After a mediocre 7-4 finish in 2012, nothing seemed to change in this season’s opener when the Cougars lost to Golden West in overtime, 27-21. In fact, there even appeared to be a bit of deja vu. The Cougars opened the 2013 season with an overtime loss to the same team, by the same amount, and, similar to last season’s team, there were questions at quarterback.
First year head coach, Ted Iacenda, definitely had his work cut out for him.
Since that week 1 loss, the Cougars have reeled off four consecutive wins and are currently sitting on top of the Western State Conference.
So apparently something did change, but what was it? For one, the defense is ranked first in the conference, holding opponents to just 15.8 points per game, along with a well balanced, yet unorthodox, two-quarterback system.
“We have two very good quarterbacks who each have their strengths and weaknesses, and they compliment one another. Along with that, we have a defense that constantly puts them in good situations by making early stops. We’re doing all the right things, and are heading in the right direction,” head coach Ted Iacenda said.
But aside from the team’s solid play, the Cougars are playing with a heavy a heart, following the untimely death of their former teammate, Andre Davis, who was shot and killed in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. Davis enrolled at Eastern Michigan University after receiving a scholarship to play fullback, following a remarkable season at College of the Canyons in 2012.
Iacenda chose not to comment on Davis’ death out of respect, but did have this to say about his team’s current success. “We expect to win every single game. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the necessary plays in the first game to to be 5-0 right now, but I’m proud of the way these guys bounced back. This program is used to winning, and sending kids off to Division I programs, and we intend on continuing that tradition.”
The tradition Ted Iacenda is referring to comes from a decade of Cougar success and national relevance. From 2000-2010, the program finished 9-1 or better in eight of the 10 seasons, along with a national championship in 2004, and 2 state titles. Not to mention 19 members of the 2004 team received scholarships from Division I universities.
If you’re going to have a coach refer to tradition, then a man who has been a part of three traditionally dominant programs is your guy. Iacenda was a member of the Cougar football program from 1995-1996, after graduating from Foothill League powerhouse, Hart High School. After two seasons at COC, he received a scholarship to play fullback at USC. In 2002, Iacenda joined current Hart High School head coach, Mike Herrington, as an assistant coach in what was considered “the golden age” of Cougar football.
Current Cougars are still working towards that “golden age,” but there is something to be said about this teams play on both sides of the ball. There is no question that they’re winning with defense, but the offense is no slouch either, averaging a very respectable 33 points per game.
The two quarterback system has made it difficult for teams to prepare for COC, especially with the uptempo read option offense that Iacenda has implemented, but aside from Xs and Os it is always a surprise to see a team play this well under a first year head coach. While it is still early in the season, and a lot can still change, the difference thus far between this years and last years team is consistency.