Canyons football unafraid of two-quarterback system

College of the Canyons' quarterback Armani Edden (7) takes the snap on the goal line from center Jordan Palmer (74) against Saddleback College in the first quarter at COC on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

College of the Canyons football coach Ted Iacenda hasn’t shied away from using a two-quarterback system in the past.

In his first year as head coach in 2013 Iacenda deployed two quarterbacks, Tony Dawson and Jake Dashnaw. Both players threw a minimum of five passes in each game that season, and it worked out well for the Cougars.

Dawson completed 77-of-138 passes for 1,230 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Dashnaw finished the season 93-for-168 with 1,073 passing yards, nine touchdowns and one pick. The Cougars finished 8-3, won their first conference title since 2008 and also made the CCCAA Southern California Regional Playoffs for the first time since 2008.

In 2014, Dawson split reps with Devon Dunn. The former went 84-for-162 with 1,057 passing yards, eight touchdowns and six picks. Dunn threw for 790 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, completing 59-of-118 passes.

Iacenda utilized two quarterbacks once again in 2016. CJ Williams completed 69-of-138 passes for 907 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions and Matthew Moore threw for 1,433 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, completing 100-of-190 passes.

Even on the 2004 “National Championship” team that went 14-0 coached by now athletic director Chuck Lyon, Cory Miles carried the bulk of the passing load completing 229-of-386 passes for 3,127 yards and 26 touchdowns, but Marcel Marquez contributed by completing 37-of-65 passes for 413 yards and two touchdowns. 

This year, Iacenda is once again rotating two quarterbacks.

“I’m not afraid to switch around, we’ve done that before, we’ve rotated and had success doing it,” Iacenda said about his quarterback situation before the start of the season. “They all do some things that are really good and they all make mistakes, so we’re going to see what happens.”

Freshman Colton Doyle started the Cougars’ season opener against Saddleback College on Saturday and played a total of five offensive drives. He finished the game 3-of-13 for 42 yards and a pick, and Canyons scored once while he was under center — a Tanner Brown field goal to start the second half. All three of his pass completions came on that drive.

College of the Canyons quarterback Colton Doyle (8) throws during a scrimmage against Santa Barbara City College at COC in Valencia on Aug. 24. Dan Watson/The Signal

Sophomore Armani Edden played nine total drives and had a better statistical game, finishing 19-of-34 for 211 yards and one touchdown, while adding a rushing touchdown. Edden engineered three scoring drives, including both of the Cougars’ touchdowns.

“I was disappointed in our quarterback play tonight,” Iacenda said after the 45-20 loss to Saddleback. “We’re young and this is obviously their first year in this offense so we have to grow up there quickly, stand in the pocket and make some throws. There was a lot of good things, a lot of bad things. We have to go back and see what we liked, what we didn’t like. They both can play, there’s no question they did a lot of good things so we’ll see.”

Despite the result in the opening game, the Cougars are far from hitting the panic button, and Iacenda isn’t going to drastically alter the game plan he’s devised for the quarterback situation. 

In fact, the Cougars lost their season opener in 2013 to Golden West, and that team which featured both Dawson and Dashnaw at quarterback still finished with a conference championship and a playoff berth. 

For the wide receivers, they agree that it doesn’t really matter who is throwing them the ball, as long as whoever is under center is ready to bring their best effort every time they hit the field. 

“I tell everybody, ‘lay it all out.’ I’m going to lay it all out for whichever quarterback is out there, and I want that as a team,” said starting wideout Alonzell Henderson. “I tell everybody to lay it all out on the field in order to keep that energy up and to make that big play. Any quarterback, it doesn’t matter, it’s who wants it bad and who will go pour it all out on the field and play every game like it’s the last one.”

Despite having the better statistical game on Saturday, Edden has taken a diplomatic approach to the quarterback situation.

Like any competitive player, he wants to start and contribute to the team as much as he can, but what’s in the best interest of the team takes precedence. 

“I wish we would have come out on the winning side, but we have a lot of things to work on so we’re using this as a wake up call for sure,” Edden said after the loss. “I just have to believe in my ability and just stay ready for every opportunity and every chance I get.”

While Iacenda said before the season that he’d like for one of the quarterbacks to be an “outright, clear-cut leader,” he and the coaching staff will continue to evaluate the position as the season progresses. It may just come down to who has the hot hand on a game-by-game, drive-by-drive basis.

Doyle and Edden will get another chance to display their abilities on Saturday when Canyons takes on Grossmont College at Cougar Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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