By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
College of the Canyons turned in another strong defensive effort but was once again doomed by offensive miscues in losing its home opener 26-14 to Fullerton College on Saturday night.
Canyons (0-2) forced four turnovers, including one in the opening moments of the game, but failed to capitalize on the majority of those opportunities vs. a Fullerton (2-0) squad that took a five-point lead into halftime but scored just once in the second half.
COC sophomore Timothy Jackson forced a Fullerton fumble on the Hornets’ third offensive snap of the game with freshman Cain Omohundro there to scoop the ball near midfield and bring the Cougars’ offense onto the field.
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Dickson led the Cougars down to the Fullerton 33-yard line before a tipped pass landed in the arms of Hornets’ defensive back Jamari Smith who promptly returned his interception 58-yards for the first score of the game. The ensuing PAT was no good and Fullerton led 6-0.
Four plays later Smith jumped the route on a ball intended for Travis Royal for his second interception of Dickson on the day.
From there, Fullerton quarterback Brandon Nunez led a five-play drive that ended with the QB running into the end zone. Another missed PAT put the Hornets’ advantage at 12-0.
With under two minutes to play in the first quarter Jackson Volk got to Fullerton quarterback Garrett Larson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Will Maafu at the Hornets’ five-yard line.
On the next snap Canyons quarterback Emory Floyd, who had replaced Dickson earlier in the quarter, slashed his way into the endzone to get COC on the board at 12-7 after the PAT from Tony Johnson.
Fullerton responded in a major way, however, stringing together an 18-play drive that went 85 yards and ended with another Hornets touchdown, this time from running back Garnett Davis III. The PAT was good and Fullerton led 19-7.
After the two sides traded punts Floyd led the Cougars’ offense on its longest scoring driving of the night, eventually finding Lyndon Ravare on a 14-yard scoring strike to put the game at 19-14 with 3:17 to go in the half.
Canyons would not score again, however, as the Cougars were unable to consistently sustain drives. COC was just 3-of-14 on third downs and accumulated only 233 yards of total offense.
Floyd finished the game 9-of-23 for 122 yards and a touchdown through the air, adding 19 more yards and another score on the ground.
Malik Brooks led the Cougars in both receiving and rushing yards, going for 64 yards on 12 carries and adding 50 yards on three receptions with a long gain of 25. Ravare was next with three catches for 40 yards.
Nunez was the offensive leader for Fullerton after going 16-of-25 with 196 yards and an interception. He also rushed 17 times for 91 yards to lead a three-headed rushing attack from the Hornets. Michael Vakapuna finished with 86 yards on 10 carries with a long run of 51-yards late in the game that helped to seal the Cougars’ fate. Davis III had 65 yards on 18 attempts.
Those combined efforts, along with Davis III’s second rushing touchdown early in the third quarter, allowed Fullerton to control the game’s pace and eventually run out the clock.
The Cougars forced two more turnovers in the second half. Carlos Meza recovered a fumble that came on a behind the back handoff to give Canyons a spark near the end of the third quarter. In the fourth, Mekhi Newton came away with an interception. But the next two COC drives both resulted in punts.
The Cougars had an Asa Johnson field goal attempt blocked in the third quarter but were otherwise forced to punt on every other possession of the half.
RB Wilson V led the defense with seven total tackles with 1.5 for loss. Volk finished with five takedowns to go with the forced fumble. Meza also ended the game with five stops.
Canyons had eight tackles for loss but just one sack, with Mario Kljajic‘s quarterback takedown coming alongside four tackles, two for loss.
Joseph Marsh had an impact for the second game in a row finishing with two tackles for loss, each coming in the second half.
The Cougars remain home in week three to face Palomar College at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16.