The festivities started early at Cougar Stadium on Saturday, as College of the Canyons hosted its 50th Anniversary Homecoming Celebration.
Spectators enjoyed music, food vendors, giveaways and more before the COC football team took the field to face Cerritos College.
The Cougars, ranked No. 13 by the latest California Community College football coaches poll, capped off the special occasion with a 31-17 win over the No. 7 ranked Falcons.
The biggest spark of the game came with 33 seconds left in the first half, with Canyons trailing 10-3. COC’s previous two drives ended in a punt and a turnover after failing to convert on fourth down at the goal line.
Alonzell Henderson flanked quarterback Armani Edden to the right, caught a quick screen pass, then got a tremendous block from Kideam Diouf.
Henderson made a move to the outside and got more blocks from linemen Azad Markosian and Jordan Palmer and wide receiver Trevon Elliott.
The sophomore speedster cut back inside and outran any would-be-tacklers for an 87-yard touchdown.
“Before the play, coach is saying protect the ball, get out of bounds and if you get tackled get to the ground,” Henderson said. “But the play opened up, there was a big block by my lineman No. 66 Kideam. Big block, I saw it, got outside and saw the hole open. I’m like, I can get out of bounds right now or I can take it, and I feel I can take it. I have the speed and I saw the hole, it came out as a big play for us and I just thank God.”
“We were struggling the last part of the first half to move the ball, we only had the ball three possesions and one of them was a three-and-out,” said Canyons head coach Ted Iacenda. “So that last drive we were like, we have to be aggressive, we can’t sit on this we have to try and get some plays.
“We called the screen thinking it’s a safe play, we’ll get the ball to our playmaker and maybe we can at least move the ball and if we have to punt it’ll be more towards their side of the field, but things worked out. Zelly broke it, we had a couple great blocks and he did the rest.”
The big play gave the Cougars a shot in the arm that they carried into the second half, overpowering the Falcons on both sides of the ball.
On the Cougars’ first drive of the third quarter, Edden systematically moved the ball down the field. He hit Elliott for 11 yards then connected with tight end Terrell Stanley for six yards. Wideout Trey Longstreth caught a 28-yard pass, moving the Cougars closer to the red zone.
In a two-back set, running back Jordan Anderson was on the left side of Edden and streaked down the left sideline. He sped past a Cerritos defender and caught a perfectly-placed ball from Edden for a 30-yard touchdown.
“(The coaches) try to put me in the best spot that fits me,” Anderson said. “I’m not really that heavy as far as weight, so if I can get the ball in the air I can be more dynamic. You can throw me in the pass game.”
The Falcons answered on their ensuing possession to tie the game at 17-17. Quarterback TJ McMahon completed a 6-yard pass to C.J. Parks for the score. Parks also had another touchdown for the Falcons, a 24-yard catch on fourth-and-12 on their first possession of the game.
Cerritos had just two more possessions after that, both resulting in punts, as the Cougars’ defense went on lockdown mode.
Jauqine Vukobradovich led the team with eight tackles. Linebacker Tyler Richardson had seven tackles, including two for a loss, and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage on the Falcons’ first play of the game.
“All week coach has been preaching bend don’t break, and that’s been a big motto we’ve been living on all year,” Richardson said. “After the Saddleback loss we’ve been picking it up at practice. After the first score it was suck it up. It’s a heavyweight fight, throw one, we take one, we throw one back, so at the end of the day it’s who’s the best and we got it at the end.”
Linebacker Julian Salazar recorded four tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss including an important tackle for loss near the end of the third quarter that stalled a Falcons drive.
Jack Schultz and Bradley Brown each had half a sack, and Aurion Peoples logged a sack.
“Coach (Dan) Corbet, coach Ed (McGilvra), coach I (Iacenda) have been preaching to us: If we want to be the best we have to beat the best,” Richardson said. “Cerritos is a hell of a team and we showed who we were as a team in 2019.”
Edden continued to feed his bevy of receivers and also made big plays with his feet to extend drives.
The sophomore signal-caller finished with 391 passing yards and four touchdowns, completing 16-of-21 passes. He ran for 49 yards on seven carries, and moved his feet well to avoid pressure in and out of the pocket.
“He got that from the running backs,” Anderson said with a smile. “We taught him how to get loose, look up field and don’t worry about who is coming from the side or behind. You see a hole, green light, go for it and use that speed.”
Edden’s third touchdown came on a play where he displayed his elusiveness, avoiding a sack and buying time for receiver Romello Cook to change directions in the end zone, leading to a 5-yard touchdown.
Henderson and Edden connected one last time in the fourth quarter on a swing pass to the left that went for a 10-yard score. Henderson bounced off lineman Thomas Le Boucher, maintained his balance and found his way to paydirt.
Henderson finished with three catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Anderson had two catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, and Longstreth added 59 yards on two catches.
Elliott (49 yards), Cook (22 yards plus a touchdown) and Cayden Dunn (38 yards) all finished with two catches.
Cyrus Zuell led the team in rushing with 98 yards on 10 carries, all in the second half.
Tanner Brown scored the Cougars first points of the game, striking a 50-yard field goal down the middle on their first offensive possession.
Both the offense and defense have shown vast improvement since the team’s season-opening loss to Saddleback. Henderson attributes it to the team supporting one another and building an unbreakable bond.
“As a team we’re starting to get it, still things we have to work on but I like that we’re getting that camaraderie,” Henderson said. “At the end of the day, play-by-play it’s my brother next to me and as long as I go as hard as I can for him and he goes as hard as he can for me, we should come out victorious every time.
“The team that we have offensively and defensively, we have a lot of guys, that’s all it is. Just having that bond, if I give my all, I know he’s going to give his all and that’s how we’re going to win.”
Canyons will face Golden West on the road Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff. It will be the first away game for the Cougars, who played at home last week after a power outage at Santa Barbara City College forced the game to be moved.