With the nerves and jitters of the season’s first game behind them, the College of the Canyons Cougars football team is now faced with what may be their most difficult competition of the season. The Cougars play their second game of the season tomorrow when they travel to Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut for a showdown with the defending State and National Champions.
The Mounties come into the game ranked first in both state polls, while riding the momentum of a 61-14 blowout victory over Victor Valley last weekend. The Cougars are coming off a 35-7 win over Antelope Valley last Saturday, a game in which the Cougars jumped out to a 21 point first quarter lead before cruising through the final three frames.
The last time these two teams faced each other, the Mounties upset the Cougars 51-44 at Cougar Stadium in the 2008 Southern California Championship Game. COC led the game with less than a minute to play, before Mt. SAC roared back to stun a previously undefeated Cougar squad. 4th year COC head coach Garett Tujague said that game was a learning experience for him, but this Mt. SAC squad is a different team.
“It was a great learning experience for me in only my second season as head coach, trying to figure things out, very excited with how the men played hard. You have to be on your toes all the time when you play Mt. Sac.”
Head coach Garett Tujague talks about the game coming up at Mt. Sac.
The Cougars were seemingly unstoppable against Antelope Valley. Freshman quarterback Justin Arias, making is collegiate debut, totaled more than 400 yards and scored three time, including two through the air. Arias’ top target was freshman receiver Chris Rivas, who had nine receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown.
“There a little bigger, Antelope Valley is faster but Mt. Sac is overall bigger and can hit it a little harder. We need to minimize the fumbling.” said Arias.
Freshman quarterback Justin Arias prepares for the second start of his college career at Mt. Sac.
The Cougars moved the ball well all game, but a cause for concern for the Cougars was their newfound case of “fumbleitis.” COC put the ball on the ground an alarming seven times last weekend, but only two of the fumbles resulted in turnovers. Mt. SAC forced five fumbles against Victor Valley, recovering four of them. Three of those fumbles were taken back for touchdowns. The Cougars goal in practice all week has been to cut down the fumbles.
“It’s a huge concern, we’ve been focusing on that a lot this week. There’s an added incentive this week to make sure that you have your hands covering the ball.” said Tujague.
While Mt. SAC is known for their big plays on offense, Victor Valley managed to slow the Mounties down last week. Still, Mt. SAC found their way to the end zone five times on offense, with four of those on the ground. Cougar corner Antwan Smith says the defense is ready to play whichever style Mt. SAC brings to the table.
“We have to take it one play at a time, if they take it down the field slow then we have to take it down the field slowly with them.”
Sophomore cornerback Antwan Smith talks about what the defense has to do this Saturday against Mt. Sac in order for the Cougars to pick up a win.
Saturday serves as a chance for the youthful Cougars to prove they have arrived back on the national stage. A win could propel the team into the top 10 of the state rankings, while a loss would devastate a team filled with confidence and pride early in the season. Game time is set for 1pm.