No. 6 Cougars Ride Defense to 22-17 Win at No. 8 Fullerton
By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
YORBA LINDA — No. 6 College of the Canyons remained unbeaten on Saturday with the Cougars' defense coming away with four turnovers — including three straight interceptions to end the game — to defeat No. 8 Fullerton College 22-17 at Nathan Shapell Stadium.
Canyons (3-0) had outscored its opponents 99-17 in its first two contests behind an explosive offensive unit led by quarterback Colton Doyle and a talented corps of backs and receivers.
But in week three, it was the defense's turn to shine.
On the game's opening drive Fullerton (2-1) took the kick and quickly moved into Cougar territory. But following a 20-yard run by Branden Rankins, that took the ball into the red zone, COC defensive back Joshua Madison was able to punch the ball loose.
Following the Canyons recovery, Doyle and company got to work with the freshman opening the game on five straight completions to quickly get into scoring position.
COC thought it had scored later in the drive, but an illegal formation penalty brought the play back and forced the Cougars to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Ty Morrison to get on the board at 3-0.
Morrison proved to be the Cougars' biggest weapon on the day, eventually finishing the game 5-of-5 on field goal attempts with a long of 43. His clutch kick late in the fourth quarter was especially important in the final outcome.
Canyons didn't waste any time extending its advantage. After a quick series from the Hornets, three straight runs from COC running back Kalenga Muganda moved the ball into the red zone. Doyle then connected with sophomore wide receiver Trevon Elliott for a 20-yard touchdown. Morrison's PAT made it 10-0.
Doyle finished the game 26-of-41 for 243 yards. Muganda was the Cougars' leading rusher with 57 yards on nine carries, with a long run of 25 yards.
Elliott (six receptions/55 yards) and Calvin Littles (six receptions/72 yards) led Canyons in receiving, with Doyle spreading things around to eight different pass catchers.
Fullerton jumped back into the game on a 15-play, 65-yard scoring drive that culminated with a one-yard plunge from Rankins in the opening moments of the second quarter.
The Cougars later tacked on three more points with Morrison's second field goal coming midway through the quarter and bringing the score to 13-7, where things stayed heading into the halftime locker room.
Morrison added the first points of the second half after the Cougars' opening drive of the third quarter stalled out at the Fullerton 14-yard line. That kick extended the lead at 16-7.
The Cougars forced back-to-back punts from the Hornets on the defensive side but were unable to translate those opportunities into touchdowns. Instead, Morrison was called upon once again, this time converting from 35 yards to stay in control at 19-7.
Perhaps feeling a renewed sense of urgency, the Hornets rallied on the ensuing possession, sparked by a 45-yard kick return from Kashan Griffin that brought the ball to midfield.
After converting on a 4th-and-6 at the COC 47-yard line, Fullerton was eventually able to find the end zone on another one-yard run, this time from running back Devin Moore, making it a 19-14 ballgame.
Three plays later Fullerton regained possession, and perhaps the momentum, after recovering a Doyle fumble at the Canyons 45-yard line.
But the Cougars' defense held true, a trend that continued throughout the final quarter, limiting Fullerton to a 24-yard field goal attempt to preserve the lead at 19-17.
On the Hornet's next drive, quarterback Tra Edwards was intercepted by Ahvie Harris at the Fullerton 43-yard line.
The COC offense then went back to work on a 10-play drive that chewed 4:49 off the clock. The Cougars moved the ball all the way down to the Fullerton 15-yard line, before once again calling upon Morrison. His kick, the fifth of the day, extended the lead to 22-17 with 3:03 to go in the game.
Fullerton started its next drive with quarterback Chandler Galban under center. But two plays later it was the same result. This time it was COC sophomore linebacker Julian Salazar coming up with the big interception and returning the ball to the Fullerton 35-yard line.
The Hornets put up one last stand, however, forcing a fumble from COC quarterback Tooni Ikahihifo on third down from the Fullerton 27-yard line.
With new life and 0:58 on the clock, Galban and Fullerton came back onto the field. On first down Galban was sacked by Henry Ikahihifo.
On the very next play Galban's pass was picked out of the air by COC defensive back Joshua Christopher, preserving the victory and ending the game.
Christopher ended the game with four tackles, a pass break up and the game-ending INT.
Sophomore linebacker Jonathan Thomas led the Cougars with eight total tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass break up.
Henry Ikahihifo added a tackle for loss to his late sack, finishing the game with five total takedowns.
Dean Miller was also a force for the Cougars, finishing his day with three sacks.
The Cougars' win over Fullerton is the first vs. a state ranked opponent this season.
The Hornets entered the game ranked No. 8 in the California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA) poll. Fullerton was also No. 8 in the JC Athletic Bureau Coaches Poll.
Canyons checked in at No. 6 in the CCCSIA rankings and No. 7 in the coaches poll.
COC returns home to Cougar Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 25 vs. Palomar College. That game is scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m.
About Last Week
Canyons cruised to a 52-10 road victory over host Southwestern College (1-1) in week two Southern California Football Association (SCFA) action.
Final game statistics from that contest have not yet been provided by the host team.
Please continue to check back at www.COCathletics.com as statistics will be posted as they become available.
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.