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Foothill League football: Two teams from two directions

Canyon comes off a big loss, WR returns from a comeback

Posted: October 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.

When the Canyon and West Ranch football teams meet on the field tonight at Valencia High at 7 p.m., it will be a battle of two teams coming off very different games.

Canyon (6-1 overall, 1-1 Foothill League), the preseason Foothill League favorite, suffered its first defeat of the season in a 34-7 loss to Valencia last Friday.

And oddly enough, it’s the performance of the Vikings that has been a main focus for West Ranch (5-2, 1-1) leading up to tonight’s game.

“Can’t deny, our sincere thanks to Valencia for showing us some things that we can do successfully (against Canyon),” said West Ranch head coach Sean O’Brien. “I have no ego to say we made up new stuff.”

O’Brien acknowledged, though, that if the Wildcats know what worked for Valencia, so do the Cowboys.

And Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez has spent the week focusing on fixing the mistakes his team made last week.

“To tell you the truth, after last week, I really felt like we went back to the drawing board and are focusing on what we need to do,” Gutierrez said. “I want them to find their mojo and get back to what we were doing initially throughout the season.”

That means continuing to spread the ball to a plethora of offensive weapons, including wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and running back Max Archuleta.

Last week, the Vikings found success limiting the offensive options for the Cowboys, as Archuleta had only 22 yards on nine carries, and the Cowboys ran for 34 yards on 20 carries as a team.

And that’s something the Wildcats noticed as well.

“You want to force their offense into doing things they’re somewhat uncomfortable doing,” O’Brien said. “Make them turn the page of their playbook.”

The problem, though, is the sheer amount of weapons the Cowboys have lends itself well to adapting to an opponent’s defense.

Quarterback Jonathan Jerozal has thrown for 1,651 yards and 19 touchdowns to just six interceptions.

Wolitarsky leads the league with 894 receiving yards and has posted nine touchdowns.

And Archuleta has run for 749 yards and eight touchdowns behind an impressive offensive line.

“Solid offensive line,” O’Brien said. “This is a strong, old-school Canyon line.”

But the offense for the Wildcats isn’t half bad either.

“They have a quarterback (in Gerrit Mouw) who is very solid,” Gutierrez said. “Obviously, you can’t deny the fact that they have a great line. Not only do they execute, but they’ve got great size.”

Running behind that line is one of the Foothill League’s most feared backs in Jeff Coprich, who has accumulated 859 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns on the season.

“Coprich is a great running back,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve seen him throughout the years and been nothing but impressed. He’s a solid running back. He hits the hole well and laterally moves very well.”

Coprich led the Wildcats last week in their 28-22 comeback victory over Golden Valley, in a game they trailed by eight points at halftime.

With the offensive weapons each team has, the play of each defense could prove key.

“I would think so,” Gutierrez said. “You want to make stops, and definitely when you have a defense that can stymie any type of offense, it gets your offense back on the field.”

And for Canyon, that’s always the goal.

For the Wildcats, the key will likely be in utilizing their trio of running backs in Coprich, Mark Collins and Zahr Lyttle.

Last week, the group continually opened up passing lanes for Mouw, and ran time off the clock late to secure the victory over Golden Valley.

“Our kids actually fought,” O’Brien said. “To wrestle the game out of someone else’s hands — that’s gutsy.”


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