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Raiders in a defensive battle limit #2 ranked College of the Canyons offense to only two touchdowns each half

Moorpark+Raiders+locked+into+a+defensive+battle+the+first+half+with+the+Canyons+Cougars.+Photo+credit%3A+Laura+De+Leon
Moorpark Raiders locked into a defensive battle the first half with the Canyons Cougars. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

Moorpark Raiders locked into a defensive battle the first half with the Canyons Cougars. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

Moorpark Raiders locked into a defensive battle the first half with the Canyons Cougars. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

By Robert Gonzales

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A score of 36-3 is misleading of the effort displayed by the Moorpark College Raiders defense this past Thursday. The first points on the board weren’t scored until the end of the first quarter, and even those came from a defensive safety instead of an offensive possession.

The Raiders are the first team this season to hold the 5-0 Canyons Cougars offense to zero points for the first quarter of a game. The Cougars lead the California Community College Athletic Association with the number-one scoring offense, number one yards per game, number one passing yards per game, first downs, and they dominate almost every offensive categorical statistic.

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Wyatt Eget, #16, sophomore quarterback, has wide open pocket to throw to his wide receiver. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

Wyatt Egert, the Cougars sophomore quarterback, normally utilizes his two speedy wide receivers, Jarrin and Brandon Pierce. They normally average 70 yards or more a game, but both wide receivers were shut down by the Raiders to the tune of only two catches a piece; both under 25 yards this game.

DJ Turner, Moorpark Raiders freshman linebacker, had some crucial open field tackles that prevented first downs, including one tackle for a 7-yard loss. Turner credits the preparation of the defensive coaches for the success they had.

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Freshman LB, #22, DJ Turner, pursuits toward the play of the game. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

“We just know what they’re gonna do before the play,” Turner said. “Just by their positions, how they’re lining up and stuff. Guards leaning back, receivers off the ball stuff. Just little things that really let us know that.”

Dru Mathis is another defensive star that attributed seven tackles to this game. Although they pressured the quarterback often, Egert’s scramble ability kept many plays alive. But Mathis was able to still record a sack for a six-yard loss on the shifty quarterback.

Mathis has been a defensive highlight for the team all season with a combined 62 total tackles and assists, 13 more hits than the next closest defender on the team. His play has earned him scholarship opportunities to big Division I programs: Illinois, UNLV, and the latest TCU.

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#2, sophomore linebacker, Drew Mathis, lined up as a center piece of the defense before the snap of the ball. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

“It feels good, I’ve never had, you know, an offer from a big 12 school,” Mathis said. “It’s big conferences and it’s big ball, and I’m very excited about it.”

Mathis believed he would play division one football soon enough.

“Coming out of high school it was always the goal,” he said.

Players like Dru Mathis, Ivory Jackson, Dillon Chong, and DJ Turner led the team with at least 35 total tackles so far this season, and helped keep the Raiders in this game as long as they could.

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Defensive unit walks off the field smiling.

But by shutting down the top two wide receiver weapons, it eventually left offensive opportunities for Elijah Ebe, a sophomore wide receiver. He had his best game of the season with seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.

Ebe opened the game up with a 45-yard touchdown reception that was placed beautifully into the bread basket by quarterback Eget. The coaches schemed their play call perfectly. They motioned a player across to the left side, pulling away the safety that would help over the top, and leaving a one-on-one match-up for Ebe, who took advantage of the opportunity.

Ebe’s 45-yard fade was the second passing touchdown scored in the first half with nine minutes left in the second quarter. But the score remained locked the rest of the half. Those two scores, plus the safety, added up to a 16-0 lead for Canyons going into the half.

The next nine points were a display of leg strength and accuracy by both kickers. Riley Garrett, Moorpark’s sophomore kicker, connected on a 35-yard field goal shortening the lead to 16-3, four minutes into the third quarter.

But Canyons’ freshman kicker, Tanner Brown, had some answers of his own to re-lengthen the Cougars lead. He put his boot behind a 27 and 41-yard field goal that gave the Cougars a comfortable 22-3 lead with 1:30 left in the third quarter.

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Raiders defensive players jump attempting to block Tanner Brown's field goal. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

The final dagger in the game came seconds later, when Moorpark’s freshman quarterback, Ethan Postler, fumbled the football at the Moorpark 13-yard line, giving Canyons a powerful offense on an extremely short field. They scored again just two plays later.

Because Postler struggled with only five completions on 17 attempts, red shirt freshman quarterback Troy Smith was given the opportunity to really lead the offense on their last possession of the game.

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#10, freshman quarterback, Troy Smith calling out the play to the Raiders offense. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

“It’s definitely a good experience,” Smith said. “Injuries happened [earlier this season] and I had to step up. I feel like slowly but surely I’m learning the offense and things are gonna get better.

“As quarterback I add speed at the position, where before we were solid, but we didn’t really have speed, so I feel like we could add another element and it opens up more options on offense,” he added.

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#10, freshman quarterback, Troy Smith, opens up and looks right, ready to toss the football. Photo credit: Laura De Leon

Smith was two for five for only six yards, so it remains to be seen who will continue to lead the Raiders’ offense as Smith continues to learn. Coaches have to be hopeful to count on more production from the quarterback position moving forward, whether that continues to be Postler coming back from injury, or Smith’s unexpected red shirt quarterback.

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