The day before the battle for the Santa Clarita Valley, otherwise known as Canyon vs. Hart, Cowboy football Coach Harry Welch had this to say:
“If I was uninvolved, I’d bet on Hart. But if I knew the Cowboys, I wouldn’t bet against them.”
Welch knows the Cowboys better than anybody else.
He knows that when his team is riddled with injuries, as it was Friday, it finds capable replacements. He knows that when it needs the big play, it gets the big play.
Friday night before an overflow crowd at College of the Canyons, the Cowboys came up with The Play.
Or better yet, The Stop.
The Cowboy defense, led by Randy Austin and Chad Ziegler, stopped Hart quarterback Jim Bonds at the two-yard line on the game’s final play, preserving a 6-3 Canyon win in the season opener for both teams.
With time running out, Bonds rolled out from the eight-yard line, looking for a receiver. When he found none open, he took off for the end zone but was stopped short by a host of Cowboys.
Two plays earlier, Hart had the ball at the Canyon two, but lineman Jeff Moore jumped early, putting the ball back at the seven.
Bonds then lost a yard on the next play before winding up at the two as the clock ran out.
The jubilant Cowboys ran onto the field, winners of their 25th straight game over three seasons.
The Hart players covered their faces in disbelief. Several of the Indians cried.
The battle between the No. 1-rated teams--Hart in the Coastal Conference, Canyon in the Northwestern--was over for this season.
“It was the most incredible ball game I’ve ever been involved in,” Welch said. “It was a sensational game.”
A sensational finish, but not sensational play. The game featured 10 turnovers, six by Canyon.
Canyon quarterback John Watkins completed just nine of 25 passes for 96 yards. He also threw three interceptions.
Bonds, in his first varsity start, connected on eight of 21 for 68 yards. He had two of his throws picked off.
Bonds was also sacked four times--three of them by nose tackle Joe Zacharia. Bonds, a junior, also fumbled twice.
Canyon’s Paul Chadwell fumbled the opening kickoff, Hart’s Jim Smith recovering at the Cowboy 21.
But Hart could only move the ball to the Canyon six. Mitch Spake then kicked a field goal from 23 yards out to make it 3-0 with 8:38 remaining in the first quarter.
The game’s only touchdown came on Dio Shipp’s three-yard run with 31 seconds remaining in the first half. The extra point was missed and Canyon led, 6-3.
Early in the third quarter, Watkins came out for one play. His replacement, Ken Sollom, promptly threw an interception.
Steve Sandusky, who had dropped a sure interception at the Hart goal line on the previous play, picked off Sollom’s pass at the Hart 26 and raced 60 yards to the Cowboy 14 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But again, Hart could not move the ball into the end zone, as Zacharia sacked Bonds for a 10-yard loss on a third-and-15 play from the 19.
A 46-yard field-goal attempt by Spake went wide to the left and kept the score at 6-3.