In 2009, one game set the tone for the College of the Canyons Cougars football season. A shocking 17-14 loss in Santa Barbara to a team that the Cougars took lightly set up season full of disappointing moments for Cougar coach Garett Tujague.
Fast forward to this years version of the Cougars, and a similar trap game could lye ahead when College of the Canyons (2-1) travels to East L.A. (1-2) tomorrow night.
“It could be (a trap game),” Tujague said. “When you look at East L.A.’s game film, it’s like ‘Coach, they have players.’ So it absolutely could be like last year (the loss to Santa Barbara.”
The Cougars are coming off a strong offensive performance in their home opener against Citrus last weekend. But for the second straight game, the COC defense let up in the second half, and after leading by 28 at the half, the Cougars gave up 21 points in the second half, before pulling out the 38-24 victory.
Linebacker Vincent Holder, whom coaches have pinpointed as the surprise player of the defense to this point, has a seemingly simply solution to the Cougars second half woes. “We have to play sixty minutes of football,” said the sophomore who changed positions from defensive end in order to gain playing time.
The Huskies enter the game after beating Glendale, 33-13 last week. 6’6″ receiver Anthony Denham had 10 catches in his season debut, and as one of the top-ranked players in the country (He has scholarship offers from Georgia, Oregon and Utah, and Alabama also has interest) could present matchup problems for a COC defense playing without captain Justin Cudworth, who is sidelined at least two weeks with what has been diagnosed as a sprained ankle.
“(Cudworth) is more valuable than you’d think. He’s a vocal leader for us as well. He always pushes us. We have a few players who will get some time at safety, but obviously they aren’t expected to replace him,” Tujague said.
Offensively the Cougars were lead yet again by Canyon graduate Chris Revis. The 5’9″ receiver is averaging 132 yards per game, and last week he had 3 touchdown receptions, including a circus-like juggling catch in the second quarter. Rivas has transformed himself from a practice squad star in 2009 into a reliable target for quarterback Justin Arias this season.
Rivas said his play this season has surpassed even his own expectations.
“I thought I would just come in and be playing like any other freshman, backing up the returners,” said the lifelong Santa Clarita native.
Tujague on the other hand seems like he knew what the Cougars had in Rivas last year.
“It’s funny, people keep asking me where (Rivas) came from…we’ve known about him. Last year on our scout team, he was good for at least two long touchdown’s a day at practice,” Tujague said. “We’ve been trying to keep him a secret, but that’s a little tough now.”
Even though he did not play in the loss to Santa Barbara last season, the game still sits fresh on Rivas’ mind as the Cougars try to avoid an upset tomorrow. “We better come out and play hard. Just look at last season’s Santa Barbara game. We came out cocky and lost it.”
Holder added the COC defense will be ready come game-time. “We’re gonna come out and play how we play every week. Even though (East L.A.) isn’t as good as what we’ve played in the past and who we will play in the future, we’re going to come out and be firing on defense.”
Game time is set for 6pm in Monterey Park.