The win ends Canyons' 44-game WSC winning streak, which dated back to 2000, and could mean a changing of the guard atop the WSC Northern Division.
It was an impressive performance not only by the Moorpark offense, which saw Merrill throw to Conrad Meadows and Tony Washington 7 times each for more than 150 yards apiece, but also for the Raider defense. In the second half, Canyons' only touchdown came after a recovery of a loose ball on the kickoff gave them the ball at the Moorpark 12. And in the most important series of the game, the Moorpark defense forced a 4th down that became a fumble recovery by the Raiders' Tyler Morris that sealed the win with 1:52 remaining in the game.
Early on, however, it looked as though it might be the usual rout by Canyons. The Cougars won the 2005 meeting, 31-14, and took the 2004 meeting, 59-13. So when they jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, it looked like more of the same. A 7-yard scoring run by Brian Stuart just 4:42 into the game got COC on the board, and Allen Walker narrowly missed adding to that lead when he couldn't quite hold onto an interception at the Moorpark 10 that would have easily been returned for a touchdown. A 39-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Miramontes to Terence Scott later in the quarter made it 14-0. The pass to Scott capped an amazing 3-play, 97-yard "drive" that also featured a 55-yard run by Thomas Kyle.
The turning point came at the end of the Cougars' next possession. Facing a fourth and 8 at their own 21, the Cougars had Chris Chalmers drop back to punt. But the snap was low, and when Chalmers tried to kick the ball, Moorpark's Lee Martin blocked the kick. Wesley Beavers picked up the bouncing ball at the Cougar 10 and carried it into the end zone for the score, narrowing the Canyons' lead to 14-7 and getting the Raiders into the game.
And they got even closer the next time the Moorpark offense got the ball. After another Cougar punt (that wasn't blocked), the Raiders got the ball at their own 20. After two incomplete passes, on third down Merrill threw to Washington for a sizeable gain. But that sizeable gain turned into a spectacular 80-yard touchdown play when Washington accelerated away from the COC defenders and sped down the middle of the field untouched for the score. The extra point try went wide left, but the Cougar lead was down to a single point.
Each team scored again before the end of the half, with the Cougars getting an 8-yard touchdown run from backup quarterback/wide receiver Ryan Whitcomb and the Raiders answering back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard pass from Merrill to Meadows with 9 seconds left before halftime. Moorpark elected to kick the extra point after that score, so it was 21-20 in favor of Canyons at intermission.
Moorpark was to receive the second half kickoff, but when Chalmers' kick fell to the turf just inside the 15-yard line, the Raiders chose to wait and see if the ball would bounce out of bounds. It didn't. And when COC's Walker raced down the field and recovered the free ball, the Cougars had possession at the Moorpark 12. Two plays later, Kyle scored from 8 yards out to push COC's lead to 8 at 28-20.
After a Moorpark punt, COC had another chance to score when it drove to the Moorpark 11-yard line. On 4th down and 1 from the 11, the Cougars tried to draw the Raider defense offside, but that ploy failed and COC was whistled for delay of game. On came the field goal unit for what appeared to be a 33-yard attempt. But when the ball was snapped, holder Whitcomb took the ball and tried to run for the first down instead. He was stopped at the 12, turning the ball back to Moorpark.
After each team punted again, the game-tying touchdown came suddenly. A penalty on a punt return pushed Moorpark back to its own 12-yard line. After a gain of one yard on first down, the Raiders got their second long touchdown of the game when Meadows got behind the Cougar secondary and Merrill hit him in stride with an 87-yard scoring pass. And on the conversion, Moorpark finally drew even when Merrill again threw to Meadows, this time in the middle of the field just across the goal line to tie the game at 28 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
The score was still tied when Moorpark got the ball at its own 39 with 12:09 left following another Canyons punt. A 16-yard pass to Washington got the Raiders across midfield, and a 19-yard pass to Meadows got the ball to the 21. A pass interference penalty on COC moved the ball to the 6, and two plays later Merrill threw to Banks for the touchdown that gave Moorpark its first lead of the game at 35-28.
But with 9:27 left in the game, that lead was far from safe. Each team punted again, and COC got the ball at its own 24 with 4:56 left. Facing the possibility of a third defeat in four games this season, the Cougars rallied, driving across midfield on a 22-yard pass from Miramontes to Scott and to the 15 on an 18-yard run by Stuart. That gave COC first and ten at the 15. But first down resulted in an incomplete pass, and second down brought just a 1-yard gain by Kyle. Third down resulted in another incomplete pass. On fourth down, Moorpark jumped offside, moving the ball to the 9 and making it 4th and 4 with just over 2 minutes left.
On the next play, Miramontes took the snap and ran a quarterback draw. Just as he got near the 5-yard line, as he struggled for extra yardage the ball popped free and bounced into the end zone. There, Tyler Morris recovered for Moorpark, sealing the win for the Raiders and sending their fans on the western sideline into a frenzied celebration.
