The Cowboys celebrate winning their season opener against Glendale at Canyon High School. Sasha Thomas-Oakley was named one of the five most memorable female athletes of the year. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

2018-19 Canyon Year in Review

For the Canyon High School athletics program, the past year was full of coaching changes.

Longtime cross-country and track and field coach Paul Broneer announced his retirement earlier this week, though he’s going to stay on as an assistant for the girls varsity basketball team and continue to help out with the track and field team.

One of Broneer’s assistant coaches in track and field, Frank Rock, decided to hang it up after 30 years of coaching Canyon’s pole vaulters.

Rich Gutierrez, who helmed the Canyon football team for eight years, stepped down after the season. Gutierrez compiled a 44-43-1 overall record, but a slew of injuries this past season made it difficult for the Cowboys to gain any traction.

“I just thought it was the right time for me and it was the right time for the program,” Gutierrez said after putting in his resignation. “I love the program and I want to see the program continue to progress and sometimes I think a change is necessary. I thought this is what was best for Cowboy football.”

Though several key figures said goodbye, this past year also ushered in a new era of coaches returning to their roots.

The varsity baseball team welcomed back Justin Stark, who was a three-year varsity player on the Cowboys from 2012-2014.

In 2013, the Cowboys were co-Foothill League champs with West Ranch, and Stark was a main contributor that season. Now, he is doing his best to bring the baseball program back to glory.

The Cowboys varsity basketball team also saw the return of head coach Sean DeLong. DeLong coached Canyon for four seasons from 2012-13 to 2015-16, leading the Cowboys to a winning record and the playoffs three out of four years.

After taking two years off, DeLong returned this past season, and the Cowboys improved drastically in a short span. After going 4-22 overall and winless in league in 2017-18, Canyon improved to 10-18 overall and 3-7 in league, finishing tied for fourth in the Foothill League.

Jill Hurley, a former track athlete at Canyon and College of the Canyons, is taking over Rock’s position as the head pole vault coach.

“She was one of my jumpers years back. She was one of the first people I looked for,” Rock said about Hurley. “That was one of the reasons I didn’t want to retire, I wanted to be certain that the program wasn’t forgotten. I wanted to turn it over to someone who is knowledgeable about the event and she’s very knowledgeable.”

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

Angelee Berganio

Berganio was a major contributor for both the cross-country team and the track and field team this year. The junior set a personal record of 18 minutes and 17.1 seconds in the 3-mile race at the Cool Breeze Evening Invitational, placing 47th out of 254 runners. She took home the Foothill League title in the 800-meter with a time of 2:19.48.

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

Kevin Childs

Childs defended his Foothill League titles in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke. Advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 meet in both races, Childs was the lone Foothill League boys swimmer to win a title at the meet winning the 100-yard backstroke. Childs came in second place in the 100-yard backstroke at the State Meet.

Five most memorable teams

Girls basketball

The Cowboys finished 14-15 overall in Division 1, but made the playoffs and continued their impressive streak of 10 consecutive years they’ve reached the postseason. They finished third in the Foothill League with a 6-4 league record. The Cowboys beat a number of playoff teams including Birmingham, Ventura and Dorsey. They lost to the eventual Division 1 champions Chaminade in the first round of the playoffs.

Boys basketball

With the return of DeLong as head coach, the Cowboys made impressive strides this year after going winless in league the two years prior. Featuring a defensive-minded group that was a threat from the perimeter and could score inside, the Cowboys never made it easy on their opponents. Their schedule was loaded with some of the best teams in the area, but the Cowboys never backed down from a challenge.

Boys track and field

After nine consecutive Foothill League championships, the boys track and field team’s dominant reign came to an end this season, finishing 3-2 in league. Nonetheless, the Cowboys still had three athletes reach the CIF State Track and Field Championships: Tyler Cash, Ethan Danforth and Jacob Lopez. Cash and Lopez both reached the podium, with the former finishing second in boys high jump and the latter taking sixth-place in boys discus.

Boys cross-country

Returning the All-Foothill League Boys Cross-Country Runner of the Year, Ethan Danforth, and grouping him with Alfredo De Anda, Kyle Stevens, Frank Lofton, Andrew Mawhorter, Ryan Hogan, and Fernando Osorio, the Cowboys boys cross-country team made great strides this year, finishing third at the Foothill League Finals. At the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals, the Cowboys finished in 11th place.

