Stock action image from the College of the Canyons football team's game vs. Citrus College on Sept. 2, 2023.

Canyons Has Comeback Bid Halted, Falls 34-28 at Citrus

By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director 

GLENDORA — It was a tale of two halves for College of the Canyons in its 2023 season opener vs. Citrus College on Saturday night.

Despite trailing by three scores at halftime the Cougars buckled down in limiting Citrus to just three points down the stretch. Canyons (0-1) then put together a final drive that nearly completed a dramatic comeback but could get no closer than the Citrus six-yard line, eventually falling 34-28. 

Citrus (1-0) scored on its first offensive snap, a trick play that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Jesse Carmona to wide out Maurice Hampton to take an early 7-0 lead.

COC answered right back, however, as quarterback Bryce Dickson led the Cougars on an 11-play, 51-yard drive capped by a three-yard run by the sophomore. Asa Johnson's PAT tied the game at 7-7 

Dickson started the game but was part of a three-man rotation at the position. 

The Owls tacked on a 30-yard field goal to retake the lead at 10-7. The Cougars' next possession went nowhere, but Citrus was able to find the end zone again, pushing its advantage at 17-7 at the 14:55 mark of the second quarter.

After a 40-yard touchdown run by Kannon Katzer the Owls led 24-7 with 7:19 remaining in the half. 

Canyons fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff and the Owls took over on the Cougars' 28-yard line. Four plays later Citrus quarterback Jack Benson found Katzer in the end zone to make it 31-7.

COC freshman Zach Johnson, who replaced Dickson early in the second quarter, led the Cougars on a 75-yard scoring drive near the end of the half. The result was a six-yard scoring toss from Johnson to Cameron Bowen and a 31-14 ballgame headed into the break. 

The Cougars received a huge momentum swing when freshman linebacker Cain Omohundro forced the Citrus returner to fumble the second-half kickoff, giving COC possession at the Owls' 23-yard line.

This time it was freshman Emery Floyd under center for Canyons, and five plays later it was Floyd scampering into the end zone on a seven-yard run. Johnson's third PAT put the score at 31-21.

Floyd led the Cougars on a second scoring drive later in the quarter, following the same recipe for another scoring run, cutting into the Citrus the lead once again at 31-28. 

The Owls scored their only points of the second half on a 27-yard field goal that provided a bit of comfort at 34-28 with 5:25 to go in the third. Neither team would score again despite each having opportunities.

COC sophomore linebacker Carlos Meza was able to come up with a key interception late in the third quarter to halt a Citrus drive that had started near midfield. 

That led to a Cougars' offensive sequence in which Johnson, back under center after replacing Floyd, found Bowen on a 51-yard pass and catch that put the Cougars in business at the six-yard line. On the next play Johnson attempted to flip a shovel pass to Bowen but the ball was intercepted and returned 58-yards deep into COC territory.

Canyons freshman linebacker Joseph Marsh came up with a strip sack fumble to prevent any further damage. But COC's next offensive drive, this time with Floyd as the signal caller, went nowhere.

Still trailing 34-28, the Cougars looked back to Dickson for its final series.  

Dickson and company moved the ball into scoring position at the six-yard line but the sophomore's final two passes couldn't find a connection. Dickson finished the game 4-of-12 for 34 yards, adding 16 rushing yards and the touchdown on the ground. 

Johnson led the quarterback trio with 70 yards on a 4-of-7 passing night that included both a touchdown and interception. Floyd was just 1-of-5 through the air but turned in the two scores with 10 yards on the ground. 

Malik Brooks had a productive night out of the Cougar backfield with 79 yards on 22 carries, including a long gain of 17.  

Bowen led the receiving corps with four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by the 51-yard haul. Travis Royal added a pair of catches for 41 yards.

Freshman Jeremiah Alemayehu led the defense with nine solo tackles including one for loss. Sophomore Jacob Montes and Omohundro each logged six takedowns, with Omohundro also recording his first sack and forcing a fumble.

Canyons tallied five sacks in the game as RB Wilson V, Aaron Murdoch and Marsh also got in on the action. 

Marsh had a big game in his Cougars' debut, finishing with four tackles, a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and recovery. Wilson logged five total tackles, including three for loss. Meza ended with five tackles and an interception while Andre Bray added four stops of his own.

Citrus' victory was the program's 15th straight dating back to the 2021 season. The Owls entered the game ranked No. 23 in the JC Athletic Bureau coaches poll and No. 19 in the opening California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA)

COC started as the No. 15 ranked team in the coaches poll and No. 17 in the CCCSIA poll.

Canyons will next host Fullerton College at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept.9 at Cougar Stadium. 

As part of the program's tradition of inviting community groups to experience Cougars football, all first responders are invited to attend next weekend's home opener free of charge. 

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  X, InstagramFacebook and YouTube

—Photo by Dylan Stewart/1550 Sports