No. 15 College of the Canyons lost its first game of the season to defending state champion No. 1 Fullerton College, as the Hornets topped the Cougars 42-28 in a hard-fought game at Cougar Stadium on Saturday night.
Fullerton struck first on its opening possession of the night, driving 67 yards in seven plays, capped off when Hornet quarterback Kane Wilson found Justin Manyweather on a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it a 7-0 advantage just over two minutes into the game.
Canyons freshman quarterback Andrew Brito did not waste time answering back, leading the Cougars on an 11-play, 82-yard drive highlighted by a 16-yard touchdown pass to Desean Holmes. The extra point by Louis Eusebi evened things at 7-7 with 6:55 to go in the first quarter.
From there, both defenses locked down and forced turnovers on back-to-back drives.
COC linebacker KJ Latu sacked Fullerton quarterback Ladarius Skelton on fourth down, forcing a fumble that was eventually recovered by fellow linebacker Johnny Morrison.
The big stop by the Cougar defense helped to keep the score deadlocked at 7-7 heading into the second quarter.
Fullerton's defense answered right back, however, by intercepting Brito deep in Hornets territory.
The Hornets quickly capitalized on the pick, with Skelton bouncing back to lead Fullerton on a four-play, 62-yard scoring drive that took just 1:16 off the clock and ended with a scoring strike to Jordan Huffman. The ensuing extra point made 14-7 with 11:30 to go in the first half.
Fullerton added to its lead late in the first half when Wilson came back under center to take the Hornets on a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive of his own. Wilson's touchdown pass to Markus Grossman put the game at 21-7 with just over a minute remaining in the half.
But Canyons was able to shift the momentum when defensive back Bobby Brown intercepted Skelton to set the Cougars up on their own 39-yard line.
From there, COC running back Keland White broke off a 24-yard run to put the Cougars in field-goal position. Eusebi drilled a 43-yard kick to bring the score to 21-10 heading into halftime.
After the half, Brito found Khalid Taylor for a 24-yard gain on the second play of the third quarter. Later in the drive Brito located a streaking Ethan Lazarek for a 56-yard touchdown toss that ignited the Cougar Stadium crowd less than a minute into the third quarter. This time, the PAT was no good leaving the score at 21-16.
Later in the third, Fullerton was able to regain some breathing room when Wilson scampered into the end zone after leading the Hornets down the field on another quick scoring drive. The touchdown put Canyons behind 28-16 with 9:33 left in the third quarter.
The Cougars continued to fight though.
Freshman defensive back Brennon Williams helped put the Cougars offense back on the field by forcing a special teams fumble and then scooping it up at the COC 42-yard line.
COC did not waste the opportunity, with Brito proceeding to drive 58 yards on eight plays to hit Holmes on a 29-yard catch-and-run for the wide receiver's second touchdown of the night.
The failed PAT left the score at 28-22 with five minutes left in the third.
Holmes finished the game with seven catches for 69 yards and two scores.
Fullerton would not be outdone, with Wilson once again coming back in to throw his third touchdown of the game, this time a 47-yard toss that helped keep COC behind at 35-22 with just under four minutes left in the pivotal third quarter.
Canyons continued to keep things close though, with Brito able to create another big play by finding RB Marlow on a short pass that the sophomore wide out was able to take 70 yards to the end zone. At 35-28, it was clear neither team was willing to quit.
The Hornets dialed-up a final scoring drive before the quarter ended, as the Fullerton ground attack found its stride, and the end zone, with just over 1:30 to go in the quarter.
In all, the two teams combined for 39 points in the third quarter, before playing to a scoreless final frame.
Brito finished the game 22-of-49 for 334 yards and four touchdowns while finding seven different receivers, but was picked off three times on the evening, including twice in the fourth quarter.
Marlow ended the night as COC's leading receiver with four catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. White was COC's leading rusher with 90 yards on 12 carries.
COC defensive lineman Dorian Gerald was a force in the trenches, leading the team with 11 tackles, including three for loss, and 1 1/2 sacks. Alonso Reeves recorded nine tackles. Latu finished with seven stops, a forced fumble and 1 1/2 sacks.
Canyons (2-1) will look to bounce back next week with the Cougars hosting Long Beach City College (2-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23.
That contest will be live streamed via a broadcast partnership with SoCalCollegeSports.com.
In addition, all students/staff from SCV K-12 school districts will be admitted free to the game (with proper I.D.)
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
— Photos and story by Tim Strong/COC Sports Information