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COC football preview: Conference season begins

College of the Canyons football hosts an El Camino team that had to forfeit four wins this season

Posted: October 15, 2010 10:47 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2010 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons can’t hold its head down any longer.

Two weeks removed from its worst loss of the season, the No. 20 Cougars kick off conference play today against El Camino College at 7 p.m. at Cougar Stadium.

It’s the first game for COC, ranked 20th in the state, within the National Division, Northern Conference, which boasts five other teams ranked in the latest top 25 state poll.

Coming off a bye week, the Cougars (3-2) are still trying to get the bitter taste of the 36-18 loss to Grossmont on Oct. 2 out of their mouths.

“You can’t shake that Grossmont game off,” said COC head coach Garett Tujague. “That was a nightmare, but you have to learn from it. If you totally disregard it, you’re not getting better.”

Today, No. 12 El Camino comes to town with an 0-5 record after the program was penalized for suiting up an ineligible player during the first four games of the season, all of which were wins. The team was forced to forfeit all four wins and followed with a 25-21 loss to Palomar, but it plans to appeal the decision.

“It’s been a good thing for us,” said ECC head coach John Featherstone. “We have a great feeling about the appeal process so we haven’t let that bother any of us.”

It will still be the same offense for ECC, which has averaged 220 rushing yards per game and 271 yards through the air.

Running back Peter Walton will be the Warriors’ main threat, having accounted for 342 yards on 41 carries and a team-high five touchdowns on the season.

Omar Herrera will get the start at quarterback after starting the season as a backup. He earned the starting job over Dex Lucci earlier in the season.

He has thrown for 1,036 yards and seven touchdowns, but he contributed to the team’s three turnovers in last week’s loss with an interception — a good sign for a COC defense which has caused 14 turnovers this year.

“With El Camino, we’ve got to do a good job and line up defensively and just go out and play,” Tujague said. “We just can’t give up the big play and we’ve got to keep creating turnovers.”

Creating turnovers. Not committing them.

The Cougars offense has been plagued by turnovers all season. With 11 interceptions and 12 lost fumbles this season, Tujague said not turning the ball over has been a point of emphasis during the bye week.

“The No. 1 key to success is the turnover margin and the defense has been holding up their end of the deal, but it’s a team game,” Tujague said.

The offense will have to face a big ECC front seven which includes linebacker Victor Betton, who Tujague calls “one of the best linebackers we’ll play against all year.”

The Cougars will also deal with two talented cornerbacks in Roderick Cohn and Mose Denton.

“It’s been a different guy for us every week,” Featherstone said. “We’ve had a different defensive player of the week every single game.”

Though the Cougars have seen four different quarterbacks on the field this season, the plan is to stick with Justin Arias, who has started all five games.

Tujague said he expects Arias to play the entire game and hopes to have stability at the position for conference play.

“The most important goal this team has, football wise, is to win our conference,” he said. “This is the first step in making our goal.”


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