AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “Lyon and Herrick are great quarterbacks, and they’re being recruited big, but I’d like to play college football, too,” Civita said. “I think if we beat Hart, that might be a factor. People might finally look at me and say, ‘Hey, who is this guy?’ ” Canyon linebacker Tyler Hawkins wouldn’t trade Civita for anyone. “The other two pass more and have more attempts, but Austin’s got the better QB rating, plus he runs a little more,” Hawkins said. “He has poise and grace under pressure.” It hasn’t been an easy climb for Civita, who competed all summer with junior Ben Longshore for the starting job and wasn’t the No. 1 quarterback until after an opening scrimmage against Moorpark. Plus, nearly all of Canyon’s starting receivers lacked experience heading into the season, and primary target Richie Wirthlin has missed nearly half the season because of a broken hand. The competition with Longshore, whose brother, Nate (now at Cal), is Canyon’s all-time leading passer, proved beneficial. Civita was forced to constantly look over his shoulder through a string of successful summer passing-league performances by both quarterbacks, and he came through more poised and confident after winning the job. CANYON COUNTRY – Laboring in a high school football league that features two of the nation’s most prized quarterbacks, Canyon’s Austin Civita has managed to steal enough scenes to make the marquee. In fact, Civita is the Foothill League’s No. 1 passer, based on efficiency ratings, entering a championship showdown between the Cowboys (8-1 overall, 4-0 Foothill) and Hart (8-1, 4-0) Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at College of the Canyons. Civita has sparked Canyon to six consecutive victories, completing 93 of 165 passes (56.4 percent) for 1,522 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions for an efficiency rating of 154.2. By comparison, Hart’s Tyler Lyon, who received eight NCAA Division I scholarship offers, has passed for 1,142 yards (52.6 percent) and eight touchdowns with three interceptions for an efficiency rating of 127.1. Mississippi-bound Michael Herrick of Valencia has passed for 2,490 yards (61.9 percent) with 10 touchdowns but 11 interceptions, measuring in with an efficiency rating of 149.3. “By splitting time with Ben, it was tough, but I think we both pushed each other to get better, because by the end of summer, we were both playing very well,” Civita said. “Even during our first couple of games once the season started, Ben was still getting reps, so I always had to bring my ‘A’ game.” Hawkins liked the way Civita responded to the pressure when pushed for playing time. “I think it motivated him, because Ben’s also a great quarterback,” Hawkins said. “It was Austin’s mentality that kind of said, ‘Hey, I’m a senior, and you’re not going to start over me.’ It made him compete harder and harder.” Civita was never better than in a 49-21 victory over Valencia last week to set up Thursday’s showdown. He passed for 162 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a career-best 92 yards and two touchdowns. Can Civita come through with another clutch performance when his team needs it the most? Since joining the Foothill League in 1992, Canyon has never won a title and has gone 1-12 against Hart during that span. The title is the Cowboys’ with a victory. Tonight, Civita plans to stick to his usual routine. As he does on the evening before every game, he’ll have his linemen and skill-position teammates over for dinner, and this time his mother plans to serve massive platters of carne asada. “Then I’ll try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, but it’s always so hard to fall asleep on the night before a game,” Civita said. “I’ve got a lot to think about.” He sure does. Civita is on the brink of something special, and it should be interesting to see how things play out. Ran into Steven Herskovitz, father of former Hart football standout Eric Herskovitz, as he campaigned Sunday at the Valencia Town Center on Sunday for a spot on the William S. Hart School Board. He reports his son, Eric, who is playing Division I football as a defensive lineman for Valparaiso in Indiana, is considering transferring to an Ivy League college or the University of San Diego. Every year, no local school newspaper does a better job covering sports than Hart’s Smoke Signal. Some of the publication’s young journalists, such as Maria Quimson, Nick Bastone, Spencer Moniz, Jon Stein, Michael Ewart, Sara Rutan and Orlando Benitez, could have great futures. Gerry Gittelson’s column appears in the Daily News three times a week. He can be reached at (661) 257-5218 or [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!