Fri, Nov 15 2013 10:44 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Future generations of Hilltop Lancers may one day refer to it as “the drive.” For now, Drake Madarang’s clutch four-yard touchdown run on the final play of last Friday’s Metro-South Bay League championship game at Mar Vista gave the west side Chula Vista team its first league title since 1979.
It’s been a long wait for the Lancers, who had finished runner-up the last three years in the league title chase.
In fact, until Madarang took a pitch from quarterback Daniel Sanchez and followed a key block by a teammate into the corner of the end zone, it appeared as if Hilltop might finish as the league runner-up for the fourth consecutive year.
“It feels like a 5,000-pound elephant has been lifted off our shoulders,” Hilltop coach Cody Roelof said after the Lancers’ dramatic come-from-behind 18-15 win over the host Mariners. “Our kids have been so close the last three years.”
Hilltop had received the ball on the Mar Vista 47-yard line after stopping the host Mariners on a fourth-and-inches play with 2:07 remaining in the game. Nursing a tenuous 15-12 advantage, Mar Vista was hoping to get a first down to run out the clock and, in the process, clinch a berth in the San Diego Section Division II playoffs as the league champion.
But the Lancer defense stopped Mar Vista superman Jimmie Hill on an option pitch, resulting in a change of possession.
After several missed opportunities throughout the second half, Hilltop’s championship fortunes came down to this last drive: 47 yards and 127 seconds from paydirt.
Madarang proved to be the workhorse on the game-winning drive. Two runs advanced the ball to the 33-yard line. Sanchez then hit Teddy Simmons on a sideline pattern to the 25. From there, Madarang took a draw play to the nine-yard line as time ticked down on the scoreboard clock.
Eventually, Hilltop found itself on the four-yard line with four seconds to play facing a fourth-down situation. Would the visitors elect for a field goal attempt in a bid to send the game into overtime or would they attempt one final stab at the end zone for a victory — and outright possession of the league title?
Roelof called a time out at which time the crucial decision was made: Hilltop would go for broke. On one final touch of the football, the Lancers would either finish as league champs or, gulp, second once more.
The execution of that final play had to be precision perfect — and it was.
With adrenaline pumping and butterflies swirling, Sanchez took the handoff from behind center and lurched to his left. He then pitched the ball to Madarang, who had been shadowing the Lancer signal-caller. Aided by a block up field by Luis Hernandez, Madarang had just enough room to sneak inside the corner pylon.
Touchdown Hilltop. The clock showed zeroes. The Lancers were league champs ... and the post-game frenzy