By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — No. 3 College of the Canyons had its quest for a state championship come to a halt as the Cougars suffered a 68-21 loss to No. 1 Riverside City College in the Southern California Championship Game on Saturday at Wheelock Stadium.
Canyons (9-3, 4-1) was forced to play from behind for nearly the entire contest as Riverside (12-0, 5-0) connected on a 61-yard touchdown pass on its second offensive snap, then added to the advantage with a special teams safety after a high snap sailed over punter Tanner Brown's head, giving the Tigers a 9-0 lead with 12:35 to go in the opening quarter.
Riverside then added a six-yard touchdown run on the team's next drive to make it a 16-0 game.
COC sophomore wide receiver Alonzell Henderson broke free on a 57-yard catch and run to get the Cougars on the board at 16-7 midway through the opening frame. Henderson finished with five catches for 128 yards.
But less than a minute later Riverside answered with a 71-yard scoring play after wide receiver Isaiah Leeth broke a tackle and streaked down the Tigers sideline to open things back up at 23-7 after the PAT.
Three plays later COC quarterback Armani Edden was sacked and fumbled the ball on the Cougars' 19-yard line. On its next play Riverside quarterback Jacob Bariage tossed his second scoring strike to take the wind out of Canyons at 30-7.
The Tigers added two more touchdowns and a 42-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half to take a 47-7 lead into halftime.
The Cougars turned the ball over again on the first drive of the second half when Edden's fumble near his own goal line was pounced on for another Riverside touchdown.
Edden bounced back to find wide receiver Tiquan Gilmore for a 57-yard touchdown that put the game at 54-14 and seemed to give the Cougars a much-needed spark.
After forcing a Tigers punt, Edden hooked up with Trevon Elliott on a 35-yard touchdown that gave Canyons new life at 54-21 after Brown's PAT.
COC came up with another defensive stop to give Edden and company the ball back with less than minute to go in the third quarter. A 46-yard reception by Henderson helped move the ball down to the Riverside five-yard line, but on third down Edden was picked off by Jalen Bowers who returned the ball 98 yards for another Tigers defensive touchdown.
Riverside eventually added one more fourth quarter score with roughly five minutes to go in the game.
Edden finished the game 13-of-28 for 305 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Sophomore running back Cayden Dunn carried the ball 12 times for 59 yards. Gilmore was second on the team with three catches for 74 yards.
Sophomore linebacker Charles Ike was named the Player of the Game for Canyons after finishing with 13 total tackles and half a sack, with 3.5 tackles for loss. Cornerback Abdul-Lateef Audu had seven solo tackles and a pass break up, while linebacker Tyler Richardson added six tackles and shared the sack with Ike.
Saturday's matchup between Canyons and Riverside was the first in school history. Canyons is now 2-4 all time in Southern California Championship games.
The Tigers were playing in a fourth straight regional championship having lost in its previous three outings.
Riverside now moves on to face College of San Mateo in the state championship game on Dec. 14, at Bakersfield College.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.