Harry Welch knew he needed a hand against Palmdale High to capture his fifth Golden League championship in six years as coach at Canyon. Tom Curran gave him one.
With 5:35 left to play Friday night at Palmdale, Curran, a Canyon defensive tackle, burst through Palmdale's offensive line and blocked kicker Eric Stanford's extra-point attempt to preserve a 14-13 Canyon win.
"I just threw a guy out of the way and put my hand up," Curran said. "It's the first one I blocked all year."
The play snuffed a second-half rally by Palmdale, which trailed, 14-0, at the start of the third quarter and was bidding to become league champion for the first time since 1965.
"We beat a great team," Welch said. "We just got by, by the skin of our teeth."
Palmdale was indeed the Cowboys' toughest test in league play. The Falcons (8-2, 4-1), who finish second, contained Canyon's running attack, holding the Cowboys to 136 yards on the ground. Canyon tailback Chris Peery, who had rushed for 100 yards or more in six consecutive games, rushed for 91 yards in 23 carries.
"You gotta give them a hand," Peery said. "They were tough."
Welch, however, is probably more deserving of a hand than anyone. Canyon (8-2, 5-0), which lost two of its first three games--Welch's worst start at Canyon--looked like the league's third-best team at best. But the Cowboys proved to be No. 1 in the league after all.
"Each championship is beautiful," Welch said. "But this one is very special."
No sooner had Welch finished his sentence before he was doused with a bucket of ice water by his players.
"It feels wonderful," a shivering Welch said.
In the final quarter with Canyon leading, 14-7, Palmdale marched 69 yards in 11 plays to pull within one point. Quarterback Shannon Culver scored on a one-yard bootleg to cap the drive.
Culver, who was held to minus-8 yards rushing, scored the Falcons' first touchdown midway through the third quarter on an identical play from one yard out.
Palmdale's defense, meanwhile, held Canyon to 89 total yards in the second half.
"They totally dominated us in the second half," Welch said. "Every time I turned around, they were cleanly drilling our players."
The Cowboys began their first drive with good field position when Canyon linebacker Kevin Doss blocked Don Turner's punt and Canyon recovered at Palmdale's 39-yard line. Canyon drove for a touchdown in seven plays, Peery running the final yard on a dive play.
Palmdale moved the ball well in the first half but was unable to convert several third-down attempts. Tailback Eric Thomas, who finished with a game-high 98 yards rushing, gained 47 yards in the first half, but the Falcons penetrated no farther than Canyon's 19.
Canyon drove 80 yards in seven plays midway through the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead. On second and 13 from the Canyon 33, quarterback Rod Baltau, who completed 3 of 8 passes for 86 yards, hit Peery on a quick opener and Peery chugged 65 yards before Thomas forced him out of bounds at the two-yard line. Two plays later, Baltau sneaked one yard for a touchdown.
Palmdale contained Canyon's running game in the first half, limiting the Cowboys to 72 yards. Peery rushed for 42 yards in 11 carries and was stacked up for one-yard gains four times.