
Ventura Pirates 24

Saturday, November 6, 2010 - 7 pm @ Cougar Stadium, Santa Clarita
National Division - North Conference

1st Quarter:
C - Jackson 48 yd pass from Arias (Goldberg kick) 14:15 (7-0)
V - Reed 3 yd run (Brown kick) 7:58 (7-7)
C - Horton 4 yd pass from Arias (Goldberg kick) 4:28 (14-7)

2nd Quarter:
C - FG Goldberg 25 yds 12:56 (17-7)
V - Vizzi 30 yd pass from Sims (Brown kick) 7:39 (17-14)
V - Sims 8 yd run (Brown kick) 0:16 (17-21)

3rd Quarter:
C - Fagerstrom 1 yd pass from Arias (Goldberg kick) 12:34 (24-21)
V - FG Brown 32 yds 8:30 (24-24)

4th Quarter:
C - Zirbel 3 yd run (kick wide right) 5:55 (30-24)
C - Stevens 36 yd interception return (Goldberg kick) 1:37 (37-24)

Team Statistics:
First Downs: Canyons 14 (8 rush, 5 pass, 1 penalty), Ventura 24 (9 rush, 14 pass, 1 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 39-166, Ventura 42-125
Passing Yds: Canyons 156, Ventura 228
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 14-29-2, Ventura 15-45-2
Return Yds: Canyons 132, Ventura 228
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 8-50, Ventura 2-13
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 1-0, Ventura 4-3
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 6-50, Ventura 8-77
Time of Possession: Canyons 27:05, Ventura 32:55

Individual Statistics:
Rushing: Canyons 5-Zirbel 13-84, 18-Arias 17-55, 23-Osuchukwu 4-16, 32-Wilson 4-9, 35-Dominguez 1-2; Ventura 1-Sims 24-76, 3-Davis 13-39, 14-Nixon 2-26, 22-Reed 2-1, team 1-(-17)
Passing: Canyons 18-Arias 14-29-2-156, 3 TDs; Ventura 1-Sims 15-44-2-228, 1 TD; team 0-1-0-0
Receiving: Canyons 11-Madero 4-46, 19-Prieto 2-16, 88-Horton 2-10, 20-Fagerstrom 2-8, 81-Jackson 1-48, 25-Rivas 1-13, 82-Green 1-9, 23-Osuchukwu 1-6; Ventura 32-Vizzi 8-128, 80-Scissom 3-38, 17-Rice 2-25, 86-Kirkwood 1-20, 3-Davis 1-17
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Canyons 9-Stevens 1-36, 22-Irwin 1-0; Ventura 25-Everett 2-29
Fum Rec-Ret Yds: Canyons 91-Cassell 2-0, 17-Coon 1-0; Ventura none
Sacks: Canyons 58-Moorman 2-20, 1-A.Smith 2-8, 47-Cudworth 1-8, 56-Brownlee 1-7, 3-G.Johnson 1-6, 55-Oliva 1-1; Ventura 90-Lattimore 1-11, 99-Blackwell 1-2
Punters: Canyons 46-Nastos 8-34.6 avg; Ventura 37-Dugandzic 7-36.8 avg
Kick Returns: Canyons 39-Tryon 2-27, 1-A.Smith 1-26, 86-Jordan 1-25, 24-Briggs 1-19; Ventura 21-Bush 3-89, 3-Davis 3-83, 85-D.Brooks 1-11
Punt Returns: Canyons 19-Prieto 1-(-1); Ventura 3-Davis 3-Davis 4-12, 10-Hall 1-4
Missed FG: none
Notes: Both teams entered 5-3 overall and 2-1 in National-North. Ventura was ranked #7 in the South; Canyons was ranked #10. Canyons' 1st TD came on an improvised flea-flicker that included 85-Bailey rolling the ball back to Arias. Ventura's 1st TD came after Everett's 1st interception. A.Smith forced the fumble that was Cassell's 1st fumble recovery, and that set up COC's 2nd TD. COC's third-quarter TD came after Cassell's 2nd fumble recovery (forced by Oliva). Coon recovered a punt muff at the Ventura 12 with 7:36 left; Zirbel's TD came on a 4th down play moments later. Canyons now leads the all-time series, 15-7, after Ventura won last year.

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