Hart football (2-6, 1-3) got its first Foothill League win of the year over the hosting Canyon Cowboys (3-5, 1-3) on Friday.
The Indians were led by quarterback Tim Larkins, who went 17-24 with 264 yards and two total TDs.
Hart had been living and dying by the big plays but on Friday moved the ball well on short-yardage plays.
The Indians moved the ball effortlessly on their first drive. Larkins started 4-4 and the short-gain plays worked.
“It’s been a big thing with these defenses,” said Larkins. “Just throwing short ones and just getting little by little, then open up if we can try to hit a big one.”
Larkins started hot, completing his first 10 passes.
Running back Donovan Dunn capped off the drive with his first score on a 7-yard rushing TD.
Canyon nearly tied the game instantly. Wide receiver Navin Srinivasin nearly scored on a huge run play but was caught and limited to a 58-yard rush. The Cowboys couldn’t muster anything else on offense, so they opted for three points on fourth down. Hart would fight and block the attempt.
The Indians scored on their next drive after their running back nearly took a huge play in for six as well. Dunn ran the rock 54 yards but was also somehow caught. Larkins would run into the end zone on the next play to go up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Dunn finished the game with 13 carries for 125 yards and a TD.
“We just worked on the run game mostly,” said Dunn. “We knew that they were going to run a four-man front. So, we knew that we had to work on the run game and it paid off.”
Larkins would make a great play on their next drive. The junior quarterback scrambled to escape a would-be sack and hit a wide-open Ryan De La Maza in the end zone for a 35-yard score.
Hart got the ball back right away after two-way junior Shawn Irwin intercepted Cowboys quarterback Diego Olujich. The Canyon defense showed some life on the ensuing drive, forcing a turnover on downs, thanks in part to a Westin Brombart sack.
The Indian defense would hold tall and force another Canyon punt. Larkins would hit Irwin for a dynamic 65-yard bomb, but again a player was run down on a huge play.
Canyon’s defense again made a stand and forced Hart to kick a field goal. Kicker Bennett Murphy nailed the 22-yard attempt to go up to 24-0 before the halftime break. Murphy also hit all three of her PATs.
The Cowboys would find signs of life in the first half but never enough to whip up a scoring drive.
Running back Gannisten Turner had a fair share of solid runs but was hit in the backfield or on the line on too many of his touches
Turner finished his night with 84 yards on the ground.
No one could find the end zone in the third as the Canyon defense started forcing turnovers. Defensive back Eric Thomas intercepted Larkins on a great diving catch in coverage. The Canyon pass rush did well in keep Larkins scrambling. However, the Indians would somehow convert on a third and 36 to set up one more red zone trip.
Larkins hit Irwin for a 9-yard TD to go up 31-0.
Canyon would manage to find some luck on its last drive. Hart gave them some free yards on penalties while the Cowboy run game got rolling.
The Cowboys would avoid the shutout and score on their final drive. Olujich hit wide receiver Jeremiah Taylor for a 15-yard TD.
Hart got a much-needed win for the sake of the Santa Clarita Valley’s oldest football rivalry, and to keep their playoff hopes alive. The team will need to start hitting their stride to move up in the Foothill League standings. Canyon is in the same boat with one league win.
The Indians’ defense has shown some serious grit over the last few weeks. Hart has allowed just over 13 points a game in its last three outings. They’ll need that same strong play and fight next week against Valencia.
“They work hard during practice and they get things done,” said Hart head coach Rick Herrington. “They work hard to get things done and they watch a lot of film. Our defensive guys are pretty intense and they get after it. So it’ll be a big test next week as well.“
Hart will return to COC next Friday to host the Vikings while Canyon remains home to face Saugus.