Justin Morales threw a pair of touchdown passes to D.J. Stephens, who finished with 8 catches for 106 yards for the victorious Canyons squad.
Early on, however, it looked like Fullerton might follow up its 70-17 thrashing of Moorpark last week with another dominant effort. The Hornets took a 10-0 first-quarter lead, outgaining the Cougars 85 to minus-6 in total offense and holding the ball for 12:39 of the 15 minutes. Kyle Essington capped a methodical 12-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Clarkson to give Fullerton a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game. Then, after Corey Smith knocked the ball out of Morales' hands for a fumble that Juan Perez recovered for the Hornets, Vincent Pagazza came on to kick a short field goal to make it 10-0.
But things turned completely around in the second quarter. Canyons put together a long, methodical drive of its own, chewing up 75 yards in 15 plays and cutting the margin to 10-7 on Morales' 17-yard scoring pass to Stephens with 8:41 left in the quarter. After a Fullerton punt, Canyons embarked on another scoring drive, this time tying the game on a 41-yard field goal from James Rodriguez with 3:03 left in the half that made it 10-10.
And on the ensuing kickoff, Canyons got a break when return man Darryl Shine fumbled and Ryan McKillop picked up the rolling ball and returned it to the Hornet 6. That led to a 20-yard field goal by Rodriguez in the final minute of the first half, giving Canyons a 13-10 lead at the break. In contrast to the first quarter, COC dominated the second quarter, outgaining Fullerton 139 to 16 and holding the ball for 11:00 of the 15 minutes.
When the second half began, Canyons took the opening kickoff but Fullerton got the ball back just over a minute later when Max Charlot intercepted a Morales pass at the Cougar 33. Fullerton appeared to re-gain the lead two plays later when Jereme LaGarde carried the ball across the goal line, but a holding penalty negated that play. And the Hornets eventually came away empty when Pagazza's 28-yard field goal try went wide right.
That turned out to be Fullerton's last chance to take the lead. Canyons then put together a scoring drive, helped mightily by a 5-yard penalty for running into the kicker on 4th and 4 at the Cougar 26. Two plays later, Morales threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Stephens, who had gotten behind the defense, to extend Canyons' lead to 20-10.
Neither team scored again until the final two minutes of the game. Fullerton missed two more field goals and turned the ball over on downs at the Cougar 28. Canyons punted three times and lost the ball on a fumble forced by Perez that Nick Moreno recovered early in the fourth quarter. But none of that led to any more points as the clock wound down.
Trailing by ten points, Fullerton put together a scoring drive it had to have late in the quarter, after a bit of good fortune. Essington threw a short pass to Shine, who broke free for a big gain. But Canyons' Kenny Shanahan stripped the ball away from Shine. Kalen Powell appeared to recover the fumble for the Cougars, but when the pile was unraveled it was Fullerton's Pat Roxas who had the ball at the Canyons' 19. That drive ended with a 9-yard sack by Gary Johnson, but Jake Tyler came on and booted a 45-yard field goal with 1:20 left to make it a one-score game at 20-13.
Fullerton tried an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff, but Canyons' Cameron Bailey quickly covered the ball. However, Canyons had to punt the ball away, giving Fullerton one last chance, albeit a chance from its own 13 with 20 seconds and no timeouts left. Still it was a chance.
And it ended up leading to points, though they were points scored by the Canyons' defense. On the last play of the game, Essington lofted a long pass towards midfield. Powell intercepted the pass for Canyons at his own 46 with a few seconds left. He returned the ball into Hornet territory, but was surrounded near the 20. At that point, he turned and pitched the ball to Arron Fisher, who took the ball at the 24 and carried it into the end zone, scoring the final touchdown of the game and running out the rest of the clock in the process.
For Canyons, Morales completed 19 of 27 passes for 179 yards and 2 TDs. Stephens led all receivers with 8 catches for 106 yards and the 2 TDs. B.J. Iverson led Cougar rushers with 48 yards on 11 carries, and he also had a 26-yard kickoff return.
For Fullerton, Essington went 15 for 26 passing for 178 yards and a TD. Kenny Turner led all rushers with 77 yards on 19 carries. Shine had team-bests of 6 catches and 86 yards, and also returned a pair of kickoffs for 59 yards, though he did have the two fumbles. Perez led the defense, forcing one fumble and recovering another.
Both teams are now 3-1 on the season. Canyons will be home next Saturday to take on longtime rival Allan Hancock College of Santa Maria, and JCFootball.com will be there.
