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COC football trips up in season finale

Cougars lose to struggling Allan Hancock team 34-29

Posted: November 16, 2013 11:02 p.m.
Updated: November 16, 2013 11:02 p.m.
College of the Canyons quarterback Tony Dawson (right) is brought down by a gang of Allan Hancock defenders at Righetti High School on Saturday. College of the Canyons quarterback Tony Dawson (right) is brought down by a gang of Allan Hancock defenders at Righetti High School on Saturday.
College of the Canyons quarterback Tony Dawson (right) is brought down by a gang of Allan Hancock defenders at Righetti High School on Saturday.

SANTA MARIA — As toe stubs go, this one was big.

The College of the Canyon football team, looking listless in the first half against National Division, Northern Conference foe Allan Hancock College, mounted a furious, fourth-quarter comeback but ultimately came up short.

The Cougars were driving for the win but fumbled away the football at the Hancock 15-yard line with 40 seconds left to play and fell to the Bulldogs 34-29 in the regular-season finale Saturday night at Righetti High School.

Canyons (8-2, 5-1) came in riding an eight-game winning streak and holding in its back pocket an automatic invitation to Saturday’s Southern California regional semifinals. California Community College Athletic Association officials will announce the postseason brackets today.

The Cougars are expected to open the playoffs on the road, most likely at Fullerton. A victory would land them in the regional finals Nov. 30, with the winner advancing to the state-title contest, slated for Dec. 14 in Northern California.

But first, the Cougars must reconcile the momentum-sapping tumble they took at Hancock (3-7, 2-4).

Cougar linebacker Joey Cicoria said the team arrived in Santa Maria less than ready to play.

“We thought we were going to come out here and run over these guys, and it just didn’t happen like that,” said Cicoria, who led the team with 12 tackles. “We worried about little things that really didn’t matter, and we didn’t play in the first half.”

That’s when the Bulldogs built a 28-9 halftime lead on the sure hands of wide receiver Shane Henderson.

The sophomore from Columbus, Ind., caught everything thrown north of Vandenberg Air Force Base, making catch after one-handed, dazzling catch while recording three first-half touchdowns.

The Cougars had no answer for him.

“That receiver I have is a very special player,” said Hancock head coach Kris Dutra. “Shane caused a lot of problems for them.”

Henderson finished with 11 catches for 173 yards and the three scores.

The teams traded touchdowns in the third, and Hancock took a 34-16 lead into the final frame, when the Cougars finally found traction.

COC quarterback Tony Dawson threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Strange before the team successfully recovered an onside kick.

Then Dawson tossed a 69-yard scoring aerial to Louis Gipson that brought the team to within five points, but the late-game fumble sent the Cougars to the postseason with a lot less momentum than they had hoped for.

“I don’t think we were expecting Hancock to play that hard, and that was our mistake,” said COC head coach Ted Iacenda. “The last time we lost, we regrouped and found a focus that we rode for eight games. We have great character on this team, and hopefully we can get that going again.”

Cougar highlights include Lance Poole’s seventh interception of the season, tying a school record set by Ja’Vonte Holmes in 2005. Dan Vear blocked yet another field goal attempt, and offensive linemen Brooks Porter and Cory McManus consistently gave Dawson the time he needed to engineer the fourth-quarter comeback attempt. 

Notes: Moorpark College defeated Cerritos 28-19 on Saturday, paving the way for Canyons to win the conference title outright despite Saturday’s loss to Hancock … Lance Poole is now one interception shy of the COC career mark of eight, a record jointly held by Darryl Murphy (2000-2001) and Ja’Vonte Holmes (2004-2005). Poole, a sophomore from Moorpark High, also made two tackles and recovered COC’s successful onside kick in the fourth quarter … Cougars running back Matt Bowen carried the ball 20 times for 104 yards, making it the fourth game in a row that Bowen, a sophomore from Fairfax High, ran for more than 100 yards … Cougars quarterback Tony Dawson completed 13-of-24 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Louis Gipson was the team’s top target on the night. The sophomore wide receiver from Palmdale High caught four passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Wideouts Vincent Strange and Kwasi Washington each had three grabs. Strange had a touchdown, his fifth of the season … Bulldogs quarterback Troy Prober, a graduate of Righetti High who was playing on a field he was quite familiar with, connected on 16-of-35 passes for 212 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions … COC had more first downs, net rushing yards, net passing yards and total offense than Hancock … Hancock’s win on Saturday was its first home victory of the season. The 34 points given up by Canyons were the most the team had allowed all year.


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