Even after six games, it’s hard to assess the College of the Canyons football team.
The Cougars won two games they were supposed to win before venturing into the teeth of a brutal four-game stretch.
They lost all four (including Saturday’s 48-25 drubbing by Ventura), all to teams ranked in the state’s top 12 as of Monday.
Injury plagued and inexperienced, COC clearly isn’t a state title contender. The Cougars can, however, still jump into the National Division, Northern Conference title conversation with three winnable conference contests coming up before a finale at No. 10 Bakersfield on Nov. 12.
“The football season is a long, drawn-out process,” said Cougars coach Ted Iacenda last week. “You have a team that is finding itself and one that changes week to week with injuries. It’s not like we played a bunch of no names the first five games. We had success the first two weeks, and then the next three, we played who’s who in Southern California.”
Last season, COC started 5-0 before ending up 6-4. Coaches preached the need to fight complacency in 2016, telling players it was important to finish strong. Is it ever.
The Cougars’ 2-4 overall record isn’t nearly as important as their 0-1 mark in conference after Saturday’s loss.
They’re more than halfway through their schedule, but they have four conference games left to salvage the season.
“No time to our hang heads,” Iacenda said. “We have to grow as a team and learn from our mistakes and take those lessons and carry them over.”
The Cougars will have to improve on both sides of the ball. The defense, which has lost four starters to injury, is allowing 39.2 points per game, a mark that ranks them 62nd out of the state’s 69 teams.
COC’s 318.8 yards per game puts it 51st in total offense.
However, there have been bright spots.
Sophomore safety Nolan Jackson leads the team in tackles with 39, and freshman defensive end Dorian Gerald has recorded seven sacks, seventh most in the state.
Iacenda feels the offensive line (sophomores Tyler Bjorklund, Jesus Mota and Garrett Gaitan and freshmen Patrick Whittle, Ethan Quinn and DeWayne Williams) has made huge strides since the beginning of the year.
“They’re growing up fast,” Iacenda said.
Freshman wide receiver Marquise Brown’s 139.7 all-purpose yards per game puts him ninth in the state, and RB Marlow emerged as a receiving threat Saturday with four catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cougars, though, allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter, keeping Ventura comfortably ahead. Ventura was the third team COC has played this season that is ranked top 10 in the state in total offense (Fullerton and Long Beach are the others).
Moorpark, COC’s opponent Saturday on the road, doesn’t have such firepower. The Raiders are ranked 50th in the state in total offense. COC’s next opponent, Cerritos, is 39th. After that, Santa Monica is 55th.
Even Bakersfield is only 34th.
COC’s road looks considerably easier from here.
By mid-November, everyone will know exactly where the Cougars stand.