College of the Canyons Cougars 26
Fullerton Hornets 13
Saturday, September 26, 2009 - 7 pm - Cougar Stadium - Santa Clarita
F - Clarkson 17 yd pass from Essington (Tyler kick) 7:57 (0-7)
F - FG Pagazza 22 yds 0:18 (0-10)
C - Stephens 17 yd pass from Morales (Rodriguez kick) 8:41 (7-10)
C - FG Rodriguez 41 yds 3:03 (10-10)
C - FG Rodriguez 20 yds 0:56 (13-10)
C - Stephens 48 yd pass from Morales (Rodriguez kick) 8:11 (20-10)
F - FG Tyler 45 yds 1:20 (20-13)
C - Fisher 24 yd return of interception & lateral by Powell (no XPA) 0:00 (26-13)
First Downs: Canyons 14 (7 rush, 6 pass, 1 penalty), Fullerton 15 (6 rush, 7 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 36-62, Fullerton 33-94
Passing Yds: Canyons 179, Fullerton 217
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 19-27-1, Fullerton 21-37-1
Return Yds: Canyons 138, Fullerton 95
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 3-19, Fullerton 3-24
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 3-2, Fullerton 2-1
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 8-70, Fullerton 9-75
Time of Possession: Canyons 28:49, Fullerton 31:11
Rushing: COC 3-Iverson 11-48, 21-Hale 16-13, 8-Morales 8-1, team 1-0; Fullerton 3-Turner 19-77, 25-LaGarde 7-28, 46-Roxas 1-3, 16-Banks 1-(-1), 5-Essington 5-(-13)
Passing: COC 8-Morales 19-27-1-179, 2 TDs; Fullerton 5-Essington 15-26-1-178, 1 TD; 16-Banks 6-11-0-39
Receiving: COC 11-Stephens 8-106, 81-Rivera 4-27, 1-Atkins 3-40, 32-Spriggs 2-(-3), 5-London 1-10, 21-Hale 1-(-1); Fullerton 1-Shine 6-86, 88-Clarkson 5-59, 81-Ware 4-39, 6-Da.Smith 2-17, 84-Dunford 2-7, 85-Florence 1-7, 3-Turner 1-2
Interceptions-Ret Yds: COC 15-Powell 1-30, 2-Fisher 0-24; Fullerton 8-Charlot 1-0
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: COC 36-R.McKillop 1-18; Fullerton 52-Moreno 1-0, 91-Perez 1-0
Sacks-Yds: COC 44-G.Johnson 1-9, 25-Bass 1-6, 9-A.Smith 1-4; Fullerton 93-Bonomolo 1-11, 26-C.Smith 1-9, 91-Perez 1-4
Punters: COC 96-Behrad 4-42.0 avg; Fullerton 97-Blanke 2-44.0 avg
Kick Returns: COC 3-Iverson 1-26, 28-A.Johnson 1-17, 22-O'Donnell 1-12; Fullerton 6-Da.Smith 2-59, 1-Shine 2-45
Punt Returns: COC 11-Stephens 1-11; Fullerton 2-Price 2-(-9)
Missed FG: COC none; Fullerton 92-Pagazza 28 yds (wide right), 45 yds (short), J. Tyler 26 yds (wide left)
Notes: Both teams are now 3-1. Fullerton entered #3 in South, #5 in California, #7 in nation (JC Grid-Wire); Canyons entered #15 in South, #19 in California, #24 in nation. Essington started at QB for Fullerton. Fullerton dominated the 1st quarter, outgaining COC 85 to -6 in total yards and holding the ball for 12:39 of the 15 minutes. The FG came after Perez recovered a fumble caused when C.Smith knocked the ball out of Morales' hands. But COC controlled the 2nd quarter, outgaining Fullerton 139 to 16 and holding the ball for 11:00 of the 15 minutes. The go-ahead FG came after R.McKillop recovered a fumble by Shine on the kickoff return after the tying FG. Charlot's interception gave Fullerton a chance to tie or go ahead early in the 3rd, but Pagazza missed a 28-yd FG. COC's TD drive in the 3rd quarter was kept alive by a Running Into The Kicker penalty; Stephens' long TD catch came two plays later. Perez forced a Morales fumble that Moreno recovered, but that ended with a missed FG. Fullerton's last scoring drive was kept alive when Roxas recovered a fumble by Shine (caused by 17-Shanahan) at the Cougar 19. Fullerton tried an onsides kick after its last FG, but 24-Bailey recovered for COC. Fullerton got the ball back one last time with 20 seconds left but on the last play of the game Powell intercepted a pass at his own 46, ran to about his 20 and pitched the ball back to Fisher, who carried it the rest of the way for the TD. Canyons now leads this series, 2-1, all time with all three games in the last three years.