Football: No. 24 Canyon Country Canyon

The Canyon Country Canyon football team has a rich tradition, but the program has been down the past few years.

After guiding Canyon to a 10-2 record and into the quarterfinals of the CIF- Southern Section Northern Division playoffs, coach Chris Varner resigned. Rich Gutiterrez, the athletic director at Canyon and an assistant under Varner, takes over a program poised to return to greatness.

The team has a three-year starter at quarterback in Jonathan Jerozal and one of the best wide receivers in Southern California in junior Drew Wolitarsky. Expectations are high at Canyon, but this is a program that has historically set high goals and achieved them.

Here is a closer look at the Cowboys:

Team: Canyon Country Canyon

Coach: Rich Gutierrez, first year.

2010 Record: 10-2, lost in quarterfinals of CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.

Returning starters: 11 total. Five on offense. Six on defense.

Key players on offense: QB Jonathan Jeroza, WR Drew Wolitarsky, RB Max Archuleta, WR Coley Apsay, C Alex Vaughn, OT Juan Rodriguez.

Key players on defense: MLB Adam Evans, OLB Robert Hooper.

Difference maker: DE Juan Rodriguez.

Newcomers: WR Coley Apsay, WR Brenden Stach, DB Jordan Canady, NG Estaban Vazquez, coach Rich Gutierrez.

Not to be missed: Canyon at Valencia, Oct. 21. This game will most likely decide the Foothill League championship. Canyon will be looking for its first league title since 2006. Valencia will be looking for its third league championship in a row.

Coach’s comment: “This is a tremendous experience. I go game by game. You can’t overlook anybody. We try to focus on what’s in front of us.”

Final analysis: This might be the year Canyon snaps Valencia’s hold on the Foothill League championship. The last time Canyon won the Foothill League title in 2006, the Cowboys went on to win a CIF state championship. Jerozal is a three-year starter at quarterback. Wolitarsky has been on varsity since he was a freshman and still has a year of high school left. Coach Gutierrez said Rodriguez is a tremendous leader. “It’s really great to see. Juan makes some really great things happen.”

Follow Tim Haddock on Twitter @thaddock.