No. 17 College of the Canyons Cougars football made a statement win, taking down the No. 10 El Camino Warriors on Thursday.
The Cougars defeated the hosting Warriors, 31-21, to win their fourth straight game this season. COC (4-2, 3-0) has turned the tides on its early season woes after starting 0-2 and remains perfect in National Northern League play.
Canyons surprised El Camino and jumped to a quick 14-0 lead within just over 10 minutes of play. COC quarterback Emery Floyd led the way with over 200 total yards on the day and two touchdowns.
Head coach Ted Iacenda has seen his quarterback elevate his game this season.
“Emery’s doing great,” Iacenda said in a phone interview. “He’s grown up, evolving and he’s learning little things. We’ve always been fluid on offense with personnel, with who gives us the best chance to win. It’s nice to see Emery taking ownership and we’ve had nice performances the last three weeks on the offensive side of the ball.”
Floyd ran in a 1-yard run to go up 14-0 on the Warriors, after running back Donovan Dunn capped off the first drive with another short-run score.
Dunn ran hard all night and finished the contest with 14 carries for 79 yards along with his TD.
El Camino was able to charge back into the game and score touchdowns on back-to-back drives, but COC was never fazed.
Canyons re-sparked on a 17-0 run that nearly reached the final whistle but El Camino was able to find a score with 12 seconds left in the game. The Warriors drove down the field late in the game and came close to scoring, but Canyons’ defense kept making plays.
COC defensive back Matias Ortiz put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter with a 40-yard pick-six to put COC up 31-14. The Cougars defensive backs are a mostly rookie group, who have grown up fast in Iacenda’s eyes and have been key to the team’s recent success.
“We’ve got a lot of youngsters playing and they’ve gotten better every week,” Iacenda said. “We’re stout up front, which is key to a good defense … Our secondary has made tremendous strides with younger guys playing significant time. Coming into the season, we didn’t have many returning starters. They all became starters who have done some really great work.”
Iacenda was also impressed by freshman kicker Asa Johnson knocking down a career-high 43-yard field goal with less than three minutes to go in the game.
Johnson also hit all three of his PATs.
Linebacker Joseph Marsh picked up his fourth sack of the season on Thursday and also finished the game with four tackles for a loss.
COC was able to hold off the 10th-ranked team in the state and hold the Warriors to their second-lowest scoring output of the season. Iacenda’s thoughts on his 2023 team are simple and boil down to one word: resilient.
“It’s huge. These guys are a resilient bunch,” Iacenda said. “We have great character. It’s how they react to negatives and not positives. To start the season the way we did was not ideal. We bounced back against Fullerton and took a tough loss but we played them really well. To start the season 0-2, there’s a lot of programs that could fold because the kids don’t have the character, but our kids do. That’s why we’re having the success we are, because these kids want to fight.”
Canyons jumped up to 17th in the most recent JC Athletic Bureau football polls and now certainly will receive another leap as winners of four straight.
“I think the secret to our success is that this team comes to practice every week ready to prepare for that week’s opponent,” Iacenda said. “We’re not looking ahead or talking about anything. We’re just preparing for Hancock now and we have our work cut out for us this week.”
The Cougars will return home on Saturday in search of their fifth straight win. Standing in their way are the Hancock College Bulldogs (3-3), who are winners of two in a row.
COC will need to slow down Bulldog running back Caden Harris for a shot at winning. Harris is averaging over 10 yards a carry this season and has already amassed 521 yards and six touchdowns.
“We need to get healthy and stay healthy, and that falls on luck,” Iacenda said this past weekend. “We have to come in Monday, watch film, get better at the things we didn’t do well, and continue to grow as a program, offense and defense. We have to be ready for the challenges that Hancock presents us.”
The Cougars host the Bulldogs on Saturday at 2 p.m.