Canyons Beats Palomar & Moves to 2nd Round

Jason Beck passed for 244 yds, rushed for 34 and caught a 23-yd TD pass to lead host College of the Canyons (11-0) past Palomar (8-3) as the Cougars beat the Comets for the second time in 2003 and earned a trip to Grossmont for a second-round playoff game November 29th. Marcus Crawford scored a pair of rushing TDs, and Roshawn Marshall had a key interception in the Cougars' win at Cougar Stadium November 22nd.

Just as in their 21-15 win on September 13th, Canyons used a trick play to get their first score of the night. After a scoreless first quarter, in which the teams combined for 3 punts, COC got on the board on the first play of the second quarter. RB Bobby Stanley took the pitch from QB Beck and started running towards the right sideline. However, instead of continuing around the right end, Stanley pulled up and threw the ball back to Beck, who was wide open along the left sideline. Beck covered 23 yds and dove into the corner of the end zone to give COC a lead they would hold the rest of the game. In the first meeting, COC's WR Terrell Stanley had thrown a pass on a flanker option play to put the Cougars in position for their first TD; this time it was a different Stanley, but again it was a big play for Canyons.

When Palomar got the ball back, QB Tony Paoli completed a 14-yd pass to WR Devin Link to the Comet 34. But three plays and one holding penalty later, Palomar faced a 4th and 20 from their own 24 and lined up to punt. However, the snap was low, and in fielding the bouncing ball, punter Ryan Hotchkiss went to the ground and was ruled down at the 10. Three plays later, COC's Marcus Crawford ran the ball in from 2 yds out to give the Cougars a 14-0 lead.

Palomar answered back with a TD on their next drive to close the gap to 14-7. First Paoli hooked up with WR Caleb Spencer on a 21-yd pass to get the ball into Canyons territory, and then on the next play Paoli again threw the ball to Spencer, this time for a 43-yd TD pass that got the Comets on the board.

When COC got the ball back, they drove to their own 40 before having to punt, and Josh Cummings' 56-yd punt rolled dead at the 4-yard line. Three plays later, Palomar was faced with a punting situation, and it nearly ended in disaster as Hotchkiss nearly missed the ball on his kick. The result was an ugly end-over-end punt that rolled dead at the Palomar 33. COC got the ball another 11 yds before Cummings came on to try a 39-yd field goal, well within his range. But the kick was deflected by Palomar's DT Moamoa Vaeao, keeping the score 14-7.

Palomar then drove into Canyons territory, and it was the Paoli-to-Spencer combination that again moved the ball. A 13-yd pass got the ball to the 35, and then a 42-yd pass got the Comets to the COC 23-yard line. But then the drive stalled, and on came Ryan Lux to try what appeared to be an easy 33-yd field goal attempt. However, COC's DE Domata Peko broke through and blocked the kick, keeping the score 14-7.

COC had 28 seconds left to drive for another score before halftime, and a 20-yd pass from Beck to Brackett got the ball to the COC 40. But on the next play, Palomar's Josh Gomez intercepted Beck's pass down the left hashmark, giving Palomar the ball with 9 seconds left. On the next play, Paoli's pass was intercepted by COC's Suiava Peko, who raced down the left sideline towards the end zone. Time expired as he ran, and when Palomar managed to force him out of bounds at the 2-yard line, the score stayed 14-7 at the break.

Each team punted on its first possession of the second half. COC then took possession at its own 26 and embarked on a 19-play drive that chewed over 8 minutes off the clock. The longest play was a 16-yd pass from Beck to Jeremy Boyle that got the ball to the Palomar 26. Six plays later, the drive stalled at the 5 and on came Cummings to try a 22-yd field goal. This time the kick sailed over the Palomar defense and through the goal posts, extending COC's lead to 17-7 with 2:35 left in the third quarter.

Palomar closed the gap on another Paoli-to-Spencer pass less than a minute into the fourth quarter. A 15-yd pass from Paoli to WR Gene Bass had gotten the ball into Cougar territory, and four plays later Paoli connected with Spencer on a 28-yd TD pass that made it 17-14. With 14:16 remaining, it was anyone's game and the possibility of overtime, which was part of the Canyons-Palomar game in September, loomed large.

And it looked like Palomar had the momentum when COC had to punt on 4th and 14 moments later. And when Cummings' punt went only 30 yds to the Cougar 42, Palomar was nearly in field goal range. But the COC defense held, with LB Ulysses Ramirez sacking Paoli for a 7-yd loss on 2nd down, forcing another punt. However, the COC offense was again unable to move the ball and faced a 4th down at their own 36. Cummings' punt traveled 41 yds, but Palomar's Speedy Anthony returned the ball 14 yds to the Comet 37, giving Palomar another chance to tie or go ahead with 9:07 left.

That's when the COC defense made the play that started the turnaround. After RB Lawrence Letuli was stopped for no gain on first down, Paoli went back to pass on second down. He threw deep downfield, but when the ball came down it landed in the hands of COC's Rashawn Marshall at the Cougar 17. The momentum shift continued moments later when, on a 3rd and 10 play, Beck hooked up with Terrell Stanley for a 53-yd pass play that got COC a first down and moved the ball to the Palomar 30. From there, a 9-yd run by Gerrell Cain and a 4-yd run by Beck got the ball to the Comet 17. Beck was sacked for a 10-yd loss on the next play, but then a defensive holding penalty moved the ball back to the 17 and gave COC a first down. On the next play, Beck scrambled down the left sideline for a 15-yd gain, getting the ball to the 2-yard line. Crawford powered the ball across the goal line moments later to give Canyons a 24-14 edge with just under 5 minutes remaining.

Palomar tried to rally, but the drive stalled near midfield. On 4th and 7 from the COC 44, Paoli was flushed from the pocket and tried to scramble for the first down, but was met by a wall of COC defenders just before the first down marker and was ruled down about a foot short of the first down, giving the ball back to the Cougars. Though the Cougars failed to get a first down, they burned another minute off the clock and forced Palomar to use their last 2 timeouts to keep more time from running off. When Palomar finally got the ball back, they trailed by 10 points and had just 2:02 to make up the difference, and no timeouts left.

The Comets drove into Canyons territory, but never really threatened to pull off the miracle comeback. And when DB Albert Griffin intercepted Paoli's final pass of the night with 12 seconds left, victory was assured for the Cougars.

For Canyons, Beck was the primary force on offense, leading the team in passing and rushing yds. If sacks are subtracted out, he passed for 244 yds, rushed for 51 and caught a pass for 23 more. Four COC receivers caught 4 passes each: Trevor Brackett (75 yds), Terrell Stanley (75 yds), Jeremy Boyle (53 yds) and L. Ray Hawkins (35 yds). The COC defense allowed Palomar just 73 yds rushing on the night, and finished with 4 sacks and 3 interceptions.

Palomar's Paoli completed 16 of 38 passes for 268 yds and 2 TDs, but also had 3 interceptions. Most of the production passing was to WR Caleb Spencer, who had 8 catches for 176 yds and both Palomar TDs. Lawrence Letuli led Palomar rushers, but was held to just 39 yds on 12 carries. Speedy Anthony excelled on returns, running back a pair of kickoffs for 67 yds and a pair of punts for 20 yds. DE Nick Badin had 1-1/2 sacks.


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