Fri, Nov 26 2010 11:52 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
It is not an understatement to say that every game from now on is a Super Bowl for both the Eastlake Titans and Otay Ranch Mustangs, Mesa League rivals, who will meet on the field Friday in the quarterfinal round of the San Diego Section Division I playoffs.
Kick-off is 7 p.m. at Eastlake High School.
“They’re a good solid team — they’re playing together and executing well right now,” said EHS coach John McFadden of the Mustangs, who clobbered host El Camino, 44-12, in last Friday’s round of playoff openers.
The teams’ met in the Mesa League opener on Oct. 15, with the host Titans recording a 40-27 victory. The game, however, was tied, 21-21, midway through the third quarter.
Otay Ranch (7-4) has won four consecutive games since then and, in the words of first-year head coach Anthony Lacsina, appear to be “peaking at the right time.”
The Mustangs recovered from a 6-3 deficit against El Camino (5-6) to zoom in front 24-6 at halftime. The visitors did not let up in the second half, out-scoring the Wildcats 20-6.
Marcus Hernandez threw three touchdowns passes en route to accumulating 257 passing yards. Ernie Hicks scored two rushing touchdowns and Billie Bechtel tacked on six PAT conversions and a 32-yard field goal.
Hernandez, who has thrown for 18 TDs this season, tossed scoring passes to Fernando Murillo (15 yards), Giovanni Conrady (11 yards) and Kyle Doton (five yards). Andre Jones also scored on a two-yard run.
“We took them seriously after they beat Oceanside,” Lacsina said. “We good a good job of stopping the run. Marcus Hernandez has been doing a great job for us with his passing. We’ve been riding his arm lately.”
Top-seeded Eastlake (10-0, riding a 23-game unbeaten streak) is loaded for bear. While the Mustangs are averaging 232 rushing yards per game, the Titans are averaging 335.5 rushing yards per game.
McFadden is hoping to pair the explosive running ability of both Jude Isbell (1,104 yards, 10 TDs) and Aaron Baltazar (539 yards, six TDs) for the first time this season.
Chris Fletcher (607 rushing yards, seven TDs) and Tavarus Green (353 rushing yards, six TDs) have helped fill in the holes during alternating injuries to both Isbell and Baltazar this season. Fletcher leads the team with 380 receiving yards. Travis Gardner has caught 20 passes for 362 yards.
Defensively, Blake Wilson has been a one-man wrecking crew with 12 sacks while Fernando Cabico has four picks.
The Titans cannot afford to underestimage the Mustangs. “We realize we have to show up and execute,” McFadden said. “It’s a good rivalry. We need to be ready to play.”
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Lacsina said in regard to Friday’s match-up. “We played them well the first time. We feel we can beat them if we play our best game. This isn’t to say they’re not a great team because they are.”
The winner faces either fourth-seeded Mira Mesa (5-5) or fifth-seeded Grossmont (9-2) in the semifinals on Dec. 2.
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