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Foothill League football: Title road takes old path

Hart and Canyon battle in a game that could determine the league champion

Posted: November 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.

When the Santa Clarita Valley’s oldest high school football rivalry kicks off between Hart and Canyon high schools, the records are secondary to the passion.

But when the two teams enter the contest tied for first place in the Foothill League — as they will tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Canyon High — the game is that much bigger.

“I think it’s fantastic for the two schools,” said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez. “It’s great. If you look back on the history of the Hart-Canyon rivalry, it’s one of the biggest rivalries in the community. It’s huge and it’s great.”

The Indians (6-2, 2-1 Foothill League) are coming off a 19-14 victory over Valencia High on Oct. 28 — their first Foothill League victory over a team other than Golden Valley since a 43-26 victory over West Ranch on Nov. 6, 2009.

“Our victory over Valencia got everyone excited about Hart football again,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington. “The student body is excited and there’s a lot of excitement in the air.”

To keep that excitement, though, Hart will have to contend with the Cowboys (7-1, 2-1), who enter the contest in a four-way tie for first place with Hart, Valencia and Saugus — which all sit at 2-1 in league play.

The Indians defense held Valencia, which had averaged 32.5 points in its previous two games against Saugus and Canyon, to just 14 points. That’s a performance Hart hopes to match against the quick-scoring offense of Canyon.

Cowboys quarterback Jonathan Jerozal leads the Foothill League with 1,871 yards and 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions on the season.

Jerozal’s No. 1 target, Drew Wolitarsky, leads the league in receiving yards with 944 yards and has posted 10 touchdown catches.

The weapons don’t end there, though.

Running back Max Archuleta has shown an explosive ability to hit holes and open up the passing game for the Cowboys’ offense.

Likewise, Coley Apsay has taken advantage of the pressure Wolitarsky draws week-in and week-out to catch 27 passes for 387 yards and seven touchdowns.

“They throw the ball well, but they also run the ball super well,” Herrington said. “It’s just a situation where they have a lot of weapons and it’s tough to defend.”

The Indians will counter with a defense that has had an up-and-down season, but is coming off an impressive performance against Valencia.

“I think they played well,” Herrington said. “(Valencia has) had a good rushing attack. I think we limited it to like 85 yards rushing. So I was really proud of the way our defense played last week. The Valencia defense has gotten a lot of recognition over this season because they are an excellent defense, but our kids came to play also.”

Canyon’s defense should have its hands full as well.

Last week, sophomore quarterback Connor Wingenroth threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns and added another 100 yards on the ground on 22 carries.

And that dual threat is something that concerns Gutierrez.

“It poses a tremendous problem,” he said. “(Wingenroth’s) so elusive. He’s pretty much got both talents. And with him being a sophomore, he’s got great potential.”

And Hart’s weapons don’t end there.

“(Wide receiver) Tim White, (running back) Dylan Edwards,” Gutierrez said. “They’re all great kids. (Wingenroth) throws with authority. Tim’s a great wide receiver. He gets going and they really complement each other well. They’re multi-dimensional. They have so many athletes in different areas, it’s a tricky situation. You’ve just got to prepare almost for everything.”

Canyon will get an opportunity to see just how prepared it is tonight, in a game that will vault the winner into the driver’s seat for a share of the Foothill League title.

And that’s something everyone in the Canyon and Hart communities is excited for.

“Oh yeah,” Gutierrez said. “It’s Canyon, Hart. It’s like cowboys versus indians. It goes back so many years. That’s what I try to tell the kids: ‘This is tradition, this is a great game.'”

And its next chapter will be written tonight.


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