Nick Jones caught a 74-yard touchdown pass and Tristan Brown scored two touchdowns on long returns as #8 College of the Canyons overcame a sluggish start to post a 33-20 victory over Citrus in its home opener Saturday night in Santa Clarita.
Canyons (2-0), coming off a 30-6 shellacking of defending state champion and then-#1-ranked Mt. San Antonio, fell behind, 10-0, in the first 20 minutes to the Owls. The Cougars managed just two first downs in the first half, one of which came on a dead-ball penalty, and held the ball for just six of the first half's 30 minutes.
And yet, the Cougars held a 14-10 lead at the half. Jones caught the 74-yard touchdown pass on a flanker option play on a pass from fellow wideout Vincent Strange. And Brown picked up a Citrus fumble and returned it 89-yards for a touchdown to give the somnambulant Cougars a stunning 14-10 edge at intermission.
Perhaps the key sequence of the game was on Citrus' second drive of the night. The Owls (0-2) already had a 7-0 lead after a 15-play, 65-yard drive on its opening possession, and reached the Canyons 12 yard-line, threatening to make it 14-0. Then defensive end Weston Wells, a freshman from Frazier Mountain High School, sacked Citrus quarterback Brian Meyette for an 11-yard loss on second down. And on the next play he sacked Meyette again, this time for a 7-yard loss, forcing the Owls to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt, which missed, and Citrus never did get that 14-point lead.
The Owls did add a field goal by Axel Mendoza early in the second quarter following a fumble recovered by Avonte Moore at the Cougar 31. But that just made it 10-0, and the two Canyons big plays allowed the Cougars to take an improbable 14-10 lead into the halftime locker rooms.
Citrus started the second half with a 41-yard field goal by Mendoza to cut the deficit to a single point. But then the Canyons offense finally found its rhythm and put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with 235-pound linebacker-turned-fullback scoring on a 3-yard run to make it 21-13. The Cougars added a pair of field goals by Alec Chadwick, one following a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Larry Mealancon Jr., to stretch the lead to 27-13 midway through the fourth quarter.
Citrus got within a score when fullback Steven Garcia scored on a 1-yard plunge to cap a 14-play drive with 4:04 remaining to make it 27-20. Then on the kickoff the Owls had to decide whether to go for the onsides kick or to kick the ball deep and rely on the defense to give Meyette and company another chance to tie the game.
But it turned out that Citrus never got the ball or the chance to tie the score. With ten Cougars ready to go after an onsides kick, the Owls had Mendoza kick the ball deep. Near his 2 yard-line, Brown fielded the ball and despite not having any blockers within 20 yards of him at the start of the run he darted through the Owl coverage team for a stunning 98-yard touchdown return that gave the Cougars a 33-20 lead.
If Citrus still had any designs on a comeback, those ended when safety Colton Oshiro intercepted an overthrown pass near midfield with 1:32 remaining. It was the Cougars' 4th interception of the night, and the Canyons defense also had six quarterback sacks and two recovered fumbles.
For Canyons, starting quarterback Devon Dunn was just 12 for 30 passing for 125 yards, though he also rushed 6 times for a team-best 46 yards. Jones had a huge night with 6 catches for 116 yards and the Cougars's first touchdown. Strange had the 74-yard touchdown pass on the trick play, and also caught 2 passes for 58 yards. Wells had the key back-to-back sacks in the first quarter, and Mealancon also had two sacks and the fumble recovery. And of course Brown had two huge plays in the 89-yard fumble return and the 98-yard kickoff return.
For Citrus, Meyette completed 35 of 68 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown, though he also had 4 interceptions and was sacked 6 times. Robert Gonzalez carried the ball 19 times for 74 yards to lead all rushers, and he also caught 5 passes for 57 yards. Zachery Fields caugh 8 passes for 101 yards. Brayton Newton had 7 catches for 57 yards and Gino Mastrandrea had 6 catches for 46 yards.
