On Wednesday afternoon, College of the Canyons football coach Ted Iacenda joked that he would prefer the big games to come later in the season.
A couple of extra weeks to prepare certainly wouldn’t hurt, but the No. 11 Cougars will have no such luck this year.
They’ll be thrown right into the fire for their conference opener Thursday, taking on No. 13 Ventura College, the defending Northern Conference champions of the Southern California Football Association.
“We’re going to find out quick how good we are,” Iacenda said. “They’ve been the class of our conference.”
The short week, coupled with a pivotal conference matchup, has hardly been a negative for the players.
“It feels like primetime,” said linebacker Alonso Reeves, with an ear-to-ear smile. “I had a couple games on Thursday in high school, so I kind of know that feeling. We’re all pretty hyped for this one.”
Canyons got a much-needed bye last week after edging Grossmont College, 29-28, back on Sept. 30. The Cougars are riding a two-game winning streak.
“The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time, honestly,” said quarterback Andrew Brito. “Everyone is 100 percent and ready to go. We’re going to come out firing.”
The Pirates hold a three-game winning streak over the Cougars, including a 48-25 win last season. They’ve won at least a share of the conference title each of the last three seasons.
“It’s always kind of scary coming off a bye week, with not knowing what kind of focus you’re going to get,” Iacenda said. “But we had a good three days here. From that standpoint, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
The dominance between the conference heavyweights is reflected atop the Northern Conference leaderboards.
Brito leads the Northern Conference with 14 passing touchdowns, but right behind him is Ventura’s Jake Constantine with 13.
Ventura’s Kendric Mallory leads the conference with 93.8 receiving yards per game and six touchdowns while Cougars wideout Desean Holmes is second 83.4 yards per game and four touchdowns. Canyons’ RB Marlow has also hauled in four touchdowns.
“They are dynamic on offense. That’s pretty much a Ventura trademark,” Iacenda said. “Very fast, very talented players. It’s going to be interesting.”
Nearly identical stats are reflected on defense, too, with the Cougars allowing 31.2 points per game, compared to Ventura at 29.4 points per game.
NOTES — Rankings reflect latest Junior College Athletic Bureau Poll of California Community College Football Coaches. Thursday’s game can be livestreamed through SoCalCollegeSports.com.