The win means the Cougars (11-0) will host defending SoCal champion Grossmont (11-0) November 28th in the second round of the playoffs.
It was a defensive struggle, which was a bit of a surprise since COC had scored at least 38 points in 8 of its 10 games this year, and El Camino had scored at least 31 points in each of its last 4 games. But the defenses were in control for most of the night, and when the wind picked up and some rain began to fall in the third quarter, it only helped the defenses that much more. It was still 7-0 midway through the fourth quarter before the host Cougars scored a pair of late touchdowns to put the game away.
When the game began, each team seemed able to move the ball on its first possession of the game. COC began the game at its own 20 but an 11-yard run by QB Cory Miles got the Cougars a quick first down. A 5-yard pass to Caldwell and an 8-yard pass to TE Jason Lance gave COC another first down at their own 44. But then the drive stalled, and the Cougars had to punt. When El Camino got the ball, they too got the ball near midfield before having to punt. A 14-yard pass from QB Don Poole to WR Nick Haley got the Warriors to their own 43, and that pair combined for a 10-yard pass moments later to get the ball into COC territory. But a holding penalty helped stop the drive, and they too had to punt. Still, it looked as though each team's offense was capable of moving the ball.
And when Canyons got the ball back, they did move the ball, covering 58 yards in 7 plays to take the lead. Punt return man Ro Marshall got things started when he returned Matt Dragich's punt 27 yards to the COC 42 (though a block-in-the-back penalty moved the ball back to the 32). After a 3-yard run by MIles, COC moved into El Camino territory when Miles threw to Tyrell Smith for 17 yards and a first down. RB Gerrell Cain then rushed for 9 yards, and an encroachment penalty on El Camino moved the ball to the Warrior 34. Then Miles threw to WR Chad Garrett for 15 yards and another first down. A pass to WR Billy Omahen gained just 1 yard, but on the next play RB Brandon Clayton took the handoff around the right side and got all the way to the 2 before being forced out of bounds. On the next play, Caldwell powered into the end zone to give COC a 7-0 lead.
And then the defenses took over. Neither team would score again until just 8:22 remained in the fourth quarter.
El Camino's next drive ended at the Canyons 43 when Brian Flowers ran smack into the line and was stopped for no gain on 3rd and 3, forcing a punt. Then Canyons went 3-and-out before punting. An 11-yard return by Haley gave ECC the ball at the COC 47 and a 17-yard pass to William Boyd got the Warriors to the 30. Following a sack by COC's Dennis Ellis that threw Poole for an 8-yard loss, ECC got a little lucky. On the next play, Poole went back to pass but was leveled by COC's Nate Whittier just as he threw. The ball went almost straight up in the air, but Haley circled back and managed to make the catch around the line of scrimmage, turn and run for a 15-yard gain. But the drive ended at the 23 when Haley's next 2 passes were knocked away by COC's Kris Theus (on 3rd down) and Jerrod Perry (on 4th down).
After an exchange of punts, COC went on a long drive that threatened to extend their lead before halftime. The drive took 16 plays and nearly 7 minutes, but it ended abruptly when Miles' 3rd down pass from the 14 was intercepted in the end zone by El Camino's Charles Clavens. That left the score 7-0 at intermission.
In the third quarter neither team was able to score, but El Camino seemed to be getting the better of the play. Their offense was holding the ball longer than COC's, and as the temperature dipped, the rain fell and the winds picked up, it looked like ECC's power game could carry the day for the Warriors. After being pinned at their own 6 following a pair of penalties, they drove to their own 37 on their first drive. And after a punt by COC's Andrew Kearney was downed at the ECC 6, the Warriors again drove to their 35. Plus, when that second drive stalled, punter Dragich booted the ball into the end zone for a 65-yard kick. And after a sack by ECC's Rick Talanoa on 3rd down forced another COC punt, El Camino got the ball at midfield, poised to tie the game.
It turned out to be the turning point of the game as El Camino had the momentum and seemed ready to take over the game. A 13-yard pass from Poole to WR Mike Sanford got the Warriors to the 35 and gave them a first down. The next play was a 4-yard gain by RB Damian Bryant. Then on second down Nick Alaimalo gained 3 yards to the 28. But on third down, the COC defense stiffened, and Poole's pass was broken up by Ro Marshall, making it 4th and 3 at the 28. And on fourth down, Poole was under pressure and threw behind Sanford, and when the ball hit the turf, COC took over on downs at the 28.
Not only had COC survived that threat, but the offense seemed inspired by that defensive stand and went on a 14-play, 72-yard drive that put the Cougars in control of the game. A 5-yard run by Cain got things started, and a 6-yard run by Clayton got the Cougars a first down. There were no big plays on this drive as the longest play was for just 10 yards. But the Cougars marched steadily down the field, getting first downs and eating away at the clock. The Cougars had taken possession with 27 seconds left in the third quarter, but this drive would chew up nearly half of the fourth quarter. Finally, Caldwell powered across the goal line from 2 yards out to increase COC's lead to 14-0. By that time, just 8:22 remained on the clock and the COC defense had had plenty of time to rest.
When El Camino got the ball back, backup QB Nick Emmons came on for Poole, who had taken several very hard hits from the Cougar defense. But Emmons fared no better, getting sacked by David Stanton on first down, escaping an Ellis sack by running for no gain on second down and throwing an incomplete pass on third down. After a Dragich punt, COC got the ball back with 6:34 left and a 14-point lead.
