Canyon Cowboys football rode every speck of momentum driving down the field in the fourth quarter against the Castaic Coyotes on Thursday at Valencia High School.
The Cowboys reached the goal line and nearly scored to force a one-possession game until the Coyote defense came up with the play of the day. Castaic forced a fumble, which senior Gage Gibson recovered and ran back for a 99-yard touchdown to seal the game.
“I was trying to really drive our team to stay disciplined, not let up and just continue to pursue after the football,” Gibson said. “When that ball popped out, I just saw a window so I jumped there, took it and I just knew I had to go. I full sprinted and it wasn’t just for me, it was for my team.”
The game was inches away from being a one-score affair, but Castaic’s defense shined brightest as the fumble recovery was one of four forced turnovers to go with a pair of sacks in the Coyotes’ 35-7 win.
“Collectively from start to finish, that’s probably the best we played all year on defense,” said Castaic coach Sirr Guy Shakir. “We kind of had to make some adjustments and I think it kind of paid some dividends. Our coaches did a really good job of getting our kids prepared to play and they came out and they executed.
The Coyotes only led 21-7 before Gibson’s fumble recovery touchdown.
Castaic quarterback Tyler Lewis didn’t have his most accurate game but still came up with numerous big plays on the ground and through the air.
Lewis handled all the scoring in the first half. The junior finished the first half with a 37% completion rate but hit Lucas Milan for a 26-yard touchdown to start off the scoring.
The Coyote signal caller then hit Gibson for a 14-yard score just before halftime.
Canyon answered with its first score of the game in the second quarter on fourth and goal. The gutsy call paid off as quarterback Sebastian Martinez hit senior Jeremiah Taylor for the 6-yard touchdown pass. Taylor made a great play with a quick turn and catch in the end zone to tie the game 7-7.
Taylor was open all night and racked up six catches for 62 yards with one TD.
The Cowboys struggled to move the ball after the touchdown drive due to the Castaic pass rush heating up. Defensive ends Cyrus Gradoville and Monty Coleman each came up big with first half sacks for the Coyotes.
Castaic running back Paul Lotz got off to a hot start with 43 yards on his first four touches but Canyon’s quick adjustments held the back in check and out of the end zone for the remainder of the first half.
Lotz finished the game with 144 yards and one touchdown.
Castaic couldn’t find the end zone or any completions in the third quarter but nearly pulled away after a long pick-six from Coyotes cornerback Maddux Anderson. The interception stood but a Castaic block in the back kept the team off the scoreboard.
Canyon felt momentum after holding the Coyotes scoreless and worked its way down the field. The Cowboys kept finding magic on third down but a backwards pass just got away from the team and the ball was fumbled, setting up Lewis and company in solid field position.
Lewis opened up the fourth quarter with his first completion of the second half and hit Gage Gibson for a 28-yard gain through the air before running it in himself for a five-yard score. Lewis finished with 159 total yards.
The team rode Gibson’s momentum as Castaic’s defense added three of their four turnovers in the final four minutes of the game.
“That really lit us up,” Shakir said on Gibson’s 99-yard return for a TD. “We had been playing well, but we made some key turnovers, got a little sloppy with the ball and we kind of lost our focus a little bit. We’ve got to mature in that regard. But when we had to have the plays, we made the plays.”
Castaic football has had a total makeover under Shakir and Gibson.
“I think at this time last year, I don’t think that this would have been feasible to me,” Gibson said on the team’s season so far. “It’s a lot of the same players from last year. I believed in my team last year but just after last year’s losses and not winning a game in Foothill, it just really taught us that stuff isn’t given to you and you really got to drive on it. And I think that’s what really led into our new coaching staff and to creating a new community.”
The Coyotes will now enter their bye week while Canyon will move and prepare for Golden Valley. The Cowboys take on the Grizzlies on Friday, Oct. 6, at Canyon High School.
Castaic now rises to 2-1 in the Foothill League, and with five wins already on the season, Coyotes football is here at last.