COVINA — Poorly timed mistakes and an inability to stop the Mt. San Antonio College run game killed College of the Canyons in its 27-3 Golden State Bowl loss Saturday night in Covina.
Mt. Sac running back Sateki Finau rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Anfernee Bruton rushed for 74 yards and running back Edgar Segura rushed for 67 yards against the Cougars’ defense.
A failed fourth-down conversion and kick-catch interference penalty, both late in the first half, also helped shift the momentum to Mt. San Antonio.
Cougars coach Ted Iacenda refused to blame his defense and instead said his team struggled offensively.
“Our kids played their guts out,” Iacenda said. “Offensively we wore down a little bit toward the end, but that’s football. You’ve got to play both sides of the game.”
Turnovers and mistakes marred the game all night. College of the Canyons took advantage of a turnover early in the game when Mt. SAC’s DeAndre McKinley attempted to fair catch a punt at his own 19-yard line.
The punt ricocheted off his shoulder pads, though. The Cougars recovered and eventually took a 3-0 lead with 8:47 left in the first quarter.
Mistakes later in the first half doomed the Cougars, though. Near the beginning of the second quarter, the Cougars forced Mt. SAC to settle for a field goal attempt after a long drive, but officials flagged linebacker Jerel Hall for a personal foul on the play.
The penalty led to a first down and, shortly after, an 11-yard touchdown pass from Bruton to Finau.
With his team trailing 10-3 with about six minutes left in the second quarter, Iacenda decided to try to convert fourth-and-9 from the Mt. SAC 29-yard line. Quarterback Matt Moore heaved a long pass to Wes Fitzpatrick in the right corner of the end zone, but the ball sailed high and out of bounds.
“Down here I wanted to see if I could spark something, and it just didn’t happen,” Iacenda said.
With 2:58 left in the second quarter, McKinley called for the fair catch as three Cougars crowded around his feet. Once again the ball bounced off his hands and into the belly of a Cougar. Ultimately, though, officials ruled College of the Canyons interfered with McKinley’s attempt to catch the ball and penalized the Cougars 15 yards.
Iacenda wasn’t pleased.
“To us (room to catch the ball) was not given to him,” the referee told Iacenda. Afterward Iacenda still wasn’t sure the call was right.
“I thought it was a bad call, but that’s why they get paid,” Iacenda said.
Mt. SAC capped the ensuing drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Bruton to Tavon Salter, which put the Mounties up 17-3 heading into halftime.
A healthy second half diet of Finau, combined with a fatigued Cougar defensive line sealed the game for the Mounties.
With the loss, College of the Canyons finished the season at 5-6.
The Cougars faced a tough non-conference schedule early in the year and started the season 2-4. Just to play in the Golden State Bowl Saturday night they had to win three out of their last four games to become bowl eligible.
Despite the loss Iacenda said it gave players like sophomore running back Tylan McBride, who had 18 carries for 79 yards during the game, another chance to be seen and be recruited.
“We could’ve easily just mailed it in,” Iacenda said. “This group didn’t do that.”