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High Schools | SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL REPORT

Canyon's a Good Team Aiming to Get Better

October 24, 2002|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

Winning times have returned for the Canyon Country Canyon football team.

But just how far the Cowboys have come -- or how far they still have to go to become an elite team -- under Coach Harry Welch will be answered Friday night when they play Southern Section power Newhall Hart in a Foothill League game at College of the Canyons at 7:30.

Canyon is off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 1986 and ranked ninth in the section's Division II poll. But Hart (5-0-1), No. 2 in Division II and No. 5 in The Times' rankings, has won the last four Division III titles, is unbeaten in 28 games in a row and has won 54 consecutive league games.

Hart's last loss in league play was a 42-35 decision to Montebello Schurr in 1990, which is also the last year Canyon beat the Indians.

Hart has won its last 11 games against its Santa Clarita Valley rival by an average of 27 points.

"I still feel we're a year away from being a real good team," said Welch, who is in the second year of his second coaching stint at Canyon. "To be frank, we're getting to be a pretty good high school football team, but [Hart is] at a completely different level."

That shouldn't diminish what Welch, 57, and his assistant coaches have accomplished.

Canyon won consecutive section titles from 1983 to '85 and posted a 120-31-2 record during Welch's first stint at the school from 1982 to '93. But the sometimes controversial coach resigned after the 1993 season, in which the Cowboys were 6-4.

Canyon was a combined 32-42-1 in the seven seasons after Welch stepped down and went 3-7 in his return. But the Cowboys beat Lancaster, Santa Ana Saddleback, Crescenta Valley, Palmdale Highland and Mission Hills Alemany in their first five games before upsetting Valencia, 20-14, in a league opener.

Valencia (3-3) advanced to two of the previous three Division III title games and hadn't lost to the Cowboys since the school began playing varsity football in 1996, but Canyon limited highly touted tailback Charles Burnley to 58 yards and a touchdown in 19 carries.

"Absolutely. Dumbfounded," Welch said when asked if he was surprised by Canyon's 6-0 record. "I didn't expect this. But we've had some breaks, and about a half-dozen starters who missed some games early in the season with injuries are starting to get healthy."

Canyon has been helped by the play of quarterback Nate Longshore and running back Louis Montano. Longshore is a 6-foot-4, 214-pound junior who has thrown for 1,131 yards and nine touchdowns. Montano is a 5-8, 176-pound junior who has gained 776 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.

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Riverside North's school colors are blue and gold, but the Huskies wore red jerseys in a 34-14 victory over Riverside Poly last Friday in honor of alumnus Adam Kennedy and the Angels' first World Series appearance.

North Principal Dave Kinnear brought up the idea of donning red jerseys at a faculty meeting three days after Kennedy hit three home runs in the Angels' American League championship series-clinching victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Athletic Director Jim McNamara cleared the idea with football Coach Steve Hagerty and ordered the jerseys later that day.

Tom Kennedy, Adam's father and a longtime history teacher at North, was presented with a red jersey with the No. 2 on it in a pregame ceremony Friday. But he was more tickled when the North players ran onto the field minutes before the game in red jerseys after warming up in traditional blue.

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Ventura St. Bonaventure is playing in the Channel League this season after winning six consecutive Tri-Valley League titles. But a private school from Ventura County could still stand in the way of Carpinteria's quest for its first league championship since 1995.

Carpinteria (6-0, 3-0) is the top-ranked team in Division XI, but No. 4 Westlake Village Oaks Christian (6-0, 2-0) will play the Warriors at home Friday night at 7:30.

"They do a lot of things real well," Carpinteria Coach Coley Candaele said of an Oaks Christian team playing its second year at the varsity level. "They don't run a lot of different plays, but they run them out of a lot of different formations. They find your weaknesses and attack you."

Senior Adam Richter has gained 1,077 yards and scored 14 touchdowns for Oaks Christian, but the Lions could be even more explosive if sophomore Aaron Ware has fully recovered from an injury to his left hip, sustained in a 63-21 season-opening victory over Santa Ana Calvary Chapel.

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When Paso Robles defeated Arroyo Grande, 12-10, in a Pac-5 League opener last week, it marked the first time in two seasons that Arroyo Grande had lost a regular-season game.

The Eagles were 9-0 during the regular season last year before being upset by Goleta Dos Pueblos, 26-23, in a Division IV quarterfinal game in the Division IV playoffs.

"This is the first time in two years we've had to practice after a loss," said 20th-year Arroyo Grande Coach Jon Huss. "It's different."

Arroyo Grande, the No. 2-ranked team in Division IV, is expected to have another tough game Friday when it plays host to No. 5 Santa Maria Righetti (6-0, 1-0) at 7:30 p.m.

Righetti junior Ryan Mole has rushed for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns in 79 carries.

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Junior Brandon King, a middle linebacker at Arroyo Grande, will miss the rest of the season after breaking his lower left leg in last week's game against Paso Robles.... Senior Bryan Price of Oaks Christian could miss the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his leg in a 36-14 victory at Lompoc Cabrillo last week. Price is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.... Senior Mario Vargas of Simi Valley Royal is expected to miss the next three games after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during pregame drills last week.

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