Boys volleyball

Canyon’s boys volleyball team made a sizable jump this year, going 14-14 overall after finishing 11-16 the year prior. The Cowboys featured a dynamic lineup that gave opponents fits because of its size and length. Senior captain Shane Kelley did it all for the Cowboys and helped lead them to a fourth-place finish in the Foothill League.

Five most memorable male athletes

Tyler Cash

Cash dominated in the high jump all season, finishing in first place at several meets including the Trevor Habberstad Invitational, the Nike Redondo Invitational and the Foothill League Finals. The junior took the top spot at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals, then qualified for the State Meet, where he finished in second place.

Ethan Danforth

The Southern Utah University signee excelled in both cross-country and track and field. Danforth finished third in the 3-mile race at the CIF-SS Division Finals with a personal record of 14:40.0. At the NXN Nike Cross Nationals, he finished No. 81 out of 204 runners from across the country in the 5,000-meter race. He also took first place at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals in the 3,200-meter and qualified for the State Meet.

Charles Harrison

Whether he was at the plate or on the mound, Harrison did it all for the Cowboys this season. The UCLA commit finished third in the league in strikeouts with 61 in 50 innings pitched. He was second on the team in hits with 23 and was third on the team in RBIs with five. He logged a .324 batting average and added eights runs.

Jacob Lopez

The senior thrower was a force all year in both discus and shot put. Lopez took home the Foothill League title in shot put and finished second in discus. He hit a personal record of 60-3 in shot put at the CIF-SS Division 2 Prelims and finished in third at the CIF-SS Division 2 Finals. The future San Jose State Spartan advanced to the State Championships in both events, reaching the podium with a sixth-place finish in discus.

Willie Yomba

A potential highlight reel every time he touched the ball, Yomba brought the crowd to its feet with his thunderous jams, sleek passes and shot-stuffing blocks. The senior led his team in rebounds (6.7), steals (1.8) and assists (2.8) per game. He was second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 points per contest.

Five most memorable female athletes

Lucy Collins

Collins teamed up with teammate Chidinma Okafor to form a one-two punch in the paint for the Canyon basketball team. She was third on the team in scoring averaging 5.2 points per game and second in rebounding averaging 5.5 boards per game. She averaged 1.1 steals per game and was also second in blocks at 0.6 per game.

Emily Guluzza

A naturally gifted athlete, Guluzza made a splash in track and field during her freshman campaign. She finished first in the 1,600-meter in three league dual meets and first in the 800-meter in three league dual meets. Guluzza finished in fourth place in the 800-meter at the Foothill League Finals with a personal record of 2:21.16. She also helped Canyon win the 4×800 relay and 4×1600 relay at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational.

Sierra McCormick

As a sophomore on the soccer team, McCormick was one of the youngest captains in the Foothill League. The anchor in the midfield, she controlled the tempo for the Cowboys and was all over the field. McCormick could drop back on defense and was accurate with her passes, setting up her teammates for great goal-scoring opportunities.

Chidinma Okafor

The lengthy junior averaged a double-double with 13.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Okafor’s 12.7 rebounds was third-best in the entire CIF-SS Division 1 conference and her 3.4 blocks per game was also third-best in the conference. She averaged 1.9 steals per game and shot 42% from the field, helping lead the Cowboys to the playoffs.

Sasha Thomas-Oakley

The senior outside hitter was a force for the Cowboys all season. Thomas-Oakley used her length and great leaping ability to manufacture kill after kill and shoulder the load for her team. She could play any position on the court and her hustle was always on display. Thomas-Oakley is set to continue her playing career at California State University San Bernardino.

Playoff teams

Girls basketball

The Cowboys made it to the postseason for the 10th consecutive year playing in the toughest division in the CIF-SS. Though Okafor put up a triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 blocks, Canyon lost in the first-round to the eventual champions, Chaminade.

Boys cross-country

The Cowboys boys qualified for the CIF-SS Division 2 Prelims and Finals where they were earned an 11th-place finish, led by Danforth. De Anda finished in 22nd place while Danforth was the only Canyon runner to qualify for the state meet after coming in third place.  

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