Key to Moorpark Beating Canyons Was Small Change

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Some people might not have given a nickel for Moorpark College’s chances of beating Canyons in their Western State Conference football game Saturday.

Coach Jim Bittner and defensive coordinator Marcus Turner figured a nickel was exactly what the Raiders needed to stop Canyons’ explosive passing game.

“We played the nickel [defense] the whole game,” Bittner said.

Bittner said the Raiders pulled off a 31-26 upset partly because of that scheme, which limited the Cougars to 264 yards, and partly because of luck.


“We had them backed up to their own six-yard line and [defensive lineman] David Bernal tips a pass, catches and runs it back for a touchdown,” Bittner said.

That score put the Raiders ahead, 17-14, one minute into the second half. The lead changed hands nine times.

Moorpark also cashed in a 96-yard kickoff return by Ray Carmel with 4:34 to play, which proved the clincher.

“It was all big plays. We couldn’t move the ball on them at all,” Bittner said.

The Raiders moved Carmel to safety, the position he played last year, to shore up the nickel package. Carmel had been playing running back and receiver this season.

“He sacrifices so much for the team,” Bittner said.

Moorpark claimed sole possession of first place in the Northern Division with a 4-0 record with three games to play, including the regular-season finale at defending co-champion Hancock on Nov. 18.


Canyons lost much more than a game at Moorpark.

The Cougars entered the game ranked No. 4 in the state and No. 2 in Southern California, a spot they needed to hold for a chance to play in the regional title game and perhaps the state championship game on Dec. 9.


That opportunity might be gone and so might be running back Steve Smith, who injured his left knee.

“It is ligament damage, we do not know yet the extent of it,” Coach Chuck Lyon said.

Smith, who had 249 yards rushing and four touchdowns in Canyons’ 55-17 victory over West L.A. on Oct. 21, is the third Canyons running back sidelined because of an injury.

Major Caldwell is expected to have surgery next week for a dislocated shoulder suffered in the opener against Citrus on Sept. 9 and Marcus Nash had surgery after breaking a leg last week against West L.A.

Lyon said receiver Stephen Stokes is moving to running back to share playing time with Shaun Kelso in Canyons’ one-back set.

“If those guys get hurt, we’ll go with no backs, I don’t know,” Lyon said.

The Cougars (6-1, 3-1) are not totally out of contention for the No. 2 spot in the regional rankings, which come out today. The only apparent lock for one of the top two spots is top-ranked Bakersfield, which is 7-0 and not likely to lose to Santa Monica, Southwest or West L.A. in the final three games.

“We’re still in it,” Lyon said.


While it was a good Saturday for Moorpark’s football team, it wasn’t so great for five Raiders at the North vs. South All-Star Wrestling Classic at Fresno City.


Only Sal Lucatero, at 149 pounds, notched a victory. Lucatero defeated Jesse Bastian of Sierra, 6-2.

Moorpark’s Steve Hernandez lost to Joey Martinez of Skyline, 6-1, at 157 pounds; Rey Torres lost to Brian Holt of Sierra, 3-0, at 165 pounds; Andre Malloy lost to Jeff Dahl of Sierra, 2-0, at 197 pounds and Ben Flores lost to David Walker of Skyline, 13-5, in the heavyweight match.