Canyon Country Canyon's stifling defense and opportunistic offense came up big Saturday and the Cowboys upset Concord De La Salle, 27-13, to win the CIF Division I championship before an announced 13,863 at the Home Depot Center.
The victory made it a sweep for the Southern California teams against their Northern California opponents in the inaugural CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games.
If the Oaks Christian win was the most compelling and the Orange Lutheran win the most convincing, the Cowboys' win was scintillating in terms of its magnitude. De La Salle (13-1) had hoped to not only win the state title, but also a mythical national championship in the USA Today poll due out Dec. 26.
It was the Canyon defense, however, that kept the De La Salle option game under control and was at its best when it was needed most.
Twice in the second half the Cowboys turned back the Spartans on fourth-down plays, one coming at the Canyon six. And the biggest play came when Nick Jurado recovered a fumbled punt by De La Salle's Ryan Nastor at the Spartans 22 with 3 minutes 19 seconds to play. Tailback J.J. DiLuigi scored the game's last touchdown on a one-yard run with under a minute to play.
In the first quarter, after blocking a De La Salle 29-yard field-goal try on the Spartans' opening drive, Canyon drove 80 yards in nine plays and took a 6-0 lead on a one-yard run by Ben Longshore with 2:52 left in the first quarter.
De La Salle used two big option runs of 17 yards by quarterback Mike MacGillivary and a 37-yard run by Tim Maupin to reach the Canyon four, and Maupin scored on the first play of the second quarter. With the extra point, the Spartans led, 7-6.
But the rest of the first half belonged to Canyon. Longshore struck through the air with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Suber (and misfired on a two-point pass attempt). And DiLuigi, who rushed for 76 yards in the first half, dived in from a yard with 14 seconds to play. Longshore then got in on a two-point run, and the Cowboys led, 20-7.
De La Salle needed a spark and got one when defensive back Bryon Colbert intercepted a pass by Longshore at the Spartans 31 and set up the Spartans at their 36. Two plays later, Maupin launched a halfback option pass to a wide-open John Hendershott, who caught the ball at the 22 and ran it the rest of the way for a 59-yard touchdown reception. The Spartans missed the extra-point try but had cut the deficit to 20-13.
Hendershott returned an interception to the Cowboys 33. The Spartans drove to the six-yard line, but were stuffed on a fourth-down play when Canyon linebacker Mike Loucks stopped Nastor for a four-yard loss.