It took Hart High more than three quarters before it could kick-start its high-powered offense in its Foothill League opener Friday night at College of the Canyons.
But there was a good reason. The opponent was Canyon.
Renewing a rivalry that started in 1969, favored Hart outlasted Canyon, 28-7, rallying for three second-half touchdowns in front of about 6,500 fans.
The Indians (5-2) won their fifth consecutive game against Canyon and lead the series, 16-11, in taking an important step toward an unprecedented fifth consecutive Foothill title.
But it wasn't easy. Ted Iacenda, who gained 201 yards in 21 carries but fumbled twice, will attest to that.
"It's always a physical, hard-fought battle with Canyon," Iacenda said. "We screwed up; I screwed up. But champions always come back."
Iacenda, trying to give Hart a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter, fumbled while diving into the end zone. The officials ruled a touchback. But after Canyon punted, Iacenda redeemed himself.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior scored the final three times he touched the ball on runs of two, seven and 87 yards.
"I feel we played well for 3 1/2 quarters," Canyon Coach Larry Mohr said. "But they have a lot of athletes. We thought we could run the ball better than we did."
Canyon (3-3) had a 6-4 edge in first downs the first half, but trailed, 7-0, because of one play. Hart's Steve McKeon, who completed 11 of 17 passes for 199 yards, hit Kevin McLaughlin with a bomb on a play that covered 78 yards.
McLaughlin had two receptions for 86 yards and J.B. Nelson caught five for 42.
After Canyon made it 14-7 on Ahjeron Palmer's one-yard run in the third quarter, Hart took over.
Hart outgained the Cowboys, 462-151, with 287 of it coming in the final 24 minutes.
With the exception of McKeon's scoring pass to McLaughlin, Canyon played Hart virtually even in the first half. The Cowboy game plan was to move the chains on offense and keep Hart's offense stirring on the sidelines.
But Canyon could not capitalize on a fumble by Iacenda on the Indians' first drive, a failed fake punt on their second and an errant pass by McKeon in the flat that Abe Montejano dropped when he could have run for a touchdown.