It was a wild game, with the lead changing hands twice in the fourth quarter and the teams combining for 95 points and nearly a thousand yards of offense. But Canyons seemed to have an advantage after going ahead on a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brad McClellan midway through the fourth quarter and extending its lead to 44-38 on a field goal by Ricky Drake with 2:15 remaining.
That proved to be just enough time, however, for Vanderzee to lead the Mounties to the win. Standing in for Lamaison, the Central Conference Offensive Player of the Year who was injured last week vs. Fullerton, Vanderzee led the Mounties on a 7-play drive for the win. On 2nd and 3 from the 5, he found a wide-open Edwards for a touchdown that made it 44-44 with 10 seconds left. Jacob Harfman then booted the extra point, his sixth of the game in six tries, to give Mt. SAC a 45-44 lead.
Kerel James accounted for the final touchdown when he returned a fumble on the ensuing kickoff 16 yards for a score. The ball came loose when COC’s B.J. Iverson tried a desperation lateral as the clock ticked down to zeroes on the kickoff return.
From the beginning of the game, this one was a wild one. On the first play from scrimmage, Canyons’ Josh Gibbs recovered a fumble by Mt. SAC’s Isaac Garcia. On the second play from scrimmage, COC’s Fred Winborn, but teammate Jovan Leacock recovered.
Canyons took a 7-0 lead when Hayo Carpenter, who broke nearly every COC receiving record this season, scored on a 9-yard end around play. That drive had continued despite McClellan aggravating a shoulder injury he originally suffered last month against Pasadena. Backup Joey Frias came on to lead the drive, though McClellan would return for the Cougars’ next series.
But Mt. SAC answered that drive with a 10-play drive of its own, tying the game on a 1-yard run by Garcia. Then the Mounties went ahead when Dominique Gaisie returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown with 4:48 left in the first quarter. Canyons answered on the next play from scrimmage when McClellan threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Carpenter for a touchdown. However, COC’s Drake missed the extra point, leaving Mt. SAC with a one-point lead at 14-13.
Mt. SAC extended that lead to 17-13 on a 33-yard field goal by Harfman midway through the first quarter, just after Drake had missed a pair of field goal tries for Canyons. But the Cougars took the lead late in the quarter anyway when Winborn scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from McClellan with 1:30 left in the first half. Drake’s extra point try, however, went wide once again, and COC held just a 2-point lead at 19-17 at halftime.
Winborn extended that lead to 26-17 early in the third quarter on a 3-yard scoring run one play after a 77-yard run on the first play of the second half. But Mt. SAC answered with a 9-play drive, pulling back to within two points at 26-24 when Garcia scored his second touchdown of the night on another 1-yard run. COC then got an 11-yard touchdown run from McClellan to push the lead back to 9 points at 33-24, but Mt. SAC answered that with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Vanderzee to Matt Austin with 3:19 left in the quarter to make it 33-31.
Moments later, Gaisie intercepted a McClellan pass over the middle, and that started a 7-play drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Vanderzee to Jonathan Joe on the first play of the fourth quarter, giving Mt. SAC a 38-33 lead.
But Canyons responded with a 6-minute drive, taking a 39-38 lead when McClellan scored on a 4-yard keeper with 8:32 left. And the Cougars extended that margin to 41-38 when McClellan powered into the end zone on the 2-point conversion try. Mt. SAC tried to tie the game just less than two minutes later, but Harfman’s 50-yard attempt was wide right. And COC increased its lead to 44-38 when Drake, who solved his first-half accuracy problems and was flawless in the second half, booted a 32-yard field goal to make it 44-38 with 2:15 left.
That just set the stage for Vanderzee and his two-minute offense that propelled the Mounties into the championship game.
For Mt. SAC, Vanderzee completed 18 of 28 passes for 274 yards and 3 TDs in a truly excellent performance. Garcia rebounded from the early fumble to lead the Mounties with 107 yards rushing on 18 attempts, and scored a pair of touchdowns. Austin led Mt. SAC receivers with 6 catches for 90 yards and a TD.
For Canyons, the loss came despite a school-record by Winborn and a most courageous performance by McClellan. Winborn broke his own single-game mark set last year with 263 yards rushing on the night. And McClellan overcame his shoulder troubles to complete 20 of 29 passes for 295 yards and 2 TDs, and also rushed for 2 TDs. But Carpenter, the state’s most productive receivers, had just 4 catches for 85 yards, with almost all of that coming on the 80-yard catch in the first quarter. Nate Jones actually led COC receivers with 5 catches.
The win gets Mt. San Antonio into the state championship game for the second straight year, and the Mounties will face unbeaten Butte next Saturday at 5 pm at Orange Coast College. Canyons, who entered the game ranked #1 in the nation by JC Grid-Wire, finishes 12-1.
