By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The College of the Canyons Cougars were well on their way to a perfect season before losing in an upset against East Los Angeles earlier this season. The Cougars would drop to No. 7 and needed a win Saturday night to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Their call was not answered.
In the defensive matchup between the Cougars and the Ventura Pirates, the Cougars lost, marking two losses in a row and removing them from playoff contention. With just one more regular season game to go, the Cougars needed to secure a top four spot in the California Community College Sports Information Association football poll to continue their season in the playoffs.
“I just think we came up short against a really good team,” said Cougars head coach Ted Iacenda. “When you play against a really good team like them, we can’t make the mistakes we made. We’re going to show up to practice Monday and be ready to work hard. The game doesn’t change from week to week.”
The Cougars held the Pirates out of the end zone on their first drive and forced a 30-yard field goal from Albert Arroyo. It was the most promising drive for the Pirates, but it would end up being their only score of the first half. The Cougars’ defense held them to 136 yards of offense, fueled by two first-half sacks.
The Pirates did their job as well. The Cougars were limited to just 158 total yards of offense in the first half, but were able to find the end zone off a 38-yard passing touchdown from quarterback Colton Doyle to wide receiver Tiquan Gilmore, making the score 7-3. Gilmore’s touchdown would be the final score of the first half and he would finish the game with five catches for 93 yards.
With the suffocating defense on both sides of the ball, any chance they got could’ve been the turning point of the game, but penalties on both teams stopped any extra momentum for both. The teams combined for 13 penalties for 153 yards in the first half.
The game was relatively clean for the first half, but the script completely switched against the Cougars in the second half.
Linebacker Jonathan Thomas was able to haul in an interception for the Cougars, but on the ensuing drive, Pirates defensive back Donyai Dixon picked off Doyle and returned it to the house for 95 yards, making the score 12-7 after another field goal by Arroyo.
Despite COC finishing the game with three sacks, including two from linebacker Brian Snoek, the Pirates’ defense proved too much.
“Our defense played really well. In the beginning we were dialed in,” said Snoek. “Things didn’t go for us offensively and eventually things starting rolling their way. The game is much more physical out here than in Germany. We’re all a huge family and I hope I get to play with COC again next year.”
The Pirates would pick off Doyle for a second time, this time from defensive back Cam Williams, who would return it 69 yards. On the ensuing possession, the Pirates capitalized with a 19-yard rushing touchdown by running back Julian Kelly. The 19-yard touchdown would be the final score of the game, as the Pirates outscored the Cougars 16-0 in the second half.
Doyle would then get benched for Tooni Ikahihifo, but the results remained the same for the Cougars. The Pirates would pick off Ikahihifo for their third interception of the game and give him zero time to throw. The Pirates would finish the game with four sacks.
The Cougars’ final regular-season game is scheduled Saturday at 6 p.m. at Long Beach City College.