But for more than three quarters, this one was very much up for grabs. The heavily-favored Cougars (ranked #1 in Southern California by the COA and #2 in the nation by JC Grid-Wire) posted some very impressive numbers, generating 492 yards of offense, but the game was tied until the final seconds of the third quarter. And though the Raiders were unable to sustain an offensive attack, finishing with just 157 total yards of offense, the game was in doubt until a pair of COC touchdowns 55 seconds apart midway through the fourth quarter finally put the home team in control.
Early on, Moorpark nearly scored the game's first points, but came away empty. It began when Moorpark punter Felipe Macias' kick rolled dead at the Cougars' 1-yard line. Three COC offensive plays netted just a single yard, and when Cougar punter Jonathan Johnson had trouble with the snap, he was fortunate to get even a short kick away. And it was indeed a short kick, traveling just 17 yards and giving the Raiders the ball at the COC 19. However, the Cougar defense stood strong, and when Joey LaRocque sacked Moorpark QB Cam Merrill for a 4-yard loss on 3rd down, the Raiders had to settle for a 37-yard field goal attempt. And when Macias' kick went wide to the right, the game remained scoreless.
From there, the Cougars drove down the field to take a 7-0 lead. Marquez finished the 11-play, 78-yard drive with an 11-yard scamper with 3:46 left in the first quarter. When Moorpark got the ball back, the Raiders managed just a single first down before punting again. And once again, COC drove down the field and deep into Raider territory. Following a 36-yard pass from Marquez to Terence Scott that got the ball to the Moorpark 15, COC handed the ball to FB Sean Edwards, who plowed through the pile and tried for a few extra yards.
And suddenly, the game changed. While Edwards struggled for the extra yard, Moorpark LB Richard Martinez snatched the ball from his hands and began running the other way. At first, it seemed only a couple of his teammates realized he had the ball. But despite the big head start, Martinez was stopped just short of the end zone by a hustling Chad Garrett, who brought him down at the 2-yard line. At first, it looked like Garrett's extra effort had indeed saved COC's lead as three Moorpark plays gained just a single yard. But on 4th and goal, RB Cliff Cardwell powered through the pile for the score, tying the game.
After that, the fired-up Raiders stopped the COC offense after a single first down, and the offense drove 66 yards to take a 14-7 lead. The big play was a 39-yard pass from Merrill to Tony Washington that got the ball to the COC 23-yard line. Four plays later, Merrill threw an 8-yard TD pass to Nick Bawden to give Moorpark a lead with 6:02 left before halftime and stun the partisan COC crowd.
As soon as COC got the ball back, the Cougar offense wasted little time in evening the score once again. A 16-yard run by Brandon Clayton nearly ended in disaster for COC when he lost the ball, but an alert Fernel Vasquez recovered the ball for the Cougars. And on the next play, Marquez threw a 42-yard pass to Shane Morales, getting the ball to the Moorpark 17. A bad snap resulted in a 15-yard loss on the next play, but Marquez got all that back and more with a 24-yard screen pass to Clayton, giving COC first and goal. Two plays later, Clayton scored from 4 yards out to tie the game 14-14. That's the way it remained at halftime, though COC's Johnson narrowly missed a 51-yard field goal attempt as the first half ended. His kick was long enough, but sailed just outside the right goal post, keeping the game tied.
Nearly the entire third quarter went scoreless and the defenses flexed their muscles. COC took the second-half kickoff, but a fumble by Marquez was recovered by Moorpark's Troy Lewis at the Raider 25. But the Moorpark offense failed to get a single first down, and the Raiders had to punt. Then COC also went 3-and-out, which was followed by a 3-and-out by Moorpark. Then the Raiders' Daniel Tromello intercepted a Marquez pass at his own 14 and returned it to the 28. But the Raiders held the ball only briefly before the COC returned the favor as B.T. Walker intercepted a Merrill pass near midfield.
And that last turnover began the sequence that put COC in control of the game. Starting at the Moorpark 47, the COC offense went on a 12-play drive that covered 37 yards before stalling at the Raider 10-yard line. On came Johnson, who kicked a 27-yard field goal with 9 seconds left in the third quarter, putting COC ahead, 17-14.
And moments later, COC would take control of the game and build a 17-point lead with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. After falling behind, Moorpark drove to midfield before a Merrill pass was intercepted by COC's Troy Nolan, who returned the ball 30 yards to the Moorpark 44. Seven plays later, Marquez scored on a 1-yard run to give the Cougars a more comfortable 10-point margin. And moments later, after Moorpark received the ensuing kickoff, the COC defense put the game out of reach. On first down, LaRocque blitzed and sacked Merrill for a 9-yard loss. And on second down, Allen Walker stepped in front of a Merrill pass, made the interception, and returned it 11 yards for a score, making it a three-score game at 31-14 and all but assuring the Cougars of the win.
