Cougars offense, defense come out firing in win over Grossmont College

College of the Canyons quarterback Andrew Brito looks for an open receiver in a game against Grossmont College at Grossmont on Saturday. Jesse Munoz/COC Athletics

By Jesse Muñoz
For The Signal


EL CAJON, Calif. — College of the Canyons rolled to a 47-14 victory over host Grossmont College on Saturday, with the Cougars forcing seven turnovers to go with a lethal aerial attack that helped the Cougars amass more than 500 yards of total offense.

After briefly trailing early in the second quarter, Canyons (2-0) promptly rattled off three scoring drives to take a 24-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.

COC sophomore quarterback Andrew Brito was quick to get into a rhythm with his receivers on Saturday, spreading the ball around to six different pass catchers to the tune of 368 yards and three scoring strikes. He finished the game 19-of-28 with two interceptions including one on a tipped ball deep in Grossmont territory.

The bulk of those yards went to the receiving tandem of Jarrin Pierce and Brandon Pierce, who gave the Griffin secondary fits all day.

Jarrin Pierce led all receivers with seven catches for 170 yards and a touchdown, while Brandon Pierce was not far off that pace with five catches for 91 yards and a scoring grab.

“Those guys are truly unbelievable, true D-1 talents right there,” said Brito after the game. “I’m so thankful to have those guys on my team. Our bond and connection just continue to grow.”

In the first quarter, Brito found Brandon Pierce down the sideline for a 38-yard reception that set the Cougars up on the Grossmont seven-yard line. The next play freshman running back Cayden Dunn found the end zone and the Cougars were on the board 7-0 after Tanner Brown’s PAT.

Grossmont (0-2) managed to battle back and found some early success on the ground with the Griffins tying the game on a one-yard plunge from running back Fabias Shipman III. On the Griffins’ next drive, running back Jarius Burnette got loose on a 34-yard run that put the Cougars behind 14-7 with 14:56 to go in the half.

“I was a little disappointed with how we handled the two-back run in the first quarter. They got a lead on us and that kind of shocked us,” said Canyons head coach Ted Iacenda. “We need to look at that and see what the heck happened.”

The Griffins would not be heard from again, however, with Brito and company continuing to roll offensively to end the half.

Brown’s 24-yard field goal with 11:44 remaining in the half cut the lead at 14-10. Three minutes later Brito found Jarrin Pierce for a 64-yard pass to the end zone, and Brown’s PAT put Canyons back in control at 17-14.

“Every time we touch the ball we plan to make plays and take advantage of all our opportunities. We know when the ball is in the air we have to connect,” said Jarrin Pierce. “As a receiving corps and an offense, we just have to dominate the opposition.”

COC freshman linebacker Charles Ike put his mark on the game with an interception that stalled out what had been a 10-play drive for the Griffins.

From there, four straight completions by Brito quickly moved the ball into Grossmont territory, before Tim Wiggins found a seam down the left side for a 10-yard touchdown reception that put the game at 24-14 and ended the first half scoring.

On COC’s opening possession of the second half, Brito again got into a rhythm with his wideouts on what turned out to be an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Brito connected with Jarrin Pierce on three plays for a combined 34 yards, and also found Brandon Pierce on two catches for 33 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass. Brown’s PAT put the game at 31-14 with 10:13 remaining in the quarter.

“That’s a tough tandem to deal with,” said Iacenda, about the Pierce-Pierce combination. “We thought going into this year that we were going to be very skilled on the offensive side of the ball, and we’ve proven to be that for two weeks.”

COC has also starred defensively through the first two weeks.

A week after limiting to Saddleback College to just six points, the Cougars shook off some first-half miscues and proceeded to shut out the Griffins in the second half.

Ike made another big defensive play on Grossmont’s ensuing possession with a strip-sack fumble that pushed the Griffins out of the red zone and forced an unsuccessful fourth down attempt. His seven total tackles ranked second for COC.

Later in the quarter, it was Tariq Speights forcing the Griffin ball carrier to fumble, with Johnny Morrison III able to pounce on the pigskin for the Cougars. That led to a 36-yard field goal from Brown that extended the lead at 34-14 with 4:53 to go in the third quarter.

Speights led the Cougar defense with 11 total tackles, and also added an interception to his stat line.

COC linebacker Bryan Berrera was the next Cougar to force a turnover with his interception just six plays later. In a pattern that seemed to play out throughout the second half, Brown was again called upon to secure points, with the freshman able to convert from 47-yards out and move the score to 37-14. Brown is a perfect 8-of-8 on field goal attempts this season.

“Watching the flow of the game, they had stops, we had stops, but what I think really turned the tide was our constant ability to be able to put points the board with Tanner Brown,” Iacenda said. “We’re excited about that aspect of our game right now.”

Noah McGregor was the next to force a fumble for Canyons, with Tre Valler able to recover. Six plays later Brown powered a 46-yard kick through the uprights and it was a 40-14 affair.

With under two minutes to go, COC sophomore defensive back Raeshawn Roland provided the final exclamation point with a 58-yard interception return that pushed the score to 47-14.

“We know defensively that we’re explosive,” Iacenda said. “We’ve seen it now for two games. We have a great front seven, our secondary is spectacular.”

Safety Shaddrick Lowery Jr. finished with six tackles, defensive back Antonio Hunt had a first-half interception, while linebacker Earl English was credited with a fumble recovery.

COC entered the game ranked No. 6 in the state according to the JC Athletic Bureau Head Coaches Poll and No. 7 in the California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA) Poll.

Canyons will next return home to Cougar Stadium to host Santa Barbara City College (1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15.

The Vaqueros were defeated 35-13 by San Bernardino Valley College in week two. Canyons and SBCC last met during the 2009 season, with the Vaqueros coming away 17-14.

All first responders are invited to attend the home opener free of charge (with valid ID). General admission tickets to Cougar football games are $10. Seniors over 60 and kids 10 and under are free.

Stay up to date on all this season’s action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

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