Mt. San Antonio Mounties 51
College of the Canyons Cougars 44
Saturday, December 6, 2008 - 7 pm – Cougar Stadium – Santa Clarita
Southern California Championship Game
C – Carpenter 9 yd run (Drake kick) 10:44 (0-7)
M – Garcia 1 yd run (Harfman kick) 7:32 (7-7)
M – Gaisie 85 yd punt return (Harfman kick) 4:48 (14-7)
C – Carpenter 80 yd pass from McClellan (kick wide right) 4:36 (14-13)
M – FG Harfman 33 yds 7:08 (17-13)
C – Winborn 6 yd run (kick wide right) 1:30 (17-19)
C – Winborn 3 yd run (Drake kick) 14:33 (17-26)
M – Garcia 1 yd run (Harfman kick) 10:28 (24-26)
C – McClellan 11 yd run (Drake kick) 4:43 (24-33)
M – Austin 25 yd pass from Vanderzee (Harfman kick) 3:19 (31-33)
M – Joe 20 yd pass from Vanderzee (Harfman kick) 14:53 (38-33)
C – McClellan 4 yd run (McClellan run) 8:32 (38-41)
C – FG Drake 32 yds 2:15 (38-44)
M – Edwards 5 yd pass from Vanderzee (Harfman kick) 0:10 (45-44)
M – James 16 yd fumble return (no conversion try) 0:00 (51-44)
First Downs: Canyons 29 (18 rush, 10 pass, 1 penalty), Mt. SAC 24 (11 rush, 12 pass, 1 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 50-316, Mt. SAC 37-213
Passing Yds: Canyons 295, Mt. SAC 274
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 20-29-1, Mt. SAC 18-28-1
Return Yds: Canyons 142, Mt. SAC 266
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 1-10, Mt. SAC 4-20
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 4-1, Mt. SAC 1-1
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 6-39, Mt. SAC 7-65
Time of Possession: Canyons 33:59, Mt. SAC 26:01
Rushing: Canyons 10-Winborn 30-263, 7-McClellan 16-23, 39-Iverson 2-17, 9-Carpenter 1-9, 24-McDonald 1-4; Mt. SAC 34-Garcia 18-107, 29-B.Iosefa 14-78, 41-Edwards 2-26, 12-Vanderzee 3-2
Passing: Canyons 7-McClellan 20-29-1-295, 2 TDs; Mt. SAC 12-Vanderzee 18-28-1-274, 3 TDs
Receiving: Canyons 1-Jones 5-38, 9-Carpenter 4-85, 10-Winborn 4-46, 82-Burke 2-57, 86-Pittman 1-42, 39-Iverson 1-16, 45-Quinn 1-6, 85-Wright 1-4, 6-Leacock 1-1; 6-Austin 6-90, 4-Canada 4-96, 41-Edwards 4-25, 85-Joe 2-43, 34-Garcia 1-11, 29-B.Iosefa 1-9
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Canyons 26-Gibbs 1-17; Mt. SAC 3-Gaisie 1-0
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: Canyons 26-Gibbs 1-0; Mt. SAC 44-James 1-16
Sacks: Canyons 56-Jermar Cushnie 1/2, 23-Santos 1/2; Mt. SAC 10-Rowe, 45-Navarrete, 96-Lutui, 98-Uelese
Punters: Canyons 16-Drake 2-46.0 avg; Mt. SAC 13-Harfman 3-49.0 avg
Kick Returns: Canyons 29-Atkins 3-47, 39-Iverson 2-49, 82-Burke 1-13; Mt. SAC 41-Edwards 4-113, 22-Owens 2-52, 36-Mitchell 1-0
Punt Returns: Canyons 9-Carpenter 1-16; 3-Gaisie 1-85
Missed FG: Canyons 16-Drake 43 yds (wr), 44 yds (blk); Mt. SAC 13-Harfman 50 yds (wr)
Notes: Canyons entered 12-0, the #1 seed in the SoCal playoffs and ranked #1 nationally (JC Grid-Wire). Mt. SAC entered 11-1, the #2 seed in the SoCal playoffs and ranked #4 nationally (JC Grid-Wire). Vanderzee started in place of the injured Lamaison (ankle). McClellan missed part of COC’s 1st series (aggravation of prior shoulder injury) but returned on the next series. Gibbs recovered a Garcia fumble on the 1st play of the game. Carpenter scored on an end-around for COC’s 1st TD. 94-Miller blocked the FG for Mt. SAC. Winborn’s rushing TD came one play after he broke off a 77-yard run. Joe’s TD came after Gaisie’s interception. James’ TD came when Iverson fumbled trying a desperation lateral on the kickoff on the final play of the game. Winborn broke his own COC school record for rushing yards in a game. Mt. SAC advances to its second straight California State Championship Game (12/13 vs. Butte).