Canyon football can’t maintain first-half lead against Simi Valley

Coming off its first win of the season against Palmdale, the Canyon football team rediscovered the energy and intensity it played with last week and applied it to its game against Simi Valley on Friday night at Harry Welch Stadium.

The Cowboys got off to a hot start on offense, as quarterback Aydyn Litz and running back Sam Nguyen powered the Cowboys to a first-half lead, but they couldn’t hang on, falling 27-17 to the Pioneers.

“That’s a really good team and we knew that going in,” said Canyon head coach Joe Maiale. “Getting up early, we had a few long drives with great execution, I was really proud of that. Defensively after their second drive we played pretty lights out for about two and a half quarters. In the end, we gave them the ball back too many times and you can’t hold a team scoreless like that for too long.”

Litz connected with wide receiver Reno Sifuentes early and often, as the latter made some terrific catches to help lead the Cowboys (1-3) down the field. Litz capped off the initial drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to give Canyon the first points of the game. 

Simi Valley (3-2) answered quickly as running back Elijah Leiva muscled his way into the end zone to tie the game.

The Pioneers then took a 14-7 lead halfway through the first quarter on a Jonah Burton 9-yard touchdown catch, but the Cowboys’ defense responded by holding them scoreless after that until the fourth quarter. 

Senior defensive end Evan Cox was in the Pioneer’s backfield all night, prompting a Simi Valley coach to approach him after the game and shake his hand.

“Evan Cox had a monster game. He usually does but today was special,” Maiale said. 

Defensive lineman Felix Garcia also recovered a fumble in the third quarter.

After a 22-yard made field goal by Jarrett Reeser, the Cowboys built another long drive, once again by way of Sifuentes and wideout Colin Figueroa. 

Litz found Sifuentes for a 38-yard gain and Figueroa finished the drive with a 2-yard score to make it 17-14 in the Cowboys’ favor.

Sifuentes finished with six catches for 125 yards and Figueroa had 86 yards and a touchdown.

Litz completed 18-of-36 passes for over 200 yards with a touchdown and interception. He added 90 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The Cowboys’ run game also got off to a strong start behind Nguyen, who rushed the ball 18 times for 71 yards in the first half, including a run of 20 yards on his third carry of the night.

Nguyen cramped up in the second half and couldn’t return, but Maiale believes he’ll be ready to go next week.

“The run game is always important to us, we can’t live on throwing alone,” Maiale said. “I’m an offensive lineman at heart, we’re always going to run the football here.”

Simi Valley scored two touchdowns in the final quarter to put the game away for good.

After the game, Maiale gathered his team and reminded them to keep their heads up and that he was proud of the effort and determination they played with.

“You have to keep your head up, it’s tough to lose a game like that. It was a hard-fought game, they played their hearts out,” he said. “Like I said last week, nothing changes, we’re here for lift, we’re here to run, we’re going to watch the film and make the corrections we need to make and get ready for next week.”

Canyon will look to rebound against Royal High School on the road next week.

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