Fri, Dec 17 2010 12:36 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The 2010 high school football playoffs were filled with upsets, illustrated by last week's semifinals. Of the 10 games played Dec. 2 (Division I through Division IV) and Dec. 3 (Division V), the lower-seeded team came away victorious a jaw-dropping seven times.
The top-seeded Eastlake Titans (Division I) and second-seeded Olympian Eagles (Division IV) were among the victims.
In the place of the Titans, the fourth-seeded Mira Mesa Marauders made their first trip to Qualcomm Stadium since 1983 while the third-seeded Madison Warhawks advanced to dethrone reigning Division IV champion and previously undefeated Valley Center.
It was altogether a shocking turn of events.
Mira Mesa ended Eastlake’s 24-game unbeaten streak with a 20-0 shutout victory despite playing on the road, while Madison clobbered likewise host Olympian. 48-7, to avenge its only loss of the season.
In Monday’s section finals, third-seeded Vista defeated Mira Mesa, 33-21, to capture the Division I championship while Madison topped Valley Center, 40-14, to win the Division IV title.
Of the four championship games played at Qualcomm Stadium, the Division I and Division II match-ups featured the third and fourth seeds battling in each game, while the Division III title game paired the third-seeded team against the fifth-seeded team.
How’s that for parity to cap the 2010 pigskin season?
The fourth-seeded Oceanside Pirates captured their seventh consecutive CIF championship by routing third-seeded Mission Hills, 47-10, in the Division II match-up, while third-seeded Cathedral Catholic won its fourth consecutive Division III championship by topping fifth-seeded Lincoln 24-7.
The Pirates (10-3) defeated top-seeded Helix, 24-17, in the semifinals while Mission Hills (10-3) ended second-seeded Steele Canyon’s season with a 24-14 upset victory.
Noah Tarrant scored a scintillating six touchdowns in Monday’s championship game for Oceanside.
“We were the best team at the end,” Pirate coach John Carroll said succinctly.
In other semifinal upsets:
•Vista (12-1) upset second-seeded Torrey Pines (10-2) to advance to the Division I championship game.
•Lincoln (7-7) upset top-seeded St. Augustine, 29-26, to play for the Division III title, leaving the Saints with a 9-3 final record.
In one last semifinal upset, third-seeded Francis Parker, buoyed by a cadre of South County playing talent, upended second-seeded Horizon Christian, 52-38, to advance to Friday’s Division V championship game at Mesa College against the top-seeded Bishop’s Knights.
The undefeated Knights (12-0) are led by Chula Vista resident Joey Moreno at quarterback.
Turn out the lights
The Eastlake Titans had prided themselves all season long on finding ways to win games, stretching their school-record winning streak to 22 games in the process, a figure that ranks sixth best all time in section annals. But the boot was figuratively and literally on the other foot as the Marauders, a team entering the game with a 6-5 record against the 11-0 Titans, scored on unorthodox plays and used a swarming defense to befuddle the hosts.
It was the first time that Eastlake — five-time defending Mesa League champions — had been shut out in a game since 2004.
It was an inopportune time for the Titans to play out of sync.
“We kind of expected the spark that never came,” EHS head coach John McFadden said.
The Marauders took a 6-0 halftime lead on a 25-yard halfback option pass from Jalen Fields to Shamone Fletcher. Fernando Cabico blocked the extra point attempt, leaving the hosts with an edge in case of a close finish.
But the go-ahead touchdown never came.
A defensive struggle on both sides of the line of scrimmage proved advantageous for the Marauders. If there was one play that turned the momentum in the game, it came in the third quarter when a Mira Mesa running back fumbled the ball on the three-yard line. The ball rolled into the end zone and it appeared that a pair of Eastlake defenders initially pounced on the loose ball to nullify the scoring drive.
But when the pile of bodies was finally cleared by officials, Marauder Gabi Mussallam inexplicably had possession of the ball.
Touchdown: 13-0 Mira Mesa.
The Titans’ season came down to the following: Score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to advance to the stadium to defend their title.
But such was not to be the case. Poor field position backed Eastlake up near its own end zone and quarterback Josh Palet was hit during a passing attempt by Mussallam, launching the ball straight up in the air and falling into the end zone where it was recovered for another highly opportunistic touchdown by the Marauders.
Mira Mesa’s Carlos Santiago received credit for the touchdown.
Now needing three touchdowns in half a quarter to win, the hosts went back to work. But it just wasn’t fated, it seemed.
Sixteen years of frustration on the part of Mira Mesa head coach Gary Blivens ended as the Marauders finally won a semifinal contest.
“I thought the kids played hard,” McFadden said. “We were just a little off. It turned out that on the first series Josh broke his middle finger. He’s a tough kid and played through it. I don’t know how much of an effect, if any, it had on his throwing ability.”
The EHS passing attack was erratic, at best. Passes either seemed to be overthrown or receivers dropped balls.
Palet was intercepted once in the game while completing 12 of 30 attempts for 130 yards.
The Mira Mesa defense held the vaunted Titan rushing attack to 148 yards — less than half its season average.
Eastlake never got to utilize its twin terror backfield of Aaron Baltazar and Jude Isbell to proper effectiveness. Baltazar rushed six times for 27 yards and sat on the bench the second half with his knee wrapped. Isbell, carrying the load, rushed 12 times for 95 yards and had three catches for 25 yards.
Jordan Hines caught two passes for 58 yards to lead the receiving corps.
But mixed in with the statistics were several key missed opportunities.
Defensively, the Titans were keyed by Ronnie Cortell and Hermes Franco, each with sacks, and Travis Gardner and Zeke Ganzon, each with fumble recoveries. Cabico also had an interception along with his blocked PAT kick.