The win improves Canyons' record to 2-0, and the Cougars will be home again next Saturday to face the Santa Ana Dons. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 pm and JCFootball.com will be there with full coverage once again.
College of the Canyons Cougars 33, Citrus Owls 20
Saturday, September 12, 2015 - 6 pm @ Cougar Stadium, Santa Clarita
CIT – Newton 9 yd pass from Meyette (Mendoza kick) 9:27 (0-7)
CIT – FG Mendoza 39 yds 13:38 (0-10)
COC – N.Jones 74 yd pass from Strange (Chadwick kick) 5:31 (7-10)
COC – Brown 89yd fumble return (Chadwick kick) 2:32 (14-10)
CIT – FG Mendoza 41 yds 11:27 (14-13)
COC – Hall 3 yd run (Chadwick kick) 8:27 (21-13)
COC – FG Chadwick 37 yds 6:39 (24-13)
COC – FG Chadwick 30 yds 7:45 (27-13)
CIT – Garcia 1 yd run (Mendoza kick) 4:04 (27-20)
COC – Brown 98 yd kickoff return (kick hit upright) 3:48 (33-20)
First Downs: Canyons 15 (7 rush, 7 pass, 1 penalty), Citrus 27 (7 rush, 18 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 31-93, Citrus 40-79
Passing Yds: Canyons 201, Citrus 341
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 14-32-1, Citrus 35-68-4
Return Yds: Canyons 219, Citrus 66
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 6-44, Citrus 1-5
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 1-1, Citrus 3-2
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 8-50, Citrus 3-28
Time of Possession: Canyons 22:53, Citrus 37:07
Rushing: COC 10-Dunn 6-46, 35-Hall 10-31, 13-Williams 6-16, 18-Moore 1-5, 34-Hamilton 4-1, 11-Werah 1-(-1), team 3-(-5); 25-Gonzalez 19-74, 24-Carney 6-27, 6-Garcia 1-1, 18-Meyette 14-(-23)
Passing: COC 10-Dunn 12-30-1-125; 3-Strange 1-1-0-74, 1 TD; 18-Moore 1-1-0-2; CIT 18-Meyette 35-68-4-341, 1 TD
Receiving: COC 81-N.Jones 6-116, 11-Werah 5-21, 3-Strange 2-58, 15-Tohill 1-6; CIT 14-Fields 8-101, 7-Newton 7-57, 4-Mastandrea 6-46, 25-Gonzalez 5-57, 13-Beltran 5-48, 8-Long 2-22, 2-Noskoff 1-5, 3-Patton 1-5
Interceptions-Ret Yds: COC 29-Porter 1-3, 19-Costleigh 1-0, 42-Oshiro 1-0, 48-Davenport 1-0; CIT 21-Edwards 1-7
Fum Rec-Ret Yds: COC 6-Brown 1-89, 92-Mealancon 1-0; CIT 96-Moore 1-0
Sacks-Yds: COC 62-Wells 2-18, 92-Mealancon 2-13, 22-Puebla 1-7, 80-Felkel 1-6; CIT 45-Wiley 1-5
Punters: COC 31-McKinney 7-40.7 avg; CIT 48-Mendoza 4-40.8 avg
Kick Returns: COC 6-Brown 1-98, 5-J.Smith 2-29; CIT 4-Mastandrea 2-44
Punt Returns: COC none; CIT 15-Tarin 2-15
Missed FG: COC none; CIT 48-Mendoza 47 yds (wide left), 41 yds (wide left)
Notes: Canyons entered 1-0, ranked #4 in South, #8 in Calif and #16 in the nation (JCFootball.com). Citrus entered 0-1. COC's 1st TD came on a flanker option pass and was one of two COC 1st Downs in the 1st half. 45-Updegraft forced the fumble that Brown recovered and returned for the TD. Wiley forced the fumble that Moore recovered for Citrus. COC's 1st FG came after Mealancon's fumble recovery. COC had its hands team on the field after Citrus' last TD and Brown caught the kick at his own 2 but he returned it the distance to clinch the win.