The win puts the Cougars into the championship game, which will be a much-anticipated showdown against Mt. San Antonio next Saturday.
Carpenter, who missed last week's game due to a suspension, caught 10 passes for 231 yards, breaking his Canyons' mark of 221 he set earlier this season against conference rival Moorpark. And that included a pair of long touchdown catches, the first of which gave Canyons a lead it would hold the rest of the night, and the second of which gave the Cougars a 36-14 lead with 8:36, which turned out to be just enough to hold off a furious El Camino comeback bid.
Canyons took control of the game with three touchdowns in the second quarter, rallying from a 7-3 deficit to take a 23-7 halftime lead. The first of those scores came on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Brad McClellan to Carpenter on the first play of the quarter. The second came on a 12-yard scoring run by Fred Winborn, who had 190 yards rushing on the night for Canyons. And the third came on a 9-yard touchdown run by McClellan with 2:39 left in the first half.
That flurry wiped out a 7-3 El Camino lead at the end of the first quarter. Canyons scored first when Ricky Drake kicked a 32-yard field goal with 3:08 left in the quarter. But El Camino got a huge lift when Isaac Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards to the Cougar 27. Two plays later, James Coy threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tony Sekona to give the Warriors a 7-3 edge.
And though Canyons received the ball to begin the second half, momentum quickly swung back to El Camino when Kamaloni Vainikolo sacked McClellan on three consecutive plays, forcing a Canyons punt. A 17-yard return by El Camino's Jerrell Gavins gave the Warrior offense the ball at the Cougar 24. Two plays later, Coy threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Sione Tuli to cut the Canyons lead to 23-14.
But then the momentum shifted back to Canyons, who extended the lead to 26-14 when Drake booted a 47-yard field goal (that would have been good from 60+!) midway through the third quarter after a drive that ate up nearly four minutes. Then moments after El Camino got the ball back, COC's Marquis Jackson ripped it from the hands of Antwain Easterling. Canyons' Jake Tepper recovered the loose ball, the only turnover of the entire game, at the Warrior 48. Canyons ended up punting the ball away without scoring, but the game had settled down once again, which worked in the Cougars' favor since they held a 26-14 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, that lead became 29-14 when Drake kicked his third field goal of the night, a 23-yarder that followed a 31-yard run by Winborn that had given the Cougars a first and goal. El Camino then drove to the Cougar 39, but turned the ball over on downs when a Coy pass fell incomplete on fourth down. Two plays later, McClellan lofted a long pass down the middle of the field, and Carpenter hauled it in around the 10 before eluding the final two defenders to score his second touchdown of the night. That 60-yard play made it 36-14 with 8:36 left.
But El Camino wasn't finished just yet. Coy led his offense down the field on an 88-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass on 4th and goal to William Bullock. That was Coy's 5th completion of the drive, and made it 36-21 with 6:20 left. The Warriors tried an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff, and Alex DeGiacomo nearly came up with the ball for El Camino before Canyons' Nate Jones covered the loose ball at the Cougar 43.
However, Canyons was unable to run out the clock, and punted the ball away without gaining a first down. That gave El Camino the ball at its 13. Again, Coy drove his offense down the field, completing 6 passes on the drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dejarrius Adams with 2:49 left. That made it 36-27 pending the extra point.
The Warrior comeback began to unravel on that extra point. Some confusion on the sideline resulted in kicker Brian Blumberg having to run out onto the field moments before the snap, and his being a bit winded may have played a part in his wayward kick, which sailed wide to the right. That kept the score 36-27, a two-score margin. Then on the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors again tried an onsides kick. But again, Jones was there, taking the kick as it came down from the big bounce at the El Camino 37, clinching the win for the Cougars.
For Canyons, Carpenter led the way with his spectacular 10-catch, 231-yard effort. But he was far from the only standout. McClellan went 16 for 28 passing for 295 yards and 2 TDs, and also rushed for a TD. And Winborn rushed 26 times for 190 yards and a score. Dejaun Yates was a notable standout on the defense, blocking a field goal and registering a sack. And of course Drake kicked three field goals, the eventual margin of victory.
For El Camino, the Warriors lost despite a magnificent effort by Coy, who completed 27 of 47 passes for 346 yards and 4 TDs while leading two late-game drives of 88 and 87 yards. Kembrell Thompkins had 8 catches for 108 yards while Bullock had 6 catches for 108 yards. But the Warrior ground game had minimal impact; Andre Harris averaged 9 yards per carry but had only 5 attempts for 45 yards, and the Warriors ended up with a net total of just 58 yards on 21 attempts. On defense, Vainikolo and Conference Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Stewart each had 3 quarterback sacks.
