Hancock had seen a 13-0 lead disappear, falling behind earlier in OT, before answering with the game-winning touchdown drive.
It was a game that saw both teams miss or lose multiple opportunities during regulation time, the host Cougars rally from a big deficit to take a momentary lead, and the Bulldogs do just enough to come away with the victory. Canyons outgained the Bulldogs, 364-248, in total yards and forced 9 punts, but also turned the ball over 4 times and squandered four different scoring opportunities inside the Hancock 5 yard line.
Hancock began the game in dramatic fashion with Gunner Jespersen throwing an apparent 55-yard touchdown pass to Marquelo Suel on the first play from scrimmage. But a holding penalty brought that play back, and the Bulldogs had to punt three plays later. Hancock then got another prime scoring chance when Carlos Faumuina recovered a COC fumble at the Cougar 31. But again, the Hancock offense failed to move the ball and came away empty. Finally, on AHC's third series, Jespersen scrambled and threw an apparent 53-yard pass to Daniel Rudolph, but that play was called back on a lineman downfield penalty and again, AHC had to punt without gaining a first down.
The Hancock defense ended up giving the Bulldogs the lead moments later when Joshua Morris intercepted a Justin Morales pass and returned it 57 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown with 4:06 left in the first quarter. That ended up being the only scoring play of the quarter.
When Hancock got the ball at its own 11 with 11:08 left in the first half, the Bulldog offense had yet to record a first down in 5 series. But Hancock ended up putting together a 13-play, 89-yard drive that took over five minutes and featured 5 first downs along the way. The biggest play was a 28-yard pass from Jespersen to Suel, and Ryan Anglin scored on a 2-yard run on the very next play. A bad snap doomed the extra point try, leaving the score 13-0, a detail that proved to be rather important later in the game.
Canyons got a big lift on the ensuing kickoff when B.J. Iverson returned the ball 61 yards to the Hancock 33, and a personal foul penalty against the Bulldogs on the return moved the ball to the 18. A 13-yard pass from Morales, back in the game after sitting out for three series, to Mychal Rivera got the ball to the 5. But the drive stalled after that, with the Cougars gaining just 4 yards on the next 4 plays and turning the ball over on downs after Iverson was stopped short of the goal line on 4th and goal with 3:26 left.
The COC defense quickly forced a punt, however, and Canyons got the ball back at the AHC 49. A 26-yard pass from Morales to D.J. Stephens got the Cougars into scoring range, and James Rodriguez came on to kick a 41-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half to make it 13-3 at the break.
When the second half began, Iverson again ignited the Canyons attack with a 67-yard return of the opening kickoff, with only kicker Nathan Stein saving the touchdown by pushing Iverson out of bounds. That proved to be a big play, however, as the Canyons offense stalled after reaching the 11 and the Cougars had to settle for another field goal from Rodriguez. This one, from 28 yards out, made it 13-6.
The Canyons defense soon forced another punt, though Michael Trujillo's kick rolled dead at the Cougar 7. That hardly seemed to matter as Eric Brown came on at quarterback and led the Cougars on a long drive. COC had the ball for 15 plays, covering 89 yards and chewing up more than five minutes off the clock. But on 1st and goal from the 4, Brown overthrew a receiver and safety Larry Greene intercepted the pass for Hancock and returned it to near midfield, allowing the Bulldogs to maintain their 13-6 lead a while longer.
Hancock again punted the ball away four plays later, and the Canyons offense also failed to move the ball when it took possession. But that turned out to work in the Cougars' favor when punter Brandon Behrad booted a 64-yard punt that rolled dead at the Bulldog 1 yard line. And the Cougars got the break they were looking for moments later when Jespersen fumbled and Jeremy Boone recovered for Canyons at the Hancock 8 yard line. But Canyons again came away empty when, on 4th and goal from the 2, Brown was stopped for no gain by the Hancock defense.
Canyons finally drew even the next time it got the ball following another Hancock punt at its own 30. With Morales back in at quarterback, the Cougars drove well into Bulldog territory before facing another 4th down, this time a 4th and 2 at the 38. The ball went to Ryan Zirbel, who gained the first down by the nose of the ball. On the next play, Morales found Stephens for a 36-yard touchdown pass that, combined with Rodriguez' extra point, evened the score 13-13 with 7:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Hancock had a pair of chances to potentially go back in the lead in the final minutes, driving to the Cougar 34 once and the Cougar 26 the other time. But the first drive ended after Jespersen was flagged for an intentional grounding penalty while under heavy pressure from Mike Spagnola, resulting in a 10-yard sack. And the second ended abruptly when Evan Harrington blitzed and not only sacked Jespersen but also knocked the ball loose. Khalil Bass recovered for COC and returned the ball to the Hancock 43 with 34 seconds left. But COC's last-minute scoring chance ended when Faumuina sacked Morales for a 10-yard loss and the Cougars allowed the final seconds to run out.
In overtime, Canyons got the ball first, but had to settle for another field goal, Rodriguez' third of the game. A late hit penalty on Hancock helped COC reach the Bulldog 9, but the next three plays lost a net of three yards, leading to Rodriguez' 29-yard field goal that gave Canyons its first and only lead of the game at 16-13.
