COC Falls to Saddleback

SANTA CLARITA – The College of the Canyons football team suffered another heartbreaking 50-34 setback to No. 10 Saddleback College on Saturday night at Cougar Stadium.

Coming off of its first losing season in 32 years, the disappointment continued as the Cougars who led most of the way through three quarters, saw their lead vanish with interceptions and blocked punts.

Hoping to lessen the bitter taste of a painful overtime loss to No. 17 Golden West in its first game of the season, the sweet taste of redemption will have to wait yet another week.

And the schedule doesn’t get any easier next week when the Cougars face No. 20 College of the Desert, the third top 20 team (according to the CCCFCA poll) in as many weeks.

Canyons (0-2) traded blows all night long, but fell just shy of their goal in upsetting the Gauchos (1-1).

Saddleback got on the board quickly with a seven-play drive that culminated in a nine-yard touchdown pass from Tim Belman to Terrell Johnson to take a 6-0 lead after a failed extra point.

COC answered immediately when Tim White, the Signal’s 2011-12 Male Athlete of the Year, caught a screen pass on his own 18-yardline from Ryan Kasdorf, broke one tackle, then scampered down the sideline for the 82-yard touchdown reception.

The extra point put the Cougars in front momentarily until the Gauchos blocked a punt and Ryan Steska tacked on a 34-yard field goal to regain the lead at 9-7.

The Cougars responded with 17 unanswered points.

Kasdorf engineered a 15 play 81-yard drive, finishing with a Neil Franklin 20-yard field goal to go ahead 10-9. Kasdorf went 13-of-20 for 166 yards and one touchdown.

The momentum continued for Canyons when its stingy defense forced a fumble that was recovered by Hart High product Justyn Eddins.

Ben Longshore entered the game in the second quarter as head coach Garett Tujague continued to play musical chairs at the quarterback position for the second straight week and the offense didn’t miss a beat proving that two heads are always better than one.

Longshore completed all four of his passes on his first drive including a 29-yard swing pass to Drew Phillips to extend the lead to 17-9.

After throwing an interception, Longshore responded, lobbing a picture perfect 12-yard fade pass in the corner of the endzone to an elevating White, the second touchdown for both, increasing the lead to 24-9.

White’s ability to leap comes as no surprise as he won the Foothill League title in the high jump. He caught four passes for 120 yards.

Longshore went 18-of-40 for 226 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Gauchos cut the deficit to 24-16 with 58 seconds remaining in the first half, running an efficient no-huddle offense. Belman connected with Exavier Edwards-Ford on a nine-yard touchdown pass.

The second half started much like the first, with another rapid score by Saddleback. Tyler Firestone blocked and returned a punt for a touchdown bringing the Gauchos within one point.

Franklin kicked his second field goal of the game, a 24-yard boot, to make it 27-23 Cougars with 5:53 remaining in the third quarter.

Saddleback showed why they were so highly touted scoring 17 unanswered points and catapulting to a 40-27 lead after trailing by 15 points in the second quarter. Anthony Cade scored on a one-yard plunge erasing a 15 point deficit and a Colten Christiensen interception set up a 29-yard Steska field goal. Then, Belman found Chris Simonton for a 41-yard score.

COC fought until the bitter end. Phillips electrified a suddenly silent crowd with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to close the margin to 40-34.

The Gauchos’ Eric Lauderdale added a four-yard touchdown burst and Steska made a 41-yard field goal to put away the game.

Canyons will travel to Palm Desert to play No. 20 College of the Desert at 6 p.m. next Saturday and Tujague welcomes the demanding schedule, believing it will challenge the players to constantly improve against quality opponents, making them stronger for conference play.

“I’m really fired up about our schedule,” said Tujague. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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