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College football: COC’s bowl hopes alive

Blocked PAT in waning moments keeps postseason within reach

Posted: October 28, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 28, 2012 2:00 a.m.

MOORPARK — The College of the Canyons football team needed a big play, and it got one from two players at the same time when it mattered most.

With six seconds left to play, Dan Vear and Samuel Lee each got a hand on an extra-point attempt by Moorpark College kicker Alex Nelson.

The Cougar defensive duo deflected the ball just enough so that it could not clear the crossbar, preserving a 21-20 victory for COC in a penalty-marred National Division, Northern Conference matchup on a warm and windy Saturday afternoon at Griffin Stadium.

Canyons head coach Garett Tujague said he saw it coming.

“I’m not a tarot card reader, but I didn’t care if Moorpark scored at the end of the game because I knew Dan was going to block it,” Tujague said. “He’d been getting so close all game, it was only a matter of time.”

The second most pivotal event of Saturday’s festivities actually happened on Sept. 15 in Palm Desert in the third game of the season. That’s when College of the Desert beat Canyons 48-30, but did so with an ineligible player. COD recently discovered the infraction and self-reported it, which resulted in a forfeiture of the game.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened with Desert, and it’s obviously not good for junior college football, but mistakes happen and things like that go down,” Tujague said. “And now we’re excited about the opportunity we have.”

That opportunity is the possibility of a postseason bowl appearance, which requires a minimum of six victories. The Cougars, now sitting at 4-4 overall and 2-2 in conference play, will need to win their final two games — on the road at powerhouse Cerritos, followed by the regular-season closer versus Allan Hancock at Cougar Stadium.

But in a season filled more with disappointment than triumph, a postseason shot for the Cougars wouldn’t even be on the table right now if the team could not get past Moorpark (2-7, 1-4).

COC’s winning drive was engineered by quarterback Ryan Kasdorf, who, with the score tied at 14-14, threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Shane Drozdowski with 3:08 left to play in regulation.

Drozdowski said he was running an inside route across the middle of the field before he saw Kasdorf scrambling for his life outside the pocket.

“Ryan pointed to the end zone, and I just turned and he threw it,” Drozdowski said. “I made a couple of big plays like that in high school, so I wasn’t scared of the moment at all.”

Neither was Neil Franklin, whose extra point split the uprights to give the Cougars a 21-14 advantage.

From there, Jesse Sampson intercepted a pass from Moorpark quarterback Max Leffler, but COC running back Rasheed Woodward-Johnson fumbled on the next play, and Jeremy Lester’s recovery gave the Raiders one last chance with 2:40 left to go.

Three consecutive Cougar penalties drove Moorpark down the field before Leffler’s sneak from the 1-yard line brought his team to within an extra point that would have sent the contest into overtime.

“We were fortunate to get a little momentum from those penalties, and we got some good catches too,” Leffler said. “We were running it like a regular two-minute drill, hoping to tie the game up, but things just didn’t go our way.”

The freshman from Grace Brethren of Simi Valley finished the game 13-of-25 for 120 yards and an interception.

Kasdorf completed 16-of-24 passing attempts for 158 yards and the TD to Drozdowski.

Tujague gave the start to signal caller Ben Longshore (11-of-19 for 114 yards), whose 14-yard, first-quarter touchdown pass to Cash Barden was the lone score of the first half.

It was all Moorpark in the third quarter as Lester blocked a punt deep in Cougar territory and then pounced on it in the end zone to even it at 7-7. Then Kasdorf’s fumble led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Moorpark running back Justin Roberson that staked the Raiders to their only lead of the game.

Kasdorf’s 9-yard scoring run with 5:48 left in the fourth quarter knotted it back up at 14 apiece before his strike to Drozdowski proved to be the game-winner.

And with that, after what has been a season of more downs than ups, the team suddenly has a chance at a postseason bowl appearance — and things are beginning to look up in Cougartown.

“Our defense did a great job all day keeping us in the game,” Kasdorf said. “We just needed somebody to step up and make a great play, and we got that (from Vear and Lee).

“That’s life — you think you’re down, but you’re not, and that’s why you’ve got to keep fighting every week. It’s a blessing that we’ve got a chance to play in a bowl game.”


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