2017-2018 Canyon Year in Review

The Canyon cheerleaders support the girls basketball team in a game against St. Anthony on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal
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As one of the oldest schools in the Foothill League, Canyon High School is in an interesting position. It has to uphold a sense of tradition, but also forge ahead into the future.

“You look at what was done in the past but you’ve got to continue to go out each and every day to work to create new goals, new opportunities,” said Canyon boys soccer coach Robert Benavidez, “but at the same time, remember what got us there. The hard work, paying attention to the details.”

Benavidez’s team is certainly an example of that statement. The Cowboys got their first win since the 2015-16 season as well as a trip to the postseason for the first time in six seasons in their most recent season.

The girls soccer team followed a similar pattern of improvement this year, achieving the program’s furthest playoff run by reaching the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 tournament.

Football, too, had a wild ride into the playoffs. The Cowboys received an at-large bid to the CIF-SS Division 6 playoffs – their first time in the postseason since 2014.

Canyon proceeded to beat San Gorgonio in the first round, but was stopped by Mira Costa in the second. Nevertheless, it signaled a turn for the positive.

“I think that having many of our teams move into the playoffs or simply having program success, it showcases that the programs are back on the upswing,” said football coach Rich Gutierrez via text message. “Honestly, I believe all schools and programs go through cyclical growth periods, but they are never embraced.

“Ultimately, it is always a process, however, to see growth and success, all the while with home grown Canyon families is amazing.”

Although they didn’t earn a playoff bid, Canyon baseball saw vast improvements as well, ending the season with an overall winning record for the first time since 2013.

Boys cross country flourished, finishing third in league and going all the way to the CIF state tournament.

Canyon’s perennial teams found their usual success as well. The boys track team captured their ninth straight Foothill League title and sent Ethan Danforth (3,200 meter race) and Christian Valles (pole vault) to the state tournament. Gabby Sanchez of the girls track and field team excelled in discus once again, winning the event in Division 2 at the CIF-SS finals.

After sharing the league title with Valencia last season, the girls basketball team snatched the crown for themselves – and went undefeated in the process. The Cowboys moved through the postseason until they were halted by Alemany in the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals.

With a combination of repeated success and indications of future success, Canyon is in a good place heading into future years.

“How do you uphold the tradition? You simply stay focused on what Canyon High School is known for,” Gutierrez said. “Effort, attitude and toughness.  Also, old school grit.

“I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. Canyon Families know that grit and it’s what we live by. All we can do is continue to put our best foot forward, compete daily and stay committed to the process.”


Female Athlete of the Year (As selected by the school)

Talia Taufaasau

Taufaasau surpassed 1,000 career points in her senior year with Canyon and was part of a dominant, undefeated girls basketball team that went to the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals. The point guard averaged 14.6 points per game and 7.6 assists per game.

Male Athlete of the Year (As selected by the school)

Ethan Danforth

Danforth had unprecedented success in running this season. He took first in the Division 2 race at the CIF-SS cross country finals and second in the Division 2 race at the CIF state meet. In track and field season, he placed fourth in the 3200-meter race at the CIF state meet and first in the event at the Foothill League and CIF-SS finals.


Five most memorable teams

Boys cross country

Making noise in the Foothill League for the first time in a while, the Cowboys finished seventh at the CIF state cross country meet. They won the first Foothill League meet of the season and ended the season ranked third in the league.

Boys track and field

Canyon won the Foothill League title for the ninth consecutive year behind a plethora of talented individuals like Ethan Danforth, Christian Valles, Troy Chairez and Jacob Lopez – just to name a few.

Girls basketball

Losing only five games the entire season, the Cowboys went undefeated in Foothill League play and beat Valencia for a Foothill League title. They competed against tough teams like Ribet Academy and Mater Dei and made it to the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals.

Girls soccer

After securing a second-place finish in the Foothill League behind Hart, the Cowboys made the farthest playoff run in program history. They went all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals, where they lost to Pacifica of Garden Grove 1-0.

Boys soccer

The Cowboys got their first win on their home turf since the 2015-16 season in a win over Calabasas and kept on building from there. Closing out the season without a loss in its final seven games, Canyon lost in double-overtime to Eastside in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 5 tournament. It was the team’s first playoff appearance in six seasons.


Five most memorable male athletes

Kevin Childs

As Canyon’s top boys swimmer, Childs won first in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke at the Foothill League finals with times of 49.99 and 50.00 seconds, respectively.

Charles Harrison

In his junior year with the Cowboys, Harrison recorded 72 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA in 63 innings. He also had a .322 batting average and 16 RBIs at the plate.

Jacob Lopez

Lopez was an explosive lineman for the Canyon football team. In track and field, he threw 57-7 in shot put to rank second all-time in the event in the Canyon record books.

Adam Rodriguez

Amid Canyon boys soccer’s historic season, Rodriguez was the team’s leading scorer with seven goals and tacked on four assists.

Christian Valles

In his first year with the Cowboys after transferring from Burroughs, Valles was the top pole vaulter in the Foothill League. He set the Canyon record in the event at 15-09 at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.


Five most memorable female athletes

Rachel Bowers

The Boise State signee surpassed 1,000 career points in her senior season and helped the Cowboys girls basketball team to an undefeated, title-winning season. During track season, Bowers took first in the girls high jump at the Foothill League finals.

Gabby Sanchez

At the CIF-SS finals, Sanchez claimed first place in Division 2 and set a new Canyon record by throwing 146-09 in discus. She then came in fourth in the event at the Masters Meet for a trip to the CIF state meet. Sanchez was also a hard-working defender on the basketball team in addition to being a valedictorian for Canyon.

Selasi Mawugbe

Mawugbe was a workhorse on offense and defense for the Canyon girls basketball team. She tied for second on the team in points per game with 7.5. In track, she competed in the high jump, triple jump, long jump and 100-meter hurdles.

Claudia McKail

In her senior campaign, McKail led the girls soccer team in goals with 15 and in assists with seven and had four multi-goal games. She’ll continue her playing career at NCAA Division 2 Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Aubrey McKessy

McKessy played well above her upperclassman status, making 113 saves for the girls soccer team and combined with the back line for six shutouts.


Playoff teams

Boys cross country – Earning some clout in the Foothill League season, Canyon went all the way to the CIF state meet, where they placed seventh.

Girls basketball – The Foothill League champions reached the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals and lost to Alemany by 10 points.

Football – In their first playoff appearance since 2014, the Cowboys earned an at-large bid to the CIF-SS Division 6 playoffs, where they beat San Gorgonio in the first round and lost to Mira Costa in the second round.

Boys soccer – After a wild-card win, the Cowboys lost to Eastside in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 5 playoffs on a penalty kick.

Girls soccer – Canyon ended its season in the CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinals on the road against Pacifica of Garden Grove.

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