Canyon football ends preleague with win over Royal

Canyon senior running back Ryan Valdes raises the ball in celebration of a touchdown in a non-league match up with Royal of Simi Valley at Canyon High School on Friday. Cory Rubin/ The Signal
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Heading into the final preleague game, Canyon football was as ready as ever when it hosted Royal High of Simi Valley at Canyon on Friday night.

Canyon (2-3) looked shaky to begin, but cleaned things up for the 48-21 win on homecoming night.

“This whole week we were working on starting off strong because that has always been our problem,” said senior running back Ryan Valdes. “We always caught up we just had to catch up, but today we started off really strong and gave us the lead and kept the edge on our side.”

With their usual starting running back Jake Acquaviva out with a heel injury, the Cowboys still relied on their ground attack for most of the game.

Turning to seniors Carson Strickland, Ryan Valdes and Shawn Gallagher along with sophomore Darrin Warren, the Cowboys were able to rack up almost 300 yards on the ground between a myriad of running backs.

“It was honestly just the lineman,” Strickland said. “We have very good lineman and I’ve been with them since I was 10 or 12, so I kind of learned to just run behind them and score some points.”

Valdes started the scoring for the Cowboys five minutes into the game getting loose for a 20-yard touchdown run.

The Highlanders (1-5) answered with a 30-yard touchdown reception by Nicholas Torres from quarterback Garrett Westerhouse to tie the game at 7-7.

From there, the Cowboys blew the game wide open, scoring on back-to-back possessions.

Strickland caught a 25-yard screen pass from quarterback Aydyn Litz for a touchdown, and after Royal fumbled the ball on their own 30-yard line, sophomore wide receiver James Mendibles caught Litz’s second touchdown pass of the game on the next play for a 30-yard score.

The Cowboys led 21-7 after one quarter.

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It was more of the same in the second quarter as the Cowboys defense made stop after stop as Jacob Lopez, Antonio Amador and Justin Swanson were quick off the ball disrupting nearly every snap for the Highlanders.

“Honestly, it’s great seeing the frontline getting some stops and making them work for every yard that they got,” said Canyon coach Rich Gutierrez. “They were gang tackling. I think it’s huge because it’s tough to tackle and I’m very proud.”

Then lightning struck in the form of Shawn Gallagher.

Canyon senior receiver Carson Strickland breaks free of a Highlander defender in a non-league matchup with Royal of Simi Valley at Canyon High School on Friday, Sept. 21. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

Over the next two drives, Gallagher carried the ball three times for 12 yards and two touchdowns putting the Cowboys up 34-7 heading into halftime.

In the second half, the Cowboys were able to score two more times as Litz found wide receiver Henry Vera in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 5-yard run by Strickland, his second touchdown of the night.

The Highlanders were able to save face and score two more times in the game, none more impressive than the 95-yard touchdown run by John Moore.

The Cowboys open up league play against Valencia at Canyon at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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