VALENCIA – It’s never to early to talk football. The same can be said at College of the Canyons as the Cougars have wrapped up spring workouts in preparation for the 2011 season.
As spring approached so did a lot of questions concerning the football team at COC. Those questions are almost the exact opposite from last year’s. With a majority of the defense in 2010 being sophomores the team will have to rebuild on that side of the ball if they want to have success in 2011. The secondary will have to replace everyone except for returning freshman Cassius Sendish after the departures of Justin Cudworth, Josh Irvin, Antwan Smith and Torri Zeno. The same can be said at the line backer position as all three starters have graduated and will move on to four year schools including Justin Stevens, Vincent Holder and Khalil Bass. The defensive line will lose two of its key contributors in Jeremy Boone and Dashawn Cassell but will have returner Donovan Brownlee to step into their shoes. Brownlee had 22 tackles and two sacks a season ago filling in for an injured Boone towards the end of the season.
“We had a great great defensive unit last year, we had a lot of experience,” said coach Tujague. “This year we’re going to be a little younger but I think that the speed and the ability to make adjustments is going to be something that we’re going to have to focus on.”
The offense will look similar to last year minus a few key contributors including first team all conference quarterback Justin Arias and freshman wide receiver Rickeem Jackson. Arias led the offense to six wins with 2,414 yards in the air and 24 passing touchdowns. The freshman also compiled 381 yards on the ground with five scores after battling with three other players for the starting role before the season began. The Cougars will also be without two of their starting receivers in Jackson and Cameron Bailey. However head coach Garett Tujague has a lot of confidence in returning freshman Chris Rivas and Frankie Madero. Rivas came out of no where this season to capture the spot light as the leading receiver in yards with 516 and touchdowns with six while missing two games this season because of injury. Madero was consistent in the slot for the Cougars with 285 yards on 26 receptions.
Two of the biggest problems for the Cougars in 2011 on offense was fumbling the ball and the offensive line providing time for quarterback Justin Arias and opening holes for the running backs. COC fumbled the ball 29 times last year and only ran for 1,351 yards with 381 of those coming from the quarterback scrambling. The Cougars were also sacked 27 times for a loss of 193 yards. These are stats that coach Tujague hopes to see lowered in 2011 with experience and recruiting.
“The number one thing we have to do is we have to hold on to the football, we can’t turn it over,” said Tujague. “Right now we’re looking pretty good on the offensive line, we have a lot of guys who are physical and dirty within the rules of the game, we’re really excited about the offensive line.”
For the second consecutive year the Cougars will have at least a three way battle to decide on a signal caller for 2011. Last summer saw a battle between Justin Morales, Cameron Coone, Chris Rini and Justin Arias with Arias eventually winning the job three days before the first game of the season. The same thing may happen this year as their has yet to be a decision at the position and as Tujague states its an open battle between returning sophomore Chris Rini and freshmen Chris Owen and Tyler De La Moore.
“We’ve got Chris who was there last year,” said Tujague. “And Chris Owen whose a bounce back whose from Thousand Oaks High School, a left. He’s doing a good job buying for the job. And Tyler De La Moore from Arizona. It’ll probably be one of those three guys being the signal caller.”
After a second straight disappointing season finishing with an overall record of 6 and 5 and losing in the Golden Empire Bowl to Fullerton 64-49 the Cougars will look to improve that record but to do so they will have to go up against the exact same competition as a season ago. A schedule which includes the defending State Champion Mt. San Antonio College at home in the second game of the season. As Tujague says before every season the goal is to set their eyes on a Western State Championship.
“No matter who we play, where we play, when we play we will play hard,” said the excited coach. “Every year our goal is to win our conference and we feel that we have the ability to do that in our grasp.”
College of the Canyons 2011 Football Schedule:
Sept. 3 vs. Antelope Valley, 7pm
Sept. 10 vs. Mt SAC, 7pm
Sept. 17 @ Citrus, 1pm
Sept. 24 vs. East L.A., 7pm
Oct. 1 @ Grossmont, 1pm
Oct. 15 @ El Camino, 6pm*
Oct. 22 vs. Hancock, 7pm*
Oct. 29 @ Cerritos, 7pm*
Nov. 5 @ Ventura, 6pm*
Nov. 12 vs. Bakersfield, 7pm*
*Western State Conference, Southern Division Games