College of the Canyons football coach Ted Iacenda might have summed it up best.
“We could’ve easily just mailed it in,” Iacenda said Saturday after his team’s 27-3 loss to Mt. San Antonio College in the Golden State Bowl at Covina District Field. “This group didn’t do that.”
A tumultuous season is over. But, because the Cougars (5-6) didn’t collectively throw in the towel when five-plus defensive starters suffered season-ending injuries or during a painful four-game losing streak, there were some bright spots.
There were wins over Antelope Valley College and Orange Coast College to open the year.
There was freshman defensive end Dorian Gerald, who finished tied for fourth in the state with 12 sacks, just 1.5 behind California’s most prolific pass rusher in 2016.
Iacenda praised Gerald’s character and said the program can’t wait to see the player he develops into.
“We look forward to another year of him being a monster,” Iacenda said.
Offensively, there was freshman Marquise Brown, a do-it-all receiver who could score on any given play.
Brown ended up seventh in the state at 134.1 all-purpose yards per game. He earned scholarship offers from the University of Oklahoma, USC and a dozen others, and as an academic qualifier, he will probably transfer over the offseason. But he sure made life easier on his teammates while he was there.
“That kid is so special it’s almost ridiculous,” said quarterback Matt Moore. “I can throw him any ball and he can go get it. It’s nice to have someone like that who the whole other team keys on and then we can spread the ball to other people.”
Then, of course, there was Moore himself. The sophomore, after grayshirting in 2014 and backing up Devon Dunn in 2015, had to bide his time through this season’s first five games as the Cougars started freshman CJ Williams.
Moore took over part way through a 48-25 loss to Ventura on Oct. 15 and then threw for 300-plus yards in the next three games, two of which COC won.
“When we get protection, with the weapons we have: his arm and our receivers, it’s a nice combination,” Iacenda said earlier this year.
When everything lined up, COC did have some memorable moments in a year it mostly wants to forget.