Jeremiah Taylor records three TDs, including a late pick-six, to lead shorthanded Cowboys past Saugus, 28-13
The Canyon Cowboys entered Friday night’s game against the Saugus Centurions with one of their quarterbacks and one of their receivers lined up in the backfield.
Injuries forced Canyon (6-3, 2-3) head coach Ken Holsenbeck into some drastic measures, but his squad got the job done, beating the Centurions (0-9, 0-5), 28-13, at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium.
“We had to step up big time,” Canyon senior Jeremiah Taylor said. “We’re missing a lot of key backs like Keston Banos and Keyshawn Wooten. We’re really missing them, but it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we still have to come together and figure out how to win as a team.”
Taylor, the receiver playing tailback, had his fingerprints all over this one. He finished with three total touchdowns, two on the ground and a game-sealing pick-six in the fourth quarter, to go along with four catches for 120 yards and five runs for 29 yards.
“Jeremiah is a special player,” Holsenbeck said. “He can do so many great things on the football field and he is so much fun to watch. He’s gonna be fun to watch at the next level, too, because he’s definitely going places.”
The two teams traded fumbles on the opening possessions, and after a Canyon missed field goal, the score remained 0-0 after one quarter.
The Cowboys quickly changed that in the second frame, needing less than three minutes to claim the night’s first points on a Taylor 1-yard run. The Centurions committed a personal foul and were also called for unsportsmanlike conduct after recording a crucial third-down stop, setting Taylor up for the easy score.
It took nearly nine more minutes for Canyon to extend its lead. Taylor was once again the scorer, this time on a run from 6 yards out. He caught a 53-yard pass from quarterback Sebastian Martinez on the first play from scrimmage on the drive to set that up.
Martinez had thrown an interception on the previous drive, and Holsenbeck was proud of the way that his quarterback bounced back to lead the Cowboys on a touchdown drive to end the half.
“Sebastian is a little bit of a gunslinger — he’ll get back there and throw it,” Holsenbeck said. “He’s not afraid to do that. And he knows if he gets it to (Taylor), some good things are gonna happen.”
Martinez finished with 199 passing yards with a touchdown and just the one interception.
“It was a really good day for him,” Taylor said. “This is my QB1, you know. I’m gonna stick with him and ride with him no matter what. He’s a dog and I appreciate him for being here with us.”
Saugus pulled one back late in the first half to make it 14-7. Senior quarterback Jake Nuttall hit senior CJ Mound on a 10-yard pass, completing a six-play, 35-second drive before the half could end.
Saugus nearly tied the game at the tail end of the third quarter on Mound’s second touchdown catch of the night, but the PAT was missed to keep the Centurions trailing by one.
Canyon senior Eyezik Ruppert put his mark on the game with a 40-yard touchdown catch on the second play of the fourth quarter to put the Cowboys up by six. Taylor then sealed the game with his pick-six, which he first ran backward about 10 yards before running it back 50-plus yards, with just under five minutes left in the game.
“I just saw a bunch of green,” Taylor said. “I’m a big-time playmaker and whatever it takes for me to get in that end zone, I’ll take it.”
Saugus head coach Jason Bornn liked the competitiveness that his team showed but lamented the finish with two costly turnovers. A first-down catch was turned into a turnover with under two minutes to go in the game after a fumble was recovered by Canyon on the drive following the pick-six.
“Can’t turn the ball over,” Bornn said. “We know we only have a number of opportunities and we got to take advantage of them when we have them.”
Saugus freshman Jayden Lepley finished the game with eight catches for 112 yards just over a month after leaving a game early after a scary hit forced the Centurions’ game against West Ranch to be called early by the officials.
“We’re extremely young, and we’re learning and growing and we’ll get better,” Bornn said. “It’s just one of those challenges that we’ve had to navigate this year and had to pull some guys up due to different injuries and different challenges, and he’s stepped up and done very well.”
The loss spoils the Saugus senior night, though the Centurions made sure to give one of their own a proper send-off as team manager Peyton Marquez, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, took a handoff to the end zone prior to the game. The Saugus senior, affectionately known as “Turbo” due to his speedy electric wheelchair, is an integral part of the team with his filming of practices and, in Bornn’s words, is “one of their own.”
“He’s a football nut, absolutely loves the game,” Bornn said. “If it weren’t for his physical disability, he’d be out here playing with us, absolutely.”
Saugus will look to regroup and finish the season strong next week against Golden Valley.
Canyon has done pretty much all that is necessary to be one of the at-large teams in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. Holsenbeck is looking for his players to leave next week’s game against Valencia, which took a share of the Foothill League title after beating Hart on Friday, with their heads held high — and stay healthy.
“Every week we got another tough opponent in our league,” Holsenbeck said “So, we’re gonna come out, we’re gonna play hard and see what things happen after that.
“And staying healthy would be great. We have enough injuries already. We don’t need any more.”