With the win, Canyons advances to the Southern California championship game for the fourth time in school history; the Cougars defeated Chaffey in 2002 and Saddleback in 2004 to reach the state championship game but lost to eventual state champs Grossmont in 2005. El Camino finishes 10-2.
College of the Canyons Cougars 36
El Camino Warriors 27
Saturday, November 29, 2008 - 7 pm - Cougar Stadium - Santa Clarita
Southern California Semifinal
C - FG Drake 32 yds 3:08 (3-0)
EC - Sekona 20 yd pass from Coy (Blumberg kick) 0:49 (3-7)
C - Carpenter 56 yd pass from McClellan (Drake kick) 14:52 (10-7)
C - Winborn 12 yd run (Drake kick) 10:38 (17-7)
C - McClellan 9 yd run (kick wide right) 2:39 (23-7)
EC - Tuli 23 yd pass from Coy (Blumberg kick) 12:03 (23-14)
C - FG Drake 47 yds 8:11 (26-14)
C - FG Drake 23 yds 14:48 (29-14)
C - Carpenter 60 yd pass from McClellan (Drake kick) 8:36 (36-14)
EC - Bullock 5 yd pass from Coy (Blumberg kick) 6:20 (36-21)
EC - Adams 17 yd pass from Coy (kick wide right) 2:49 (36-27)
First Downs: Canyons 23 (11 rush, 11 pass, 1 penalty), El Camino 19 (4 rush, 15 pass)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 51-205, El Camino 21-58
Passing Yds: Canyons 295, El Camino 346
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 16-28-0, El Camino 27-47-0
Return Yds: Canyons 65, El Camino 208
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 3-23, El Camino 6-65
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 0-0, El Camino 3-1
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 7-73, El Camino 11-106
Time of Possession: Canyons 33:36, El Camino 26:24
Rushing: Canyons 10-Winborn 26-190, 7-McClellan 23-10, 13-Frias 1-3, 39-Iverson 1-2;
El Camino 6-A.Harris 5-45, 35-Sekona 2-9, 2-Thompkins 1-6, 33-Areyan 1-6, 20-Brooks 3-2, 11-Coy 9-(-10)
Passing: Canyons 7-McClellan 16-28-0-295, 2 TDs; El Camino 11-Coy 27-47-0-346, 4 TDs
Receiving: Canyons 9-Carpenter 10-231, 6-Leacock 4-41, 82-Burke 1-16, 1-Jones 1-7;
El Camino 2-Thompkins 8-108, 1-Bullock 6-108, 4-Adams 4-60, 10-Tuli 3-44, 9-Easterling 2-7, 6-A.Harris 2-(-5), 35-Sekona 1-20, 26-I.Williams 1-14
Interceptions-Ret Yds: none
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: Canyons 80-Tepper 1-0; El Camino none
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 90-Yates 1-10, 21-Atisanoe 1-7, 17-Wells 1-6; El Camino 91-Stewart 3-38, 95-Vainikolo 3-27
Punters: Canyons 16-Drake 3-36.3 avg; El Camino 88-Gravett 5-33.8 avg
Kick Returns: Canyons 39-Iverson 2-52, 82-Burke 1-13; El Camino 26-I.Williams 4-120, 10-Tuli 3-53, 20-Brooks 1-15
Punt Returns: Canyons none; El Camino 25-Gavins 3-24
Return of Blocked FG: Canyons none; El Camino 21-Chapman 1-11
Missed FG: Canyons 16-Drake 35 yds (blocked); El Camino 58-Blumberg 45 yds (blocked)
Notes: Canyons entered 11-0, the #1 seed in the SoCal playoffs and ranked #1 nationally (JC Grid-Wire). El Camino entered 10-1, the #4 seed in the SoCal playoffs and ranked #5 nationally (JC Grid-Wire). Carpenter broke his own Canyons school record for most receiving yards in a game. 90-Green blocked the field goal for El Camino; Chapman picked up the loose ball and returned it to the Warrior 43. A 67-yd kickoff return by Williams set up El Camino's 1st TD. Yates blocked the field goal for Canyons. All 3 of Vainikolo's sacks came on one series (three straight plays!) to start the second half, helping set up the El Camino's 2nd TD and getting the Warriors back in the game. El Camino tried onsides kicks after each of their last two touchdowns but Jones recovered for COC each time. Some confusion resulted in Blumberg having to run onto the field to try El Camino's last extra point; undoubtedly that had something to do with the miss that effectively ended El Camino's comeback. The only previous meeting between these teams was in 2004 when COC won, 21-0, in a playoff game en route to its California state & JC Grid-Wire national championships.