By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
No. 24 College of the Canyons football finished its season on a high note, downing No. 20 Long Beach City College 31-24 at Cougar Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12 to claim a share of the Southern California Football Association National Division, Northern League championship, after winning three of its final four games down the stretch.
Canyons (5-5, 3-2) will share the tri-championship with Ventura College and Allan Hancock College. The title is the 14th conference title in program history and the fourth for COC head coach Ted Iacenda (2013, 2018, 2019, 2022).
The championship is also the 11th in the 25 seasons since COC reinstated its football program in 1998.
“It’s a testament to this team and their character,” said Iacenda about the way Canyons finished its season. “All year long (this team) has been head up and battling.
“When things didn’t go our way, they didn’t hang their head or drag their feet,” he added. “They showed up Monday ready to work and ready to get better. That’s how you win games, and that’s what we did.”
Earlier in the night, the Cougars found themselves with the ball midway through the fourth quarter in a 24-24 ballgame.
COC quarterback Bryce Dickson brought Canyons to its own 20-yard line to begin what proved to be the drive of the season. On 3rd-and-4 Dickson used his legs to get loose on a 28-yard gain that moved the ball into LBCC territory.
Later with the Cougars facing 4th-and-5 Dickson burned the blitzing Vikings defense by hitting sophomore Trevor Girch on a hot route for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 2:27 to go in the game. Girch’s score, his first of the season, put Canyons ahead 31-24 after Ty Morrison’s successful PAT.
The Canyons defense did the rest with defensive lineman Reggie Jones coming up with a big stop on the Vikings’ first-down play. LBCC quarterback Will Madonna was able to scramble for a first down on the drive, but on the very next play Madonna was strip-sacked by Esai Martinez, with Jones right there to recover for the Cougars. The sack was the second of the game for Martinez.
The Cougars called five more offensive plays before running out onto the field in celebration.
Long Beach (5-5, 2-3) finishes the season in a three-way tie for fourth in the National Division, Northern League.
The Vikings were first to score at 3-0 early in the first quarter and eventually went into halftime with a 10-7 advantage after running back Jonathan Watson got into the end zone on a one-yard run with 5:58 to go in the half.
Canyons earlier had scored on a 13-yard scoring pass from freshman quarterback Cam Fouts to wide receiver Calvin Littles to briefly move the Cougars ahead 7-3 with 8:18 to go in the first quarter.
Fouts, who started the game, finished 7-of-11 for 43 yards and the touchdown. He also rushed for six yards. Littles hauled in six catches for 43 yards and the score to go with 38 rushing yards and a 77-yard kickoff return.
Three plays into the third quarter the Vikings sacked Fouts, forcing a fumble that was recovered at the COC nine-yard line. Three plays later Dajon Newman was in the end zone on a one-yard score and a 17-7 Long Beach lead.
A 20-yard field goal from Morrison helped close the gap for Canyons at 17-10. The Cougars offense then came charging back onto the field after Tylan Foster forced another Long Beach fumble.
With Dickson now under center Canyons marched 36 yards to pay dirt, capped by a seven-yard scoring run for the freshman signal caller. Morrison’s PAT tied the game at 17-17 with 3:43 to go in the third quarter.
Long Beach scored for the final time on a touchdown pass from Madonna to Kyle Miller that was set up by a Cougar fumble and Vikings’ return down to the Canyons 15-yard line. Miller ended the game with six catches for 142 yards.
COC recovered in the form of another Dickson led scoring drive, with the freshman this time connecting with Malik Brooks for a 23-yard score to tie the game once again.
Dickson finished the game 3-of-4 for 74 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed nine times for 91 yards and a score.
Brooks was a valuable weapon for the Cougars, rushing for a game-high 111 yards on 15 attempts with a long gain of 57. He also caught two passes for 24 yards and a touchdown.
Martinez’ two sacks and forced fumble were one of many highlights for the Cougars’ defense. Jackstein Stein, Brian Snoek and J’Querian Ladson all had tackles for loss, with Snoek finishing with four total takedowns. Cole Bullock and Jones each recovered fumbles in the game.
Despite finishing as tri-champions of the SCFA National Division, Northern League, Canyons will not advance to the state playoffs ending the program’s streak of three straight postseason appearances.
Stay up to date on all this season’s action by visiting the College of the Canyons Athletic department or following on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.