VST Game of the Week: The Cougars pounce on the Pythons
GRANADA HILLS CA: The Kennedy Golden Cougars celebrated their Valley Mission League Championship in front of their home crowd in a 55-20 victory over the Panorama Pythons. The Golden Cougars and the Pythons are no strangers to each other with a history that includes two hard-fought battles in the 2022 season.
Last year, the Golden Cougars lost to the Pythons 28-14 in league play. However, the Golden Cougars got redemption when they defeated the Pythons 22-21 for the CIF-City Section Division II Championship. This would be Kennedy’s first City Section Championship in the school's 50-year history.
For Kennedy’s Diego Montes, it was a night of a second redemption against the Pythons. Montes had a dominant performance with two passing touchdowns with three touchdowns on the ground. Montes said getting this win against the Pythons gives him a lot of satisfaction.
“We came in and we fought out,” Montes said. “We had our foot on the gas from the get-go. These guys beat us in the regular season and our team said at halftime time ‘No matter how big of a lead we have, we must fight until the end.’”
In the first quarter, the Golden Cougars jumped on the board early with a 21-0 lead. Montes would score the first touchdown of the game followed by Giovanni Nelson who had two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Golden Cougars defense at that point has kept the Pythons offense in check for the entire quarter. Kennedy took a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Panorama scored a touchdown five minutes into the second quarter at the goal line. The Pythons made the extra point and the score was 21-7. The Golden Cougars would strike back again on their next drive. With 5:02 on the clock, Diego Montes threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Bentley Castro for the touchdown. The Golden Cougars failed to make a two-point conversion, but the score extended their lead to 27-7.
Castro said he gives credit to his coaches who have worked with him all season on running routes. He said it has all paid off in practice and got him ready for the game and to win the league title.
“I got to give props to my coaches who have worked hard with me on running my routes every single day,” Castro said. “We had a perfect start in the first quarter but made some mistakes going down the second quarter and in the end, we corrected the mistakes and finished the game with a W”.
With 2:28 left in the first half, the Pythons ran in for a 25-yard touchdown. The Pythons extra point kick attempt was blocked and the score at that point was 27-13 in favor of the Golden Cougars. With 18 seconds left in the second quarter, Cougars Alonzo Fuentes-Gutierrez scored a touchdown from the goal line. Kennedy's extra point pushed the score to a 34-13 lead at halftime.
Gutierez had two touchdowns including a 90-yard touchdown with less than one minute left in the fourth quarter. He said it was his offensive line that made it all possible.
“I give thanks to my offensive line who made the important blocks for me. I could not have done it without them,” Gutierez said. “After having a sloppy win over Sylmar last week, we knew as a team we really had to step it up and come out with a win.”
Gutierez also said he knows that there is a possibility that the Golden Cougars could face San Fernando in the playoffs, potentially for the City Section Division II Championship. He said that is why they must get better each week and take their game to a whole new level.
“I would love to face them again and beat them a second time,” Gutierez said. “San Fernando is tough and I hope the outcome will be a second championship with our name on it.”
In the third quarter, the Golden Cougars went out on the attack. One minute into the start of the second half, Montes ran in for a 10-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Cougars Martin Trujillo added a 10-yard touchdown. The successful extra point extended the lead to 48-13, triggering the mercy-rule running clock.
In the fourth quarter, the Pythons scored their third touchdown of the game with 3:00 minutes left in the game. However, there was no chance for the Pythons to make a dramatic comeback. Gutierrez scored a 90-yard touchdown that ended the game with the final score of 55-13.
After the game, Kennedy head coach Troy Cassidy showed his excitement for the team's amazing victory. Cassidy said he is really proud of his guys and is ready to help the Golden Cougars defend their title in the playoffs.
“I am really proud of my guys. They started off fast right out of the gate both offensively and defensively, “Cassidy said. “We took control of the game early and we pushed it all the way”.
Cassidy also said next week's game against Van Nuys will be important because a loss to the Wolves means that they would have to share the Valley Mission title with San Fernando.
“I told my guys that we must focus on Van Nuys and get a win before focusing on the playoffs,” Cassidy said. “We do not want to share the title with San Fernando so that is why we can not take Van Nuys lightly”.
Cassidy also said that he knows that San Fernando has his team on their radar. There is a possibility that the Golden Cougars and the Tigers will meet again in the playoff.
“San Fernando is a great team,” Cassidy said. “It would be a great opportunity to play against a tough, solid opponent. San Fernando has had a great season and I look forward to the challenge if we face them again”.
Panorama head coach Adrian Beltran said although his team was not the same team as it was last year when they faced Kennedy both in the league game and the City Championship, He said the only thing that his coaching staff can do now is to prepare for the next weeks game and get into the playoffs as a third place team.
“I think the problem was that we had a relapse from last week's loss to San Fernando,” Beltran said. “We faced two tough teams in two weeks and we had some injuries that caused some setbacks. The good news is we will be going to the playoffs and we know that anything can happen because the playoff is a different story compared to the regular season so we are not giving up hope”.
The Golden Cougars will be celebrating homecoming week in their final regular season. Game time will be at 7:00 p.m. The Pythons return back home next week to face Canoga Park. Game time is also at 7:00 p.m.
All Photos Courtesy of VST Intern Benjamin Becher