For the Cougars, Marquez was outstanding, completing 17 of 28 passes for 239 yards and rushing for 78 yards on 17 carries (93 yards on 14 carries if sacks are subtracted out) and a pair of TDs. Clayton added 63 yards on 10 carries and also scored a touchdown. In all, the Cougar rushers combined for 253 yards, which helped COC control the ball for 18:26 of the 30 minutes in the second half. Scott led all receivers with 6 catches for 86 yards while Morales added 4 catches for 81 yards. And on defense, it all began with LaRocque, who terrorized the Moorpark backfield and registered 2 of the Cougars' 5 sacks. A. Walker also had a sack, and his interception and return clinched the win for COC.
Moorpark was led by Merrill, who completed 10 of 29 passes for 138 yards and a TD, but also threw 3 interceptions. Cardwell rushed for 54 yards and a TD. But the Moorpark offense was held to just 157 yards, including a measly 19 yards on the ground. Bawsen led Raider receivers with 3 catches for 41 yards and a score.
For COC, it was their 18th straight win overall, their 32nd straight regular season win, their 31st straight home win and their 43rd straight WSC win. Next week will present a formidable challenge as the Cougars travel to Bakersfield to take on the arch-rival Bakersfield Renegades in a game that will in all likelihood decide the WSC-Northern Division championship (though there are still 5 more games to play after next week, COC and Bakersfield are easily the two highest-ranked teams in the division).
Moorpark will return home next week and host Santa Barbara City College.
Rushing: C: 4-Marquez 17-78, 21-Clayton 10-63, 15-Stuart 6-41, 5-Edwards 5-39, 20-Patterson 4-38, 7-Dove 3-9, team 1-(-15) M: 7-Cardwell 23-54, 30-Blum 2-1, 19-M.Morris 1-(-5), 16-Merrill 7-(-31)
Passing: C: 4-Marquez 17-28-1-239 M: 16-Merrill 10-29-3-138, 1 TD
Receiving: C: 83-Scott 6-86, 13-Morales 4-81, 11-Garrett 2-18, 21-Clayton 1-24, 19-Omahen 1-12, 80-Silva 1-9, 5-Edwards 1-7, 15-Stuart 1-2 M: 41-Bawden 3-45, 88-Washington 2-49, 27-Faul 2-23, 30-Blum 2-7, 10-Hammond 1-14
Punters: C: 22-Johnson 3-35.7 avg M: 90-Macias 6-39.8 avg
Kick Ret: C: 1-Holmes 2-47, 9-Tryon 1-27 M: 19-M.Morris 3-64, 2-Lewis 1-24, 30-Blum 1-6
Punt Ret: C: 1-Holmes 3-13 M: 2-Lewis 1-0
Int-Ret Yds: C: 8-B.Walker 1-5, 10-A.Walker 1-11, 14-Nolan 1-30 M: 16-Tromello 1-14
Fum Rec-Ret: C: none M: 2-Lewis 1-0, 45-R.Martinez 1-86
Sacks: C: 42-LaRocque 2, 10-A.Walker, 61-Perry, 90-Wilson M: 1-Stuart 1½, 49-Wise, 84-Brown ½
Missed FG: C: 22-Johnson 51 yds (wide right) M: 90-Macias 39 yds (wide left)
Notes: Canyons entered 3-0, #1 in South, #2 JC Grid-Wire. Moorpark entered 2-1, #12 in South. Martinez snatched the ball from Edwards, then returned it to the 2 (Garrett chased him down) to set up Moorpark's 1st TD. COC's 17 pts in the 2nd half all came off Moorpark turnovers – the FG followed B. Walker's int. and the 3rd TD came after Nolan's int. COC had the ball for 18:26 of the second half. This is COC's 18th straight win overall, their 32nd straight regular season win, their 31st straight home win and their 43rd straight WSC win.
C – Marquez 11 yd run (Johnson kick) 3:46 -- 7-0
M – Cardwell 1 yd run (Macias kick) 12:07 - -7-7
M – Bawden 8 yd pass from Merrill (Macias kick) 6:02 -- 7-14
C – Clayton 4 yd run (Johnson kick) 3:03 -- 14-14
C – FG Johnson 27 yds 0:09 -- 17-14
C – Marquez 1 yd run (Johnson kick) 10:35 -- 24-14
C – A.Walker 11 yd interception return (Johnson kick) 9:40 -- 31-14
|First Downs||26 (15 run; 11 pass)||13 (3 run; 7 pass; 3 penalty)|
|Rushes – Yards||46-253||33-19|
|Comp - Att – Int||17-28-1||10-29-3|
|Sacks – Yards||5-31||3-15|
|Fumbles – Lost||5-2||3-0|
|Penalties – Yards||12-99||1-5|
|Time of Possession||33:04||26:56|