College of the Canyons sophomore running back Cayden Dunn runs down the sideline in a matchup with Santa Barbara Sunday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Running game explodes as COC football hammers Santa Barbara

A power outage at the Santa Barbara City College campus over the weekend brought the Santa Barbara football team to Cougar Stadium for a game between the Cougars and Vaqueros that was rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday night. 

The Cougars brought their own brand of power to the field on Sunday by way of the running game, rushing for 403 total yards and six touchdowns in a 63-10 victory over the Vaqueros.

“Offensively, we’re really coming together. I was very pleased with our execution in the run game,” said Canyons head coach Ted Iacenda. “We’re getting better up front and we knew our backs were dynamic. You can take a pick whoever is in has a chance to go to the house and do some really good things. I’m very pleased with the offensive line play tonight and Armani (Edden) made some great decisions but it all starts up front, they really paved the way.

“We challenged them this week, we had a goal that we wanted to come out and rush for 300. That was a key focus for us, we wanted to be able to establish the run, get this game going and shorten the game.”

Iacenda didn’t exaggerate about the ability of each and every running back on the roster, as five different ball carriers scored a touchdown on the ground.

Cayden Dunn was the first back to score, taking a handoff for a 3-yard touchdown on the Cougars’ second offensive drive of the game.

Dunn finished with 94 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, a rate of 10.4 yards per carry. His second rushing score came on a 17-yard scamper in the third quarter.

“It’s more of just coming together as a unit between the running backs, quarterbacks and the offensive linemen,” Dunn said. “I think that when we’re together and on the same page we can dominate anybody. The run game can go anywhere, literally. Tonight is an example of it.”

Cyrus Zuell got his chance to shine in the second half, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, all in the final two quarters.

Zuell used his athletic and acrobatic ability to evade tacklers, keep his balance and pick up large chunks of yards on almost every play. 

College of the Canyons freshman running back Cyrus Zuell stiff-arms a defender in a matchup with Santa Barbara Sunday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“By any means possible, I like to make big plays and get the rhythm of the offense going,” Zuell said. “I know that was a problem in the first half so I knew had to get on the field and get the offense going, so that’s what I tried to.”

It wasn’t only the offense that got going in the second half, but the defense looked like a completely different unit as well.

After letting the Vaqueros score 10 points in the first two quarters, COC’s defense shut them out in the second half. The defense forced four turnovers, three fumble recoveries and an interception, and had 14 tackles for loss including five sacks.

Linebacker Khalib Johns led the team with six tackles. Jonathan Thomas, Charles Ike and Ray’Vhaun Wilkins all had five tackles each. Ben Seymour (two), Lloyd Walker IV (one), Kendrick Hills (one) and Ike (one) recorded the sacks for COC. Safety Madison Wheeler had the lone interception.

“We just went in and we talked about playing passionate, playing full speed. I felt like we were a little lethargic in the first half,” said defensive coordinator Dan Corbet. “We talked about playing the right way, playing our brand of our football, playing fast, playing hard and credit to the kids they took it to heart. They came out and played a lot better in the second half.”

“We came out with that killer mentality that nobody else has,” said Hills, a defensive lineman. “First quarter we did slow up, we didn’t approach it the right way, but the second quarter and on I came in and did my job, had my brothers backs’ like they have mine. We still have a chip on our shoulder. Every week we have to get better.”

Moises Haynes was the third running back to score a touchdown, with his coming on a 7-yard run in the third quarter.

Jordan Anderson followed suit in the fourth quarter, breaking off a 66-yard touchdown run to put the Cougars up 56-10. Kartilus McFadden capped off the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown near the end of the game.

Haynes finished with four carries for 24 yards plus the touchdown, Anderson logged 81 yards and a score on two touches, and McFadden had nine yards and a touchdown on three rushes.

College of the Canyons sophomore quarterback Armani Edden scrambles in a matchup with Santa Barbara Sunday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Edden also displayed his ability to run, as the quarterback evaded would-be sacks for big plays on the ground to the tune of 86 yards on seven carries.

His ability to tuck it and run, coupled with his passing talent opened up the running game for the backfield. 

“Early in the game he kept it a bunch of times and had some big runs and I felt like that really opened up the run game for us because they were keying on him,” Zuell said about Edden. “I feel like he did a great job and so did the line.”

“I think it adds another weapon to our offense, makes us harder us to guard,” Edden said about his ability to run. “I think all our weapons on offense are versatile from the receiver position to the running back position and our O-line. We have sophomores returning and I like where we’re at up front.”

The sophomore gunslinger also got it done through the air, completing 18-of-24 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He had an interception that occurred after one of his passes bounced off the hands of wide receiver Romello Cook in the end zone and was picked off.

Edden also completed his first 10 passes to start the game.

“I’m very pleased, he’s grown up a lot in the last three weeks and he’s doing very well for us,” Iacenda said about his signal-caller. “We need him to continue to grow.”

College of the Canyons freshman receiver Trey Longstreth runs with the ball in a matchup with Santa Barbara Sunday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Edden connected with eight different receivers, with Trey Longstreth being the main beneficiary. He finished with six receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. Tiquan Gilmore had one catch for 44 yards and a touchdown and Emari Smith had four receptions for 41 yards.

Backup quarterback Michael Wilson entered the game in the fourth quarter and threw one pass, a 25-yard touchdown to Cook. Cook finished with two catches for 46 yards plus the score.

The one glaring area that seemed to be an issue for the Cougars was flags. Several holding, offsides and personal foul penalties were called on the Cougars throughout the evening.

Two holding penalties negated two different punt returns for touchdowns, one by Trevon Elliott and one by Smith.

“Regardless of the score, we have got to be hypercritical of our performance in all phases when it comes to penalties because we are shooting ourselves in the foot left and right and when we play better teams it’s going to be the difference between a win and a loss,” Iacenda said. “I was the most displeased with that. The false starts, the lining up offsides, the silly personal fouls that are indicative of selfish play, those are the ones that we got to knock off. We’re going to get that addressed.”

The Cougars will get back to practice on Monday for conditioning, lifting and film session as they start preparations for Saturday’s game against Cerritos at Cougar Stadium.

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