It was a cold, windy night in Valencia, and the Grossmont defense made it even colder for the host Cougars and their fans. Focusing on containing WSC-North Player of the Year Marquez, the Griffin defense forced mistake after mistake from the Cougar offense. Meanwhile, the Grossmont offense, led by Hutsona, piled up 292 yards on 62 carries on the ground, while QB Reilly Murphy threw a pair of touchdown passes to Chris Johnson.
But the Cougars didn't go down easily. Trailing 24-7 entering the final quarter, COC rallied to close the gap to just 5 behind Marquez, who ran for one touchdown and threw a 77-yard pass to Terence Scott for another. But after the final touchdown, Hutsona gained a pair of first downs, allowing Grossmont to run out the final three minutes and claim the victory.
Grossmont took the lead late in the first quarter on Murphy's first touchdown pass to Johnson. The 22-yard scoring play capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive and put the Griffins ahead, 7-0, with just 14 seconds left in the opening quarter. And when COC got the ball back, they held it for just two plays before Marquez and Brandon Clayton missed connections on a handoff, and the ball hit the turf. Brian Stanbra recovered for Grossmont at the 34. Four plays later, Murphy hit Johnson for a 22-yard TD pass to push Grossmont's lead to 14-0.
And at that point, the COC offense was having trouble against the Grossmont defense. The next drive reached the Griffin 39, but three plays later the Cougars faced a 4th and 4th and 5 from the 42 and were forced to punt. Then Grossmont drove into Canyons' territory, and appeared ready to extend its lead even further.
But then the COC defense created its own offense when Michael Carr intercepted a Murphy pass at his own 42 yard line and returned it the distance for a touchdown. Carr caught the pass in stride, eluded a would-be tackler and sped down the left sideline for the score. It was his third touchdown on interception returns this season, and it cut the Grossmont lead in half to 14-7.
Before the half was over, however, the Griffins would again have a two-score lead. On their next drive, the Griffins marched into COC territory, getting a first down at the Cougar 28 after a 16-yard pass from Murphy to Michael Omar. Three plays later, the Griffins faced a 4th and 3, so on came Jared Ballman to attempt a 38-yard field goal. Ballman had missed a 39-yard attempt in the first quarter, but that was into the stiff wind; this 38-yard attempt was good with plenty of distance to spare, making it 17-7 Grossmont with 5:39 left in the first half.
And that's where the score remained at halftime, as the teams combined for a sloppy final 5:39 of the second quarter. Each team lost two fumbles and turned the ball over once on downs. But despite all of that, neither team was able to score so Grossmont took a 10-point lead into the locker rooms at intermission.
In the third quarter, COC received the kickoff but soon enough Grossmont had the ball again when Randy Horn of Grossmont recovered a Marquez fumble at the Cougar 48. Eight plays later, Kevin Smith scored on a 2-yard run to cap the short drive and push Grossmont's lead to 24-7 just over 5 minutes into the third quarter.
That would be Grossmont's final scoring of the day, but the Griffin defense made sure the 24 points would be enough. On COC's next drive, Adam Cooper intercepted a Marquez pass. On the next COC drive, punter Jonathan Johnson attempted a pass on a fake punt play; the Grossmont defense quickly diagnosed the play and covered the receiver, and the pass fell incomplete. And on the next drive, Brett St. James intercepted a Marquez pass, giving Grossmont the ball once again with 13:04 left in the game.
But the Cougar defense forced another Grossmont punt, and then COC got the big play it needed to get back into the game. Punt returner Ja Vonte Holmes took a kick at his own 44, broke a couple of tackles and sped towards the left sideline. By the time he was knocked out of bounds, Holmes had returned the ball 41 yards to the Grossmont 15, and had given the Cougars the chance they were waiting for. On the very next play, Marquez scored on a keeper for COC's first offensive touchdown of the game to close the margin to 24-13 with 11:31 left.
Though Grossmont managed to drive to midfield on its next possession and take nearly 5 minutes off the clock, the COC defense forced another punt. And then COC got another big play when Marquez threw to Scott for 39 yards, getting the ball to the Grossmont 36. But that drive ended four plays later when a blitzing Geoffrey Howard sacked Marquez for a 5-yard loss on 4th and 11 from the 37. Though Grossmont had to punt after running just three plays, Ballman's high kick forced Holmes to make a fair catch at his own 23. Grossmont still led by 11 at 24-13, and just 3:12 remained in the game.
But COC wasn't done just yet. On the very next play, Marquez lofted a pass down the right sideline to a flying Scott, who got behind the defense, caught the ball in stride and easily outran any pursuers on a 77-yard touchdown pass. Just that quickly, it was a one-score game again. The Cougars appeared to pull to within three points after Marquez completed a pass to Chad Garrett for the 2-point conversion, but that play was wiped out by a holding penalty and on the replay a Marquez pass fell incomplete. That left the score 24-19 with exactly three minutes remaining in the game.
