When Canyon and Hart meet under the lights on Friday night, throw out the records.
The 4-3 Indians traveled to Harry Welch Stadium to take on the 2-5 Cowboys, and neither team disappointed, at least in the first half.
After a back-and-forth affair in the first two quarters, Hart was able to shut out Canyon’s offense in the second half on its way to a 41-20 victory.
Hart (5-3, 2-1 in Foothill League) running back Taden Littleford took over the game in the first half, rushing for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in the first 24 minutes. He finished with 219 yards on the ground and added three receptions for 20 yards.
“I improved from last week. Last week I wasn’t as patient of a runner,” said Littleford, who also said he was dealing with strep throat. “This week I allowed my linemen to do their job, wait for the hole to open and just bursted through it.”
Littleford’s ability to gain large chunks of yards kept Hart’s drives alive, forcing Canyon’s (2-6, 0-3) defense to stay on the field for long stretches.
“Their ability to control the clock, we couldn’t get off the field defensively,” said Canyon head coach Joe Maiale. “Our guys made some play early in the first half and then I think we had two drives going into that fourth quarter. We didn’t execute on offense, got a little banged up.”
Hart opened up the scoring on its initial drive with a 1-yard touchdown run from Littleford, who had 48 yards on four carries on the first drive.
Canyon answered on its ensuing possession, as quarterback Aydyn Litz found one of his favorite targets in Reno Sifuentes for a 62-yard score.
Jarrett Reeser hit a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter to give Canyon its first and only lead of the game at 10-7.
Littleford answered back with another score, taking a pitch down the right sideline and hitting the afterburners on his way to a 55-yard touchdown.
On Canyon’s next possession, Litz was able to find an open James Mendibles, who took the ball 80 yards for the score, however, a holding penalty on Canyon negated the touchdown.
At the end of the first half, Canyon had another touchdown wiped off the board due to a holding penalty.
“We talk about it all the time, we can’t worry about what the refs do, can’t worry about bad calls, you just have to keep playing,” Maiale said. “It was tough, I know they weren’t happy on that side either about some calls. That touchdown, that hurt, it was a big one. It can’t be an excuse in the sense that we have to push through and overcome adversity, and tonight we just didn’t do enough.”
Littleford scored his third touchdown in the second quarter on an 11-yard rush.
Canyon responded with its own scoring drive that concluded with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Litz to Colin Figueroa.
After Littleford got his scoring out of the way, it was time for quarterback Zach Johnson and wide receiver Ashton Thomas to leave their mark.
Johnson connected with Thomas for an 8-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, then followed it up with a 7-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
The duo didn’t stop there, as Johnson found his wideout one more time in the fourth quarter for a 19-yard touchdown.
“It’s extremely helpful. Anybody you talk to will talk about running to set up the pass, passing to set up the run, we really run to set up the pass,” Johnson said about the run game opening things up for the passing attack. “Having the ability to get yards like that on first downs really opens up the whole playbook. Second-and-four, third-and-three is a lot more manageable then second-and-12. It really helps us out.”
The atmosphere was electric all night with a large crowd on hand for the classic rivalry game between the two schools.
“It was special, a big crowd, alums everywhere, it was a special experience tonight,” Maiale said. “I look forward to doing this several more times, hopefully I can be here as long as coach (Mike) Herrington, that would be really cool.”
Canyon will look to rebound against Golden Valley next week and Hart will face West Ranch on the road.