A career day for No. 11 College of the Canyons sophomore Josh Clark wasn’t enough as the Cougars fell to the visiting No. 22 Allan Hancock Bulldogs on Saturday in a shootout classic.
Hancock won the game, 49-45, despite Canyons (4-3, 3-1) retaking the lead for the third time after Clark added his third touchdown of the day on an 18-yard rushing score with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter.
Clark was the catalyst to COC’s success, helping the team reach its highest scoring output in two years, on Saturday. The sophomore has a history at running back but transitioned into a receiver in high school. Clark has had the tools of a great player in both positions and stepped up with multiple injuries to the Cougar backfield.
“I’ve been with the program for two years now and I’ve just trusted the process,” Clark said. “The coaches kept telling me, ‘Keep grinding, you’re going to get opportunities and make big plays.’ Every time that ball came my way, I just had to make a big play.”
Clark finished the game with 10 carries for 108 yards, four catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cougars’ pass defense dominated, but Hancock (4-3, 3-1)snatched the lead back with a huge 76-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jackson Clavel to Kollins Pettaway on third and 10 with just over a minute left in the game. The TD was the team’s first passing score and doubled Clavel’s total passing yards on the day.
Canyons freshman Ajani Smith led the defensive efforts with three pass deflections.
COC had a little over a minute with all three timeouts remaining, but just couldn’t muster up much more offense. Hancock sent a huge blitz on fourth and 9, leaving only the defensive backs in coverage, but every Cougar receiver was sprinting in a seam route, leaving quarterback Emery Floyd with no time and nowhere to go.
Floyd played well throughout the contest but threw his first interception of the season. The Cougar dual threat was hit as he threw the ball in the second quarter, giving Hancock defensive back J’syon Joseph a clear shot at the ball and the end zone.
Floyd had his best game of the season with 384 yards passing, 56 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The Bulldogs bolstered a strong rushing attack as running back Caden Harris had a monster day, tying Clark in scores and nearly matching him in yardage.
Harris and JP Luketu both found holes and ran well off the edge. Harris hammered in an 84-yard rushing touchdown on the first play of the Bulldogs’ second drive, while Luketu took in a short touchdown run right up the middle in the first half.
Harris led Hancock with 200 yards on the ground and a trio of touchdowns.
The Bulldogs pounded in scores in all three phases, as return man Makai Puga ran back a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open up the second half.
Floyd made big plays with his legs but his highlight of the day came on COC’s first touchdown of the day. Floyd hit Clark, who broke free on a go-route, for a 77-yard touchdown pass.
Canyons head coach Ted Iacenda has been looking for ways to get his walking Swiss army knife more touches.
“(Clark) had a fantastic game,” Iacenda said. “We’ve been trying to figure out ways to get him the ball. He’s a dynamic player. There’s no question we’ve got quite a few dynamic players on this offense. So, I was very proud of him tonight.”
Floyd also hit receiver Lyndon Ravare for a 69-yard touchdown in the game. Ravare, Floyd’s usual No. 1 target, finished the game with four catches for 88 yards.
COC didn’t make a ton of big splash plays through the air, but consistently found success in the short-pass game. Several different Cougars also made an impact in the ground game as Floyd, Clark and running Donovan Dunn all ran for solid gains and big first downs on the day.
Dunn, a Hart alumnus, has played plenty this season but has stepped up with Clark in the absence of running backs Malik Brooks and Daniel Hernandez.
Dunn finished the game with 15 rushes for 64 yards.
After the game, Iacenda addressed his young team on the cusp of greatness.
“We discussed, in order to be a great team, we have to be consistently great,” Iacenda said. “You can’t have the mental breakdowns, the mistakes, the critical errors in the kicking game and turnovers on our side of the ball. You can’t have those things and beat good teams and everyone in our schedule is a good team.”
Canyons will look to bounce back on the road as the team heads to Moorpark College on Saturday.
“We’ve got to find a way,” Iacenda said. “We’ll be disappointed for the next couple of days but we’ve got to show up Monday ready to work because Moorpark’s not gonna feel sorry for us. They’re a very good team, we’re on the road and we’ve got to get better.”
Clark believes no one is down on themselves and the team will rally to get back to its winning ways.
“Everybody on the team wants to win every single day,” Clark said, “but even after a loss, nobody lets us hang our heads. We’ll all come together on Monday, go back to the drawing board and we’re gonna keep playing.”
COC heads to Moorpark College to take on the Raiders on Saturday at 6 p.m.