The Calabasas football team has sought to improve this season and, despite losing 17-7 to Thousand Oaks on the Lancers’ homecoming night Friday, the Coyotes did show improvement.
“The first quarter, I thought we were pretty evenly matched,” said second-year Coyotes’ head coach, Christian Pierce.
But in the second quarter, penalties hurt Calabasas and then Thousand Oaks converted on a huge fake punt that set up the only touchdown of the first half.
Matt Singleton, a senior tight end for Thousand Oaks, ran the ball to the Calabasas 20-yard line on the fake. That set up a touchdown run by Lancer junior Case Cookus.
Later in the quarter, Cristian Lopez, a junior, kicked a 39-yard field goal to up the lead to 10-0.
“The offense just didn’t produce the way I need them to,” said Pierce, who noted that the Calabasas defense continues to be on the field for too much of the game.
The coach said in order to make it less taxing for his defense, the Coyotes’ running attack needs to get better. The Calabasas offensive line tends to struggle because of a lack of size.
“Some adjustments will be made” this week toward that goal, said Pierce.
Thousand Oaks (4-4 overall, 1-2 in the Marmonte League West) drove 70 yards to open the third quarter, with senior running back Nathan Debeikes finishing off the drive with a 5-yard TD run to give the Lancers a 17-0 lead.
Debeikes ran 22 times for 95 yards and caught 12 passes for 105 yards for Thousand Oaks. Quarterback Chris Abourisk, a senior, completed 28 of 38 passes for 226 yards.
Down 17-0, Calabasas (1-6, 0-2) fought back and got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter.
The offense stayed on the field for a long drive that culminated with a 22-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Ike Fuchs to wide receiver Caleb Madden, also a senior.
Behind 17-7, the Coyotes looked to strike again midway through the fourth quarter. Fuchs drove the team to near the red zone, but Nick Julier, a junior defensive back for Thousand Oaks, intercepted a Fuchs’ pass near the goal-line.
The pass was tipped before Julier made the interception. The Calabasas threat was thwarted and with it the Coyotes’ hopes for a late comeback were also dashed.
“Prior to that point, I thought we were in very good shape to make the score 17-14 and to try and get the ball back,” said Pierce.
He said the Coyotes may have been able to pass the ball better earlier in the game.
“I felt that we could have exploited their cornerbacks a little bit more than we did,” said Pierce about the Lancers’ secondary.
However, Pierce was pleased, overall, with his team’s effort.
“Our kids fought, and that's what I'm very proud of,” he said. “We did pretty much what we wanted to do defensively.
"Offensively, we didn’t move the ball the way we wanted to on the ground and we’ve got to make some changes (to the running game) going forward for the last three games.”
Pierce praised senior linebacker Jordan Pierce, senior defensive back Matt Guttridge, and Madden, who plays cornerback on defense, for their work on the defensive side of the ball for the Coyotes.
Madden also played well at wide receiver as did senior wide receiver Anthony Freeman for the offense, said Pierce.
Calabasas will host perennial powerhouse Oaks Christian (7-1, 3-0) this Friday night. Pierce said, in general, a public school is usually at a disadvantage when facing a private school, which plays by a different set of rules concerning how it gets its players.
Therefore, games like the one the following week at Agoura, are often more competitive.
“The reality is, with the few exceptions of a couple of public schools that are historically outstanding, with a good gene pool to choose from, the private schools always present a challenge,” said Pierce. “When you can put the best team on the field that money can buy…”
He added: “They have a lot of athletes and they’re well-coached. But like I’ve said before, we really can’t be too concerned with what they do. We focus on what we do.”
Pierce noted that the Lions’ returning quarterback Brandon Dawkins, only a junior, Chris Davis, a junior wide receiver, and Francis Owusu, a 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver, are among the talented Oaks Christian players.
“Well try to take part of their game away,” Pierce said Sunday afternoon. “We’re working on our scheme right now, as a matter of fact. And we’ll see how competitive we can be.”