After every game, Canyon football coach Rich Gutierrez and his team immediately proceed as a group to the locker room.
But after a 45-28 loss to Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach on Saturday, the Cowboys strayed from the norm and stood as a cluster for the last time under their home stadium lights.
“I basically brought them together and said that I was really proud of their effort,” Gutierrez said.
“It’s been a long season and I’m proud of the seniors for … changing the culture of the last couple years … I think it kind of sets a new expectation.”
The Mustangs (6-6) made their first move towards their CIF-Southern Section Division 6 quarterfinal win with a field goal at the 5:11 mark of the first quarter.
Chris Alvarado scored on the ensuing Cowboys drive with a 10-yard rush to pull Canyon ahead 7-3 to end the first quarter.
Mira Costa quarterback Nick Carpino connected with Eddie Burga-Donovan for a 24-yard score, then Jonah Tavai gave the Mustangs a 17-7 lead with a 1-yard scamper.
The Cowboys (6-6) had one final word before halftime, though, as Shawn Gallagher tossed a 9-yard pass to Carson Strickland to bring his team within three points.
Brandon Wilson opened up the second half with a 55-yard touchdown rush. With usual key running backs Taylor Tepesano and Ryan Valdes sidelined due to injury, Wilson, Alvarado and Strickland split time at the position.
The Mustangs rattled off three more touchdowns before Wilson reached the end zone for his second TD of the night, this one of 16 yards.
“I came into the game like, you never know, this could be my last high school football game so I’m going to give it all I got and carry my team,” Wilson said. “I went out there tonight and gave it all I got.”
Evanson Love solidified the win with a 37-yard scoring rush.
Canyon qualified for the playoffs this season after Oxnard forfeited wins for using an ineligible player. The team took advantage of its second chance at the postseason.
“We weren’t supposed to be here,” Wilson said. “For us to come far, that says a lot about us. It was a good feeling, but I wish it could’ve went further … I’m just glad that we changed the culture. That’s all that matters.”