All they needed to do was keep running the ball, gain first downs and avoid turnovers to run out the clock. They succeeded in getting a first down on a 5-yard run by Cain. But 2 plays later, Miles' throw was intercepted by El Camino's Reggie Doucet at the COC 49.
With 2:55 left on the clock, Poole reentered the game to try to rally the Warriors one last time. But the COC defense was more than up to the task. On first down, Poole was sacked by LB Perry for a 9-yard loss. Then on second down, Whittier chased him down and sacked him for a 7-yard loss. And on third down, DE Ellis had the honors, sacking Poole for another 7-yard loss. Then came an unsportsmanlike penalty on a frustrated ECC squad, and another incomplete pass by Poole. That gave COC the ball at the 14. Three plays later, all runs by Clayton, COC had another touchdown to account for the final 21-0 score. On the ensuing kickoff, El Camino tried a gadget play on the return; emulating Cal in the 1982 Big Game (and Westlake High School earlier this season), they lateralled the ball several times. But the ploy failed to gain any ground, and on the fourth pitch the ball fell to the turf. COC recovered the ball and ran out the clock, ending the game.
There weren't a lot of offensive statistics to note, but COC's Jason Lance had a strong game with 6 catches for 87 yards. QB Miles completed 18 of 30 passes for 161 yards and 2 interceptions. Clayton led all rushers with 65 yards on 11 carries and a score. For El Camino, Poole completed 9 of 24 passes for 99 yards, while Haley led Warrior receivers with 4 catches for 43 yards. Flowers led ECC with 51 yards rushing on 13 carries. But the Warriors amassed just 165 yards and 12 first downs, and most importantly didn't score a point.
In a game that featured two of the top receivers in California, that matchup proved to be anticlimactic. All-American Tyrell Smith had just 4 catches for 31 yards for COC, thanks largely to the blanketing coverage by ECC's Steven Akarim. But El Camino's Laferrell Payne didn't even make a catch in the game. A host of Cougars can rightly claim credit for that, but CB Ro Marshall seemed to be covering him the most. In any case, shutting down a receiver of Payne's caliber went a long way in getting the win for COC. As did the relentless pressure by COC on Poole. Not only did the Cougar defense amass 6 sacks, 2 by Ellis, but they also administered several punishing hits on the ECC passer. Nate Whittier in particular seemed to spend much of the game chasing Poole around the ECC backfield and punishing him with devastating hits.
For COC, it was their 11th win of the season and it gives them the chance to avenge their only loss in 2003 next week when they host Grossmont in the second round of the playoffs. El Camino finishes the season 8-3. And this was the first time El Camino has been shut out in a postseason game since Coach John Featherstone took over in 1985.
C – Caldwell 2 yd run (Tompkins kick) 4:02 -- 7-0
C – Caldwell 2 yd run (Tompkins kick) 8:22 -- 14-0
C – Clayton 5 yd run (Tompkins kick) 0:24 -- 21-0
|Team Statistics:||Canyons||El Camino|
|First Downs||19 (11 run; 7 pass; 1 penalty)||12 (4 run; 6 pass; 2 penalty)|
|Rushes – Yards||36-137||30-66|
|Comp - Att – Int||18-30-2||9-26-1|
|Sacks – Yards||6-40||2-6|
|Fumbles – Lost||3-0||2-1|
|Penalties – Yards||9-60||9-73|
|Time of Possession||31:55||28:05|
Rushing: C: 24-Clayton 11-65, 30-Cain 5-35, 8-Miles 9-27, 29-Caldwell 10-12, team 1-(-2) EC: 4-Flowers 13-51, 31-Alaimalo 4-16, 6-Bryant 3-13, 35-Moala 1-2, 12-Emmons 2-(-3), 3-Poole 7-(-13)
Passing: C: 8-Miles 18-30-2-161 EC: 3-Poole 9-24-1-99, 12-Emmons 0-1-0-0, 18-Payne 0-1-0-0
Receiving: C: 6-Lance 6-87, 7-T.Smith 4-31, 11-Garrett 2-18, 29-Caldwell 2-15, 24-Clayton 2-2, 13-Stearns 1-7, 19-Omahen 1-1 EC: 2-Haley 4-43, 17-Sanford 2-26, 5-Boyd 1-17, 4-Flowers 1-16, 6-Bryant 1-(-3)
Int-Ret Yds: C: 14-Nolan 1-0 EC: 1-Charles 1-0, 24-Doucet 1-2
Sacks-Yds: C: 44-Ellis 2-15, 32-Perry 1-9, 38-Whittier 1-7, 45-Celestine 1-6, 18-Stanton 1-3 EC: 91-Talanoa 1-5, 87-Miller 1-1
Punters: C: 17-Kearney 5-39.2 avg EC: 13-Dragich 4-46.8 avg
Kick Ret: C: none EC: 5-Boyd 1-22, 2-Haley 1-14, team 1-(-8)
Punt Ret: C: 2-Marshall 2-34 EC: 2-Haley 4-21
Notes: Canyons entered 10-0, #2 seed in SoCal playoffs; El Camino entered 8-2, #7 seed. This is the first shutout in COC postseason history. ECC got to the COC 23 in the first half and the COC 28 in the second half. Those drives were the closest ECC came to scoring, and they turned the ball over on downs each time. Emmons played 1 series in the 4th quarter at QB for ECC. Payne's pass was on a trick play. 2-Marshall covered Payne much of the night. 11-Akarim covered T.Smith much of the night. ECC tried a multi-lateral Cal ‘82-type play on their last kickoff returned but fumbled and COC recovered and ran out the clock.