By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
College of the Canyons improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2015, as the No. 4 state ranked Cougars used a stifling defense to smother Golden West College 26-9 at Cougar Stadium on Saturday night.
The Cougars shut out Golden West (2-3) through the first 37 minutes of the game, while recording two turnovers in the game to up its season total to 17. The Cougars also posted three sacks and seven tackles for loss, including a safety that set up the offense for its first touchdown drive and helped turn the momentum in COC's favor for good. COC freshman linebacker Tariq Speights tied for the team lead with seven total tackles, including 1.5 for loss, to go with a third quarter fumble recovery.
"I can't really say enough about the way they are playing football right now," COC head coach Ted Iacenda said about the team's defensive unit. "It's fun to be a coach and watch that defense on the field."
Canyons took an early 3-0 lead on a 30-yard field goal by freshman Tanner Brown at the 4:23 mark of the first quarter. However, both teams struggled to establish an upper hand in the early going.
"It was a tooth and nail dog fight," Iacenda said. "(Golden West) is a physical football team and they took our best shots. Fortunately, we were able to get some big plays and I think that might have taken some of the wind out of their sails."
COC freshman defensive back Jaq Vukobradovich picked off Golden West quarterback Nathaniel Espinoza to send the Rustler offense off the field and tilt things in the Cougars' favor. After an inffective drive by the Cougars Brown provided another spark when his punt pinned Golden West down at its own two-yard line with 2:12 to go in the first half.
On the very next snap, Speights and sophomore defensive lineman Johnny Morrison III broke through the Rustler front to drop GWC running back Tevon Valdez in the end zone for the safety and a 5-0 Cougar advantage.
Sixteen seconds later COC freshman quarterback Wyatt Eget, making his first start for the Cougars, found sophomore wide receiver Brandon Pierce for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Brown's PAT made it a 12-0 lead heading into halftime.
In the second half Eget was able to find Damaris August on a short pass that the sophomore wide receiver took 76 yards to the house, giving Canyons a 19-0 lead.
Eget finished the game 19-of-35 for 245 yards and one interception, in addition to the two scoring strikes. He also rushed for 19 yards.
"It was a lot of fun to get that first start under my belt," Eget said. "It's a big confidence booster."
"Wyatt really stepped up," commented Iacenda. "This team rallied around him, and he played his tail off."
August's 76 yards led the Cougar receiver corps, while Pierce had the team high with six catches for 73 yards.
The Rustlers finally got on the board with a 32-yard field goal midway through the third quarter that put the game at 19-3 in favor of the home side.
COC backup quarterback Michael Wilson also saw snaps in the contest, and was able to cap a 63-yard Cougar scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to make it a 26-3 lead after Brown's PAT.
GWC scored once more on a 26-yard touchdown grab by Rustler wide receiver Jonathon Earl with 3:22 remaining in the game to make it a 26-9 final score.
Canyons continues to lead the state in team defense, having allowed just 39 points through five games, an average of 7.8 points per contest.
COC sophomore defensive back Khalid Taylor tied with Speights for the team lead with seven tackles. Charles Ike had two tackles for loss, including a sack, and a forced fumble. Bryan Barrera and Jack Schultz both registered sacks in the game.
The Cougars currently own the second longest win streak in the state at 10 games, dating back to week seven of the 2017 season. Fullerton College (5-0) leads the state with 23 straight victories.
"It's very exciting to be 5-0, " said Iacenda."It's quite a feat and something to be proud of, but we're not done yet. That's not enough for us and we're not satisfied."
Archived footage of the the Cougars' game vs. Golden West can be viewed here.
Canyons will have a week six bye before returning to action vs. Moorpark College at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) National Division, Northern League opener.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by visiting www.COCathletics.com and following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.