Canyon football shows out against Harvard-Westlake, stays perfect 

Canyon quarterback Caleb Sparks (1) takes the snap against Harvard-Westlake at Canyon High on Friday, 090123. Dan Watson/The Signal

Electric Cowboys get revenge, improve to 3-0 with 46-7 win over Wolverines 

The Canyon Cowboys football team is electric. 

Speed. Strength. Size. Grit. 

Whatever words can be used to describe a dominant football team, those words apply to the 2023 edition of the Cowboys (3-0), who stayed perfect on the young season with a 46-7 thrashing of the Harvard-Westlake Wolverines (1-2) on Friday at Harry Welch Stadium. 

“We have a whole lot of playmakers,” Canyon junior Evan Watts said. “Everybody out here is a dog.” 

There may be no bigger “dog” on the field than Watts. At 6 feet, 3 inches and 220 pounds, Watts is, to use team captain Andrew Ruiz’s words, “a cheat code.” Watts ran for two touchdowns, had two sacks and two interceptions, helping lead the Cowboys on both sides of the ball. 

“I’m blessed. You know, I’m blessed,” Watts said. “If I’m a cheat code, so be it.” 

Canyon teammates Evan Watts (18) and Jeremiah Taylor (8) celebrate as the official signals Canyon’s first touch down in the first quarter against Harvard-Westlake at Canyon High on Friday, 090123. Dan Watson/The Signal

Watts isn’t the only player that could be called a “cheat code” for the Cowboys. Sophomore Keyshawn Wooten scored three rushing touchdowns, including a 60-yard score early in the second quarter to put Canyon up, 21-7. Junior Keston Banos added two rushing touchdowns, one early in the second to put the Cowboys on top, 14-7, and another near the end of the fourth, this one from 62 yards out, to close out the contest. 

Neither of those two comes anywhere close to Watts’ size, but once they get going in the open field, there aren’t many that can catch them.  

“I’m looking to hit the outside, because I once I hit the outside, nobody’s catching me,” Wooten said. 

And when there isn’t space, Wooten knows just how to break free, a skill he showcased multiple times Friday night. 

“Once they grab a hold of you, you really got to keep on driving your feet,” Wooten said. 

Canyon’s Giovani Urquieta (19) sacks Harvard-Westlake quarterback Aaryan Mehdi Williams (1) at Canyon High on Friday, 090123. Dan Watson/The Signal

Harvard-Westlake looked like an even match through the first quarter. The Wolverines matched Watts’ score to open the game with a 69-yard pass from freshman quarterback Aaryan Mehdi Wiliams to senior Connor Bunnak. 

That would be the only time the Wolverines reached the end zone, and seemingly the only time the Cowboys felt threatened on defense. Through three games, Canyon has now allowed just 27 points. 

“We felt that we were going to be better than last year,” Canyon head coach Ken Holsenbeck said. “We had a full offseason to prepare. The guys have worked hard throughout that entire offseason, and it’s that hard work that we’re starting to see pay off here. I’m just happy for the boys, man. They’re doing a great job.” 

This time last year, the Cowboys were also heading into Week 3 with a 2-0 record, and the Wolverines put an end to the Cowboys’ perfect start with a 14-6 victory. 

Canyon defender Joshua Cambaliza (7) is joined by Jeremiah Taylor (8) as Cambaliza intercepts a Harvard-Westlake pass in the second quarter at Canyon on Friday, 090123. Dan Watson/the Signal

How different things can be a year later. 

“This was a big game for us,” Watts said. “Last year, we lost to them, it was a horrible loss. But we obviously got it done today.” 

On the sidelines, the Cowboys were all about picking each other up. No matter who scored or who made the big play, teammates were all around to celebrate together. 

“That’s the whole concept, right? It’s a team,” Holsenbeck said. “We don’t do individualism. It’s all about the team. And everybody is here to support the team.” 

Friday also saw the return of senior quarterback Caleb Sparks, who had to leave the Cowboys’ first game of the season at halftime due to an injury. He wasn’t asked to do too much, but ran the offense as Holsenbeck expected him to. 

Teammate Andrew Ruiz (60) celebrates as Keyshawn Wooten (22) runs away from the defense and scores the third touchdown for Canyon against Harvard-Westlake at Canyon High on Friday, 090123. Dan Watson/The Signal

“He really helps us to get into some good plays, helps us with formations, makes sure everybody knows what they’re doing,” Holsenbeck said. “His leadership is something that’s really important to us. And to be honest, when we’re running the ball like that, we just we don’t need to throw the ball a bunch of times. So, we’re happy just to pound it when we can.” 

The Cowboys were missing running back Ganisten Turner after he suffered an injury in last week’s game against Hueneme. But even without one of their star backs, the Cowboys have a deep backfield corps that seems to get better and better each game. 

“We’re not afraid to put any one of them in there,” Holsenbeck said. “Every single one of them can break it and run for a touchdown on every single play, and if they need to run between the tackles, put their shoulder pads down and grind for some hard yards, they can do that as well.” 

Canyon has one more non-league game, set for this coming Friday at Canoga Park. After that, the Cowboys enter Foothill League and have to be seen as a true threat to take the 2023 league title. 

“I just love our chances overall our whole year,” Watts said. “Like I said, our whole team is some dogs, man. We got a whole lot of playmakers, very, very well coached. We all work hard, we never let up. That’s all I can say about that.” 

Watts may be done talking for now, but it’s going to be an exciting rest of the season for him and the rest of the Cowboys. 

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