Mira Mesa’s record was obviously deceiving, with losses to St. Augustine and Cathedral Catholic in City Conference Eastern League play, and a seven-point setback to Vista in non-league play.
“One thing you can expect in Division I, more so than in the other divisions, is that when you get to the quarters and semis, you are going to have a tough opponent,” McFadden said.
Looking back on the season, McFadden lauded the effort of his team.
“Being No. 6 in the county with our 22-game winning streak, there’s obviously a lot of pride it that,” he said. “I think this group really deserves to be recognized for that.”
Likewise, Olympian will have much to celebrate at its season-ending awards banquet. The Eagles won their second consecutive league championship this season by emerging with the inaugural Metro-Pacific League title after winning last year’s South Bay League championship.
That Olympian (10-2) got as far as it did was an amazing feat in itself considering the team’s spate of injuries suffered throughout the season.
Bad breaks combined to put the Eagles into a deep hole against the marauding Warhawks. A fumble inside the 10-yard line set up Madison’s first touchdown — a nine-yard catch by Akeem Woodson. The visitors then went for the ensuing two-point conversion to go up 8-0 in the first quarter.
The Eagles later drove down field and appeared to settle for a field goal. The kick was plenty long enough but wide.
There would be more episodes of frustration.
The Olympian defense had the Warhawks backed up near their own end zone on two occasions — only to have Madison quarterback Chase Knox unleash two bombs on third-and-long plays to initiate scoring drives.
Facing third-and-25, Knox aired out a laser beam that Kevon Mitchell caught on the fly as he ran along the sideline to complete an 81-yard TD play.
Kevin Esser later booted a 36-yard field goal and Knox hit Woodson on a 25-yard scoring play to put the visitors up 24-0 at halftime. The latter touchdown was set up by an interception by Darrell Johnson near the Olympian 30-yard line as the Eagles were forced into an uncharacteristic passing attack.
The Warhawks tacked on three more touchdowns in the third quarter in their relentless scoring parade.
The Eagles did get a measure of respect on a 78-yard touchdown pass from Cobrin Humphrey to Troy Jackson. But Mitchell broke a 99-yard kick-off return to add insult.
Esser closed out the game’s scoring on a 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Also getting in on the scoring antics was Jamarie Sanders, who broke a 67-yard dash for a score in the third quarter.
Knox finished the game with four TD passes and 286 passing yards while Mitchell collected three touchdowns — one receiving, one rushing and one on the monster kick-off return.
The Warhawk machine was running smoothly on all cylinders, as the top-seeded Jaguars were to find out four days later.
The disappointing loss ended a superlative nine-game winning streak for Olympian and was the eighth consecutive for Madison, which upped that number to nine with the division championship game victory over Valley Center.
The CIF title was the first in school history for the Warhawks, who finished runner-up in the division final two years ago.
Madison (12-1) is now awaiting word on whether it will receive an invitation to play in this year’s State Football Bowl small schools game. Pairings will be announced on Sunday.
•Oceanside and Cathedral Catholic both repeated as division champions — the title was the fourth in a row for the Dons — while Vista made amends for its title game loss to Eastlake last year.
•Cathedral Catholic aptly demonstrated that it’s not how a team starts the season in September but how it finishes the season in December that counts the most. The Dons, playing inarguably the toughest schedule this season in the section, were just 1-4 at the halfway point of the season before building momentum with victories in eight of their final nine games, including three consecutive playoff wins.
•Jonny Martin led Cathedral Catholic with 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Monday’s redemption finale.
•Madison soared to the Division IV title on the arm of Knox, who threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 385 passing yards. Jeremy Hutchison (71 yards), Mitchell (18 yards) and Desaan Hardwick (47 yards) all caught scoring passes for the Warhawks, which also was boosted by a 48-yard kick-off return by Mitchell. Madison led just 14-7 at halftime but tamed their higher-seeded foe with a 26-7 second-half showing.
•Vista opened the season as the top-ranked team in the section and likely moved back to the top after chilling the upset-minded Marauders on the strength of 285 rushing yards. Mira Mesa, which dethroned top-seeded Eastlake in the semifinals, was making its first trip to the stadium since 1983.
Oceanside was making its 17th consecutive semifinal appearance and the Pirates plundered the Highlanders’ ship for two defensive touchdowns — a 48-yard interception return by Adam Francis and a 27-yard fumble return by T.J. Sunia — to hold up as the margin of victory.
The previously undefeated Scotties (ranked second in the section in the regular season) started the game in a 10-0 hole but stormed back to lead 14-10 on a 35-yard scoring pass from Brandon Lewis to Austin Gonzalez and a one-yard TD run by Darrion Hancock. But a 39-yard scoring run by Tarrant put Oceanside back in front to stay.
Steele Canyon started off its semifinal contest against the visiting Grizzlies down 14-0 and could never recover. Brandon Watson scored both Steele Canyon touchdowns. Mission Hills led 1ed 17-7 at halftime.
San Diego Section
Monday at Qualcomm Stadium
(3) Vista 33, (4) Mira Mesa 21. Records: Vista 12-1; Mira Mesa 7-6
(4) Oceanside 47, (3) Mission Hills 10. Records: Oceanside 10-3; Mission Hills 10-3
(3) Cathedral Catholic 24, (5) Lincoln 7. Records: Cathedral Catholic 8-5, Lincoln 7-7
(3) Madison 40, (1) Valley Center 14. Records: Madison 12-1; Valley Center 12-1
Friday at Mesa College
(1) Bishop’s (12-0) vs. (3) Francis Parker (6-6), 7 p.m.
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