COC elected to kick the ball deep, rather than try the onsides kick, and hope the defense could force a punt and give the Cougars one more chance. But thanks to Hutsona and the Grossmont offensive line, that chance never came. COC used its timeouts on the first series, and forced a 3rd and 5, but Hustona gained 10 yards on the next carry for a first down. Then, as the clock continued to wind down, the Griffins faced a 2nd and 5 at the 42. But Hutsona again broke through the COC defense. This time the gain was 23 yards, enough for another first down, which allowed Grossmont to run out the clock.
With the win, Grossmont advances to the state championship game for the second time in the last three years. Grossmont also avenges a 32-22 loss to COC earlier this season, as well as a 30-0 loss in the playoffs last season. The Griffins now have the chance to avenge a 38-35 loss to CCSF in the 2003 championship game in which Grossmont rallied from a 21-point deficit to take a 35-31 lead late in the game only to see CCSF score the winning touchdown with 33 seconds remaining.
And this game was far different from the first COC-Grossmont matchup back in December. That night, COC held the ball for 43:18, running 77 offensive plays and never turning the ball over once. And Grossmont managed just 68 yards rushing and 151 yards of total offense. Tonight, COC had the ball just 25:32 and had 7 turnovers on just 61 offensive plays. Meanwhile, Grossmont rolled up 401 yards of offense including a punishing 292 yards on the ground.
The loss ends a 26-game winning streak for Canyons, and denies them a chance to repeat as state and national champions. The loss also ends a 36-game winning streak for COC at Cougar Stadium. Not coincidentally, the last team to beat COC was Grossmont, which topped the Cougars, 14-10, in 2003.
Saturday, December 3, 2005 - 7 p.m.
at Cougar Stadium, Valencia, CA
The 2005 Southern California Championship
Grossmont College (Griffins) 24
College of the Canyons (Cougars) 19
G – C. Johnson 22 yd pass from Murphy (Ballman kick) 0:14 -- 7-0
G – C. Johnson 20 yd pass from Murphy (Ballman kick) 14:08 -- 14-0
C – Carr 58 yd interception return (J. Johnson kick) 8:26 -- 14-7
G – FG Ballman 38 yds 5:39 -- 17-7
G – Smith 2 yd run (Ballman kick) 9:53 -- 24-7
C – Marquez 15 yd run (kick wide right) 11:31 -- 24-13
C – Scott 77 yd pass from Marquez (pass incomplete) 3:00 -- 24-19
|First Downs||16 (8 run; 8 pass)||19 (13 run; 6 pass)|
|Rushes – Yards||35-94||62-292|
|Comp - Att – Int||14-26-3||8-25-2|
|Sacks – Yards||3-24||6-45|
|Fumbles – Lost||4-4||1-1|
|Penalties – Yards||2-10||7-60|
|Time of Possession||25:32||34:28|
Rushing: C: 4-Marquez 24-69, 5-Edwards 3-14, 21-Clayton 7-8, 83-Scott 1-3 G: 2-Hutsona 31-181, 25-Smith 16-70, 21-Gardner 5-19, 20-Brunker 1-10, 10-Murphy 7-10, 35-Tuiofu 1-4, team 1-(-2)
Passing: C: 4-Marquez 14-25-3-228, 1 TD; 22-Johnson 0-1-0-0 G: 10-Murphy 8-25-2-109, 2 TDs
Receiving: C: 83-Scott 5-132, 13-Morales 4-35, 11-Garrett 2-37, 80-Silva 1-16, 5-Edwards 1-10, 21-Clayton 1-(-2) G: 5-Omar 4-53, 83-C.Johnson 3-46, 89-Mareko 1-10
Int-Ret Yds: C: 14-Nolan 1-0, 25-Carr 1-58 G: 8-Cooper 2-26, 4-St. James 1-(-3)
Sacks: C: 44-Cordray 2, 35-Anderson G: 59-Stanbra 2, 1-Mixon, 39-Howard, 96-Flynn, 44-Mauga ½, 52-Butler ½
Punters: C: 22-Johnson 3-35.0 avg. G: 56-Ballman 6-29.8 avg
Kick Ret: C: 9-Tryon 2-41 G: 2-Hutsona 2-40, 33-Horn 1-6
Punt Ret: C: 1-Holmes 1-41 G: none
Missed FG: C: 22-Johnson 36 yds (wide left) G: 56-Ballman 39 yds (short – into wind)
Notes: Both teams are now 12-1. Grossmont advances to meet CC San Francisco in the state championship game next Saturday in Fresno. The loss snaps Canyons' 26-game winning streak and 36-game home winning streak. It was quite cold and windy, which didn't help Marquez hold onto the ball (he had 3 fumbles – all recovered by Grossmont). Stanbra's fumble recovery set up Grossmont's 2nd TD. Horn's fumble recovery set up Grossmont's 3rd TD. The win avenges not only a 32-22 loss to COC earlier this season but also a 30-0 loss to COC in the 2004 playoffs. The last team to beat COC before tonight was also Grossmont, 14-10, in the 2003 playoffs.