For 10 weeks during the regular season, the College of the Canyons football team celebrated Saturday nights with a victory and a raucous rendition of the traditional postgame “Cougar Prayer.”
On this particular Saturday, sophomore defensive back Shaddrick Lowery Jr. led a much more somber “Cougar Prayer” after Canyons fell to Ventura College 21-13 at College of the Canyons in the first round of the CCCAA SoCal Regional Playoffs.
The loss was COC’s first of the season and knocks the conference champions out of the playoffs.
Canyons had previously defeated Ventura in week eight by a score of 31-7.
“Football is a crazy game. Just like when we played them the first time they turned the ball over six times. We gave them some fortunate field position and they made the most of it,” said Canyons head coach Ted Iacenda. “We didn’t make enough plays, we made too many mistakes and they played a pretty clean game.
“Usually in playoff football, that’s who is going to be the winner.”
The Pirates gained the upper hand early, blocking a Cougars punt after the first drive of the game stalled.
With Ventura already in striking distance after the change of possession, sophomore running back Thomas Duckett picked up 37 total yards on four rushing plays, the last one being a 7-yard touchdown run to give the Pirates the early 7-0 lead.
The Cougars were able to answer on their ensuing possession, as quarterback Wyatt Eget connected with several of his receivers for big gains.
Eget hit Tim Wiggins for a 21-yard gain then found Jarrin Pierce twice for a total of 16 yards. He completed a 26-yard pass to Brandon Pierce and capped off the drive with two passes to Leroy Deshazor, one a 7-yard gain and again for an 8-yard score.
Canyons took a 10-7 early lead in the second quarter on a 32-yard field goal from Tanner Brown after Eget connected with Jarrin Pierce for a 54-yard bomb that Pierce caught while juggling the ball and falling to the ground.
After the Cougars forced a Pirates punt they looked poised to strike once again.
However, Eget was sacked on a third-and-15 and fumbled the ball with Ventura recovering in Canyons territory.
The very next play Duckett ran in for a 9-yard touchdown, giving the Pirates a 14-10 advantage that they would not relinquish.
Ventura was able to score once more before the end of the half on a 7-yard touchdown reception after Eget threw an interception near COC’s red zone.
Eget finished the contest with 306 passing yards on 27-of-47 passes, one touchdown and one interception.
“There were some mistakes that were uncharacteristic of me tonight and it showed in the score,” Eget said. “I’m going to learn from everything I did tonight. Playing with this team is only going to help me on the next level.”
The Cougars were able to hold the Pirates to zero points in the second half, but they scored only three points themselves on another 32-yard field goal from Brown to start the fourth quarter.
Canyons had one last chance to score with less than seven minutes left in the game, but Ventura was able to get a stop on a fourth-and-11 on its own 43-yard line.
With a little over four minutes left in the game, Ventura ran the clock out after gaining three first downs and forcing Canyons to burn its timeouts.
After the game, Iacenda gathered his team and reiterated something he had told them last week at halftime when they were trailing Bakersfield.
“We talk about this a ton. Yes we want to win, we’re competitive as heck. But it’s more about doing things the right way. Putting in the work, putting in the effort and playing the game the right way,” Iacenda said. “I tell them, ‘Life is hard too. You’re going to get knocked down and what are you going to do, not get back up? No. You’re going to get up and keep moving forward.’”
While the season comes to an end, the work is never over for Iacenda and his staff.
Now they will continue to work to get their players to the next level.
“Wins and losses are important but at the end of the day it’s about watching our boys playing on Saturdays on TV and cheering them on. That’s what my job is about,” Iacenda said. “We’re going to work our tails off and we’re going to have a ton of young men going to four-year schools this next offseason.”
Eget is one of the many players on a laundry list of sophomores who will be moving on in their athletic and academic careers.
While Eget is sad his time playing football at COC has come to an end, he’s just happy he was able to be part of such a tight-knit team that he considers family.
“I’m just so proud of this team. Our defense was insane, they kept us in every game. Our offense did what we had to do,” Eget said. “Each one of them means a ton to me. I love the family aspect here. They are my brothers and I am definitely going to keep pushing them.”