With the win, Moorpark (which entered the game ranked #4 in Southern California by the COA poll and #11 in the nation by the JC Grid-Wire) improves to 4-0 while Canyons (ranked #16 in the South) falls to 1-3. But more importantly, the win means that COC's run of dominance in the WSC is over, at least for the moment. The Cougars entered the game having won 44 consecutive conference games, dating back to the 2000 season when they lost, 31-26, at Moorpark.
In addition to Merrill, Moorpark standouts include receivers Meadows (7 catches, 155 yards, 2 touchdowns plus 6 punt returns for 70 yards) and Washington (7 catches, 152 yards, 1 touchdown), Daniel Mosier (22 carries, 70 yards) and punter Macias (7 kicks for a 40.1-yard average and three punts downed inside the COC 10). Martin and Beavers deserve credit for the game-changing blocked punt. And the entire Raider defense deserves accolades for holding the Cougar offense in check long enough to allow the offense to rally, and for holding off the final Cougar drive.
For Canyons, Miramontes completed 23 of 38 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown. Scott had another huge game with 13 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown, and Stuart was solid with 126 yards and a score on 16 carries. Kyle made his presence felt with 86 yards rushing and a TD on just 7 carries.
Next week, Moorpark travels to Ventura to play the cross-county rival Pirates while Canyons returns home to face arch-rival Bakersfield in a game that now will carry an air of desperation, particularly for the home squad.
Moorpark Raiders 35
College of the Canyons Cougars 28
Saturday, September 23, 2006 – 7 pm – Griffin Stadium, Moorpark – WSC-North
C – Stuart 7 yd run (Weinstein kick) 10:18 (0-7)
C – Scott 39 yd pass from Miramontes (Weinstein kick) 1:57 (0-14)
M – Beavers 10 yd return of blocked punt (Macias kick) 12:45 (7-14)
M – Washington 80 yd pass from Merrill (kick wide left) 8:34 (13-14)
C – Whitcomb 8 yd run (Weinstein kick) 2:54 (13-21)
M – Meadows 3 yd pass from Merrill (Macias kick) 0:09 (20-21)
C – Kyle 8 yd run (Weinstein kick) 14:00 (20-28)
M – Meadows 87 yd pass from Merrill (Meadows pass from Merrill) 0:52 (28-28)
M – Banks 6 yd pass from Merrill (Macias kick) 9:27 (35-28)
First Downs: Moorpark 19 (2 rush, 13 pass, 4 penalty), Canyons 20 (9 rush,
10 pass, 1 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Moorpark 27-73, Canyons 33-224
Passing Yds: Moorpark 361, Canyons 265
Comp-Att-Int: Moorpark 18-37-0, Canyons 23-38-0
Return Yds: Moorpark 122, Canyons 50
Sacks-Yds: Moorpark 2-11, Canyons 0-0
Fumbles-Lost: Moorpark 0-0, Canyons 1-1
Penalties-Yds: Moorpark 11-99, Canyons 6-80
Time of Possession: Moorpark 25:31, Canyons 34:29
Rushing: Moorpark 34-Mosier 22-70, 16-Merrill 1-12, 28-Wolverton 1-(-3), team 3-(-3);
Canyons 15-Stuart 16-126, 3-Kyle 7-86, 8-Whitcomb 2-10, 6-Miramontes 8-2
Passing: Moorpark 16-Merrill 18-36-0-361, 4 TDs; 28-Wolverton 0-1-0-0;
Canyons 6-Miramontes 23-38-0-265, 1 TD
Receiving: Moorpark 4-Meadows 7-155, 88-Washington 7-152, 28-Wolverton 3-44, 26-Banks 2-10; Canyons 1-Scott 13-172, 4-Roby 4-46, 11-Augustus 3-25, 80-Franklin 1-14, 3-Kyle 1-5, 12-Austin 1-3
Fumble Recoveries: Moorpark 2-T.Morris
Sacks-Yds: Moorpark 22-Evans 1-8, 91-Reese 1-3
Punters: Moorpark 90-Macias 7-40.1 avg; Canyons 14-Chalmers 6-45.0 avg + 1 blocked
Kick Returns: Moorpark 7-Shelton 2-32; Canyons 1-Scott 2-48
Punt Returns: Moorpark 4-Meadows 6-70, 56-Martin 1-11, 23-Beavers 0-10; Canyons 24-Sumler 1-2
Notes: Moorpark entered 3-0, #4 in South and #11 in nation (JC Grid-Wire). Canyons entered 1-2, #16 in South. This ends COC's 44-game WSC winning streak, dating back to a 31-26 loss at Moorpark in 2000. After COC's excellent start, the blocked punt (by Martin, and Beavers returned it for the TD) got Moorpark in the game. COC's only second-half TD came after 10-Walker recovered the loose ball on the second half kickoff at the Moorpark 12. COC got the ball to the 11 on its next possession but an ill-fated fake field goal play ended that drive. COC got the ball to the Moorpark 9 late in the game but on 4th down Miramontes fumbled into the end zone and T. Morris recovered, sealing the win for Moorpark.