By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
College of the Canyons kept its win streak alive Saturday, overcoming a slow start and a few mistakes to make big plays on both sides of the ball against Palomar College in a 42-30 win.
The No. 5-ranked Cougars (4-0) faced a fast start by the Comets (2-2), who quickly converted a COC fumble into a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Comets back Tawee Walker for the game’s first score. Walker finished the first half with 63 rushing yards on 13 carries.
“A lot of good things to be excited about, but we’re more about the process than the product,” said Cougars head coach Ted Iacenda. “We’re not a bad football team — as a matter of fact, we’re quite the opposite of that. We have the ability to be very good, but we got to worry about ourselves and take care of ourselves.”
The Cougars proceeded to go to work to take care of their early deficit, outscoring the Comets 28-7 for the rest of the half behind quarterback Tooni Ikahihifo, who finished the half with 227 total yards and four total touchdowns. Wide receiver Andre Hunt finished the half with two catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns on his way to a four-catch, 137-yard night.
Ikahihifo and the Cougars offense were well-supported by the defense, which yielded 138 yards in the first half, as well as forcing two turnovers, blocking a punt and disrupting Palomar’s backfield. Linebacker Jonathan “JT” Thomas was a stalwart for the Cougars defense Saturday, forcing a fumble and leading the team with six tackles, as well as two tackles for losses.
“They came out with a punch,” said Thomas. “Shout out to them, but shout out to our defensive line making plays allowing me to make plays on defense … (Ikahihifo) making plays, as well as the offensive line opening up things for our offense.”
The Comets tried to make a comeback in the second half, scoring the first 10 points to make it 28-23 with about 18 minutes left to play; but the Cougars’ relentless offense remained too much for the Comets.
Ikahihifo finished the game with 442 total yards to go along with his six touchdowns, including one score on the ground. Running back Cyrus Zuell contributed 79 yards of offense and two receiving touchdowns. The Cougars offense would finish the game with 542 total yards.
“There were some things we weren’t prepared for — Palomar is a very good team,” said Ikahihifo. “Our receivers were able to execute plays close to the ball. A lot of film was watched on Palomar, made sure to check coverages which is why I was able to come out with so many touchdowns. Got to fix things with film on Monday when we prepare for Riverside. All on all, it was a great game for us today.”
Thomas echoed the sentiment on preparation for next week’s matchup with the California Community College Athletic Association’s No. 1-ranked team at home.
“It all starts with practice,” Thomas said, “and it will take all of us to take on Riverside next week.”
The Cougars are set to play Riverside City College at home Saturday at 6 p.m.