And when Hancock got the ball, that lead quickly vanished. The Bulldogs started at the 25, and picked up 2 yards on the first play. But a facemask penalty on Canyons moved the ball to the 11. On the next play, Danny Kekoanui gained 10 yards to the 1. The next play lost a yard, but on the play after that Thomas Sua powered through the middle of the line for a 2-yard touchdown run that gave Hancock the victory.
Though it was most entertaining game, there were few statistical standouts for either team. Jespersen completed just 11 of 26 passes for 139 yards. Anglin led AHC rushers with 40 yards on 11 carries. And Suel had 3 catches for a team-high 52 yards. AHC's true standouts were probably Faumuina, who was a visible presence most of the night on the defensive line and had both a sack and a fumble recovery, and Morris, who scored the game's first touchdown on the interception return.
For Canyons, Morales finished 10 for 16 passing for 141 yards and a TD, but also had a fumble and an interception, the latter returned for a TD. Brown completed 6 of 14 passes for 68 yards and also rushed for 51 yards on 10 carries, but also threw the interception in the end zone to negate the long drive in the second half. Nick Hale led all rushers with 59 yards on 16 carries. Stephens was again a true standout with 6 catches for 106 yards and a TD, and Iverson had a pair of spectacular kickoff returns for 61 and 67 yards. Harrington, who had 2 sacks, led the Cougar defense that forced 9 Hancock punts and forced a pair of turnovers.
With the win, Hancock improves to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Northern Conference, and will return home next week to take on Bakersfield. Canyons falls to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in conference and will travel to Moorpark next Saturday.
Allan Hancock Bulldogs 19 OT
College of the Canyons Cougars 16
Saturday, October 3, 2009 - 7 pm - Cougar Stadium - Santa Clarita
AH - Morris 57 yd interception return (Stein kick) 4:06 (7-0)
AH - Anglin 2 yd run (kick failed - bad snap) 5:34 (13-0)
C - FG Rodriguez 41 yds 0:00 (13-3)
C - FG Rodriguez 28 yds 12:48 (13-6)
C - Stephens 36 yd pass from Morales (Rodriguez kick) 7:24 (13-13)
Overtime: C - FG Rodriguez 29 yds (13-16)
AH - T.Sua 2 yd run (19-16)
First Downs: Canyons 21 (11 rush, 9 pass, 1 penalty), Allan Hancock 16 (8 rush, 7 pass, 1 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Canyons 55-155, Allan Hancock 46-109
Passing Yds: Canyons 209, Allan Hancock 139
Comp-Att-Int: Canyons 16-30-2, Allan Hancock 11-26-0
Return Yds: Canyons 189, Allan Hancock 191
Sacks-Yds: Canyons 4-35, Allan Hancock 4-27
Fumbles-Lost: Canyons 5-2, Allan Hancock 4-2
Penalties-Yds: Canyons 5-39, Allan Hancock 10-55
Time of Possession: Canyons 29:25, Allan Hancock 30:35
Rushing: COC 21-Hale 16-59, 7-Brown 10-51, 3-Iverson 11-32, 12-Zirbel 6-22, 32-Spriggs 1-(-2), 8-Morales 11-(-7); AHC 21-Anglin 11-40, 32-Kekoanui 6-25, 6-T.Sua 9-21, 27-M.Jones 2-13, 11-Macanas 1-5, 47-Egan 1-5, 44-Locker 1-3, 33-Gordon 1-2, 4-Jespersen 14-(-5)
Passing: COC 8-Morales 19-27-1-179, 1 TD; 7-Brown 6-14-1-68; AHC 4-Jespersen 11-26-0-139
Receiving: COC 11-Stephens 6-106, 81-Rivera 3-48, 1-Atkins 3-35, 5-London 1-9, 85-Wright 1-7, 32-Spriggs 1-3, 3-Iverson 1-1; AHC 1-Suel 3-52, 18-Cathcart 3-36, 11-Macanas 2-13, 19-Rudolph 1-23, 21-Anglin 1-9, 33-Gordon 1-6
Interceptions-Ret Yds: COC none; AHC 3-Morris 1-57, 35-Greene 1-48
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: COC 25-Bass 1-18, 52-Boone 1-0; AHC 9-Watson 1-2, 92-Faumuina 1-0
Sacks-Yds: COC 19-Harrington 2-20, 42-Spagnola 1-10, 58-Bennett 1-5; AHC 92-Faumuina 1-10, 99-Tausaga 1-8, 51-Anderson 1-7, 58-J.Sua 1-2
Punters: COC 96-Behrad 4-43.5 avg; AHC 66-Trujillo 9-42.4 avg
Kick Returns: COC 3-Iverson 2-128, 32-Spriggs 1-21; AHC 21-Anglin 3-80
Punt Returns: COC 18-Urbina 4-22; AHC 19-Rudolph 2-4
Missed FG: none
Notes: National-North opener for both teams. Allan Hancock entered #6 in South and #23 in nation and improves to 5-0 overall (1-0 in N-N); Canyons entered #9 in South and #18 in nation and falls to 3-2 overall (0-1 in N-N). Morales started at QB for C.C. Brown entered after the int/TD and both played significantly after that. Harrington's 2nd sack forced the fumble Bass recovered with 34 seconds left in regulation. Canyons still leads the series, 9-3, since 1998.