Two early mistakes cost College of the Canyons football a win on Saturday as the team dropped its home opener 26-14 to the Fullerton Hornets.
The Cougars (0-2) gave up 12 quick points after Hornets corner Jamari Griffin picked off Canyons starter Bryce Dickson twice in the first quarter. Griffin ran back the first interception for a pick-six and set up another immediate touchdown with his second takeaway.
Those early points ended up being all the difference that the Hornets (2-0) needed as COC struggled to play catch-up.
Cougar freshman Emery Floyd entered the game for the remainder of the game and led the COC offense on a pair of touchdown drives in the first half.
Canyons consistently looked like it would jump back into the game. COC had little resistance in the run game as running back Malik Brooks took 12 carries 64 yards. Brooks also added 50 receiving yards.
COC’s Timothy Jackson forced a fumble, which set up a Floyd 5-yard run the very next play.
The quarterback found his rhythm through the air in the second quarter, with big connections to Lyndon Ravare, who punched in the second Cougar score with a 14-yard TD reception.
Floyd took a ton of shots down the field and finished the game 9-for-23 with 122 passing yards. The Hornets defense was prepared for the dual-threat Floyd, as the quarterback was held to 19 yards on the ground.
Canyons coach Ted Iacenda was pleased with Floyd’s outing but knows his quarterback can be better.
“Obviously we had some issues to start the game,” Iacenda said. “We brought him in, he gave us a spark and he did some really good things. But he’s got to get better as well. There’s no question. That (quarterback) group is a tough, resilient group. It’s a smart and athletic group but they have to get us in better positions.”
The Cougars cut into Fullerton’s lead and trailed 19-14 heading into halftime. Floyd moved the offense down the field throughout the second half but the team just couldn’t find any points.
The Hornets held COC out of the end zone and off the scoreboard in the second half as Fullerton blocked a 27-yard field goal.
Canyons’ defense came up with three fumble recoveries and a pick, but the team’s own two early interceptions were too much to overcome.
“We spotted them 12 points, which is uncharacteristic,” Iacenda said. “We’re a young team and we made some rookie mistakes. We gave them two touchdowns right off the bat. You can’t play a great team like that and give them 12 points to start the game. Look at the final score, 12 points and it’s a tie game.”
Fullerton’s defense came up with stops throughout the game but penalties cost the team huge yardage. The Hornets were penalized 11 times and it cost the team 149 yards.
Sophomore Mekhi Newton brought down a high tipped pass to highlight COC’s strong defensive outing. Cougars defensive lineman Mario Klajic also added a sack.
Canyons was tasked with a tough assignment in Hornets quarterback Brandon Nunez. The fellow dual-threat signal caller finished the game with 196 passing yards and 91 rushing yards.
Floyd’s extended playing time was a rarity, as Canyons typically will showcase numerous quarterbacks.
“It felt good to get an opportunity but at the end of the day, I gotta finish,” Floyd said. “We gotta finish as a team. All the personal stats don’t really matter if you don’t win.”
Floyd knows his team has standouts all over the roster.
“We’re a really explosive offense even though we didn’t show it tonight,” Floyd said. “We have bits and pieces of showing it but I just feel like everybody can make a play on offense. I just feel like we just got to continue to mesh together well and it will gel soon.”
For Iacenda, after last week’s loss at Citrus College, he just wanted to see his team competing like he knows they can.
“I wanted to see more effort,” Iacenda said. “I talked all week about how we gotta play hard no matter what the score is. This team has a lot of fighters. There’s no quit in this group. The character is high but we have to execute better, there’s no question about it.”
Fullerton will return home to host East Los Angeles on Saturday at 12 p.m.
Canyons will also return home Saturday and look for its first win against the visiting Palomar College Comets.
“I want to see growth. We have to stop making the rookie mistakes,” Iacenda said. “There’s no rookies anymore. We’re all veterans. We’re two games into our college career for our freshmen and we’ve got to start making veteran plays, not rookie mistakes.”