By Jonathan Andrade
For The Signal
Ken Holsenbeck couldn’t have asked for a better start to his tenure as head coach of the Canyon High football team.
The visiting Cowboys perfectly utilized a bruising Wing T offense while suffocating the Canoga Park offense in a 35-6 season opening blowout on Friday night.
“It certainly wasn’t a perfect game, but we came out and executed the game plan well,” Holsenbeck said.
Canyon, a team that struggled to a 2-7 overall record last year, outplayed a depleted Canoga Park squad that reached the CIF City Section Division 1 last fall.
Ganisten Turner, a junior running back, rushed for two touchdowns. Junior quarterback Diego Olujich, the Cowboys’ leading tackler last fall, impressed in his debut under center, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another.
“He’s a great football player,” the coach said of Olujich, who has never played quarterback in his football career. “You can put him anywhere on the field and he’d do great.”
Canoga Park, which bid adieu to a star-studded senior class and talented transfers in the offseason, struggled to move the ball throughout the Week 0 showdown.
After a Canyon punt pinned the Hunters into their own red zone in the first quarter, Canoga Park went 4-and-out and was forced to kick from inside their own end zone. Canyon junior Jeremiah Taylor tracked down the short punt and took it 40 yards untouched to the house for Canyon’s first points of the young season.
“Any time you can get a big play on special teams, that usually results in some good things,” the coach said of Taylor’s score. “That really was a great start for us.”
Canyon added to its lead in the second quarter behind a heavy ground attack, spearheaded by Turner. Midway through the second quarter, Olujich found a wide open Eyezik Ruppert 35 yards down the field for the longest completion of the night, setting up a 9-yard touchdown run by Turner with 2:09 left in the half.
“It felt good (to lead the offense) and I know I can do it again,” Turner said. “The offensive line did amazing. I love my offensive line.”
After Canyon got the ball back with 1:30 in the second, Olujich hit senior Navin Srinivasan with a long 31-yard pass. Olujich followed that completion up with a 3-yard pass that was deflected by a Canoga Park defender but ultimately found its way into the hands of Ruppert in the end zone to extend Canyon’s lead to 21-0.
“I’m just playing park football out there,” Olujich said. “This (win) gives us more confidence, knowing we’re a good team to strive to go far.”
The third quarter was riddled with a flurry of harmless drives from both sides until Olujich caught the Canoga Park defense sleeping, quickly getting his offense to the line and snapping the ball before the Hunters were in position. Olujich spotted a streaking Taylor and hit the big man with a 35-yard bomb. Two plays later, Olujich pushed his team ahead to 28-0 with a 2-yard quarterback keeper.
Following a Ruppert interception, Turner rushed for his second touchdown, a 1-yarder, with 9:42 remaining in the fourth. He took the handoff from junior quarterback Caleb Sparks, who was seeing his first varsity action under center.
Don’t look now, but the Cowboys are undefeated. Sure, it’s only one week, but the Cowboys are strutting in the right direction.
“We’re 1-0,” Holsenbeck said. “We’re going to work on being 2-0.”