Austin was an All-Northwestern Conference player and three-year varsity starter at Canyon. A redshirt freshman linebacker at UCLA, Austin still speaks of Canyon in the first-person plural. “Maybe I always will,” he said.
The main reason the rivalry is so intense is that both teams are good. Every year. And the high schools are so close together. The players see each other constantly. Everybody beefs around and says, “We’re going to beat you.” We really wanted to win the first game every year to see how our team was. The fact that we played Hart made it crazy. They were tough battles all the way.
On Canyon’s 22-21 win in 1983: Mark Caffee made the winning touchdown with maybe a minute and something left. The really sad thing about it was that he died in a car accident a half year later. I’ll always remember that guy. He was a stud and had a big heart.
The very first play was a pass to me over the middle, which I caught for about 30 yards. It was a very exciting thing. My first varsity play. I was sweating bullets before the game, let me tell you. My sophomore year, I was going with the flow, trying to stay alive.
On Canyon’s 21-6 win in 1984: We were both coming off conference titles. We practiced really, really hard for that game. I think we were in a little better condition. We were eating them up near the end. We couldn’t live high on that game. All Hart games are unforgettable, but we had to go on. See, we couldn’t have the feeling we were invincible. If you do, then someone will beat you.
On Canyon’s 6-3 win in 1985: A baseball score. The last 18 seconds when Jimmy Bonds was rolling out. That’s what I remember. I don’t know if he had no receivers open or if it was planned for him to run it in. Chad Zeigler made the first hit at the four, then a bunch of other people, including me, piled in and stopped him. By the time everyone got up, the clock was at zero. I was in the air with my mouth wide open. I couldn’t believe it. I have idea why Hart folded for a month afterward. Usually Hart doesn’t do that.
We went on, practiced for the next game and kept winning. We ran the same defense and offense all three years. I know other coaches know this because every film they see we are the same. Here at UCLA I’m using techniques I learned at Canyon as a sophomore. It didn’t matter how big or small we were. We played Cowboy football. Do the little things right with a big heart and take pride in what we do. Cowboy football is a big term. It will always mean something to me.
On tonight’s game: I believe there will be more points than last year. I definitely know that. It will be a close game. A great game. And it will be fun. The streak is still going.
To beat Hart, we’ll try to make them do what they don’t want to do. If they want to get to the outside, don’t let them. If they want the middle, stuff the middle. You know Hart won’t make many mistakes this year. We can’t rely on luck or them fumbling.
I saw Hart in a passing league game and they looked good. We are hurting in a couple spots. But we don’t need size to win. I’ll be at the game. I’ll always love Canyon. I call them we. I have another team now, but I’ll always be a Cowboy. It’s that way.