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College football: COC’s tough shift

Despite subpar record, Cougars still encouraged

Posted: November 24, 2010 8:19 p.m.
Updated: November 25, 2010 4:55 a.m.

At first glance, it was far from the type of finish College of the Canyons was hoping for in 2010.

The Cougars went 6-5 overall and finished things out with a loss in the Golden Empire Bowl.

On paper, it doesn't appear COC has come very far since last year, which also ended in a 6-5 record and an absence from the Southern California playoffs.

There's just one major difference between the past two seasons.

"A lot of things have changed," said Cougar head coach Garett Tujague. "I'm not discrediting anything COC has done in the past. This was a very good football team, but it just ran the course of probably the most grueling schedule in the history of Southern California community college football."

Five of COC's opponents this season show up on the final state-wide coaches poll.

Those teams handed the Cougars all five of their losses, including No. 1 Mt. San Antonio College and No. 21 Grossmont in non-conference play, No. 4 Cerritos and No. 6 Bakersfield in the National Division, Northern Conference and No. 13 Fullerton in the Golden Empire Bowl.

That's not to downplay wins over El Camino, which was ranked No. 12 at the time and Ventura, whose quarterback Tujague deemed the best athlete in Southern California community college football.

"You take this year's team and have them play last year's schedule, they're 9-1, with a chance of going 10-0," Tujague said.

This year, the conference was realigned to include more top-ranked teams, but Tujague stressed that he wasn't excusing what was otherwise a disappointing final result.

"I think the bottom line is the effort was definitely there for this team. They played with some passion." he said. "The only thing that I would say that was most frustrating for me was we never played great together."

Throughout the year, different units played well in games, he explained, but it was rare to see the offense, defense and special teams all put together solid 60-minute efforts.

A prime example was last week's 64-49 loss to Fullerton, where the Cougars' offense exploded for 512 yards and its highest point total of the season.

The defense, however, relinquished 478 yards and its highest number of points since 1971, when they lost 74-20 to Reedley College.

For most of the season, it was the defense that held up its end of the bargain, often times keeping the Cougars alive in close games.

"Defensively, we've had a really solid year and kind of fell apart at the end there, but I think the reason for that is because we were playing such competitive teams every week," Tujague said.

A lack of depth played a big role in the Cougars' frustrations as injuries piled up in the latter part of the season.

"The beatings had finally taken their toll," Tujague said.

The defensive had a greater representation on the All-Northern Conference First Team this year, with five players compared to the offense's one. All five of the defensive players are sophomores this year.
The one offensive player - quarterback Justin Arias - is a freshman.

Arias threw for a conference-best 1,973 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season. He also rushed for 329 yards and three touchdowns.

"I'm encouraged, and I'm scared to death because there's potential to be really good offensively, but we lost a lot of guys defensively," Tujague said of next year.

Player performances and records aside, this team did do one thing consistently all season.

"I really think this team did everything we asked of it this year. They played their butts off," Tujague said. "It was a great effort, but we just had a couple of bad breaks and that's all it takes."




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