By Matt Lechuga
For The Signal
It was a much more muted kind of football experience than players, coaches and fans are used to when the Canyon and Saugus football teams met Thursday night.
There were masks worn, red tape designating seating areas in the stands, chants from the cheer squad were pre-recorded and instead of a postgame handshake between the teams there was a wave across the field. But after a nearly a year and a half absence, football is back in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Saugus (1-0) took the season opener over Canyon 41-20 at Canyon High School in a game that many were just happy to be having, even if it’s mid-March.
“It’s obviously been a tremendous challenge for us in terms of waiting as long as we’ve had to wait,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. “If nothing else, it’s given us an opportunity to really make this a memorable experience, especially for our seniors. These kids have been through a lot, so for them to get back out here is really special.”
The long layoff hasn’t hurt Centurions quarterback Colton FitzGerald, as he completed 26 of his 31 passes for 314 yards and five touchdowns.
The first came immediately after Saugus took its opening drive 51 yards, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to Hunter Girch, the first of three touchdowns the pair would link up on.
“It’s awesome to finally play with my seniors, finally play with these underclassmen, we deserve it. We worked our tails off this offseason,” said FitzGerald. “I put the ball into the playmakers’ hands, they’re the ones that make me look good. Our offensive line did amazing tonight, as well. I’m proud of all of them.”
Saugus pushed its lead to 20-0 on Fitzgerald touchdown passes of 68 and 33 yards before Canyon (0-1) found the end zone. That came on a 22-yard strike from Angel Vasquez to Colin Figueroa, the first of two touchdowns for the duo, making the score 20-6 going into the half.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter with Fitzgerald finding Girch from 3 yards out, and Canyon responding with an 80-yard pass from Vasquez to running back Dylan Roof to make the score 27-13 headed into the fourth.
That’s where Saugus put the game away after another 3-yard TD pass from FitzGerald to Sebastian Dallaire and an 80-yard pick-six from Braden Salazar to make the score 41-13
“The biggest thing for this season is making sure everyone stays as healthy as possible. That’s the biggest concern,” said Canyon head coach Joe Maiale. “We didn’t have much time to prepare, so their health is the biggest thing. We’ve been pretty fortunate with the lack of injuries so it worked out well.”
Canyon stayed competitive, capping the scoring with a 57-yard touchdown connection from Vasquez to Figueroa, setting the final score at 41-20.
Saugus will continue the five-week season next Thursday against Hart, and Canyon will look to earn its first win next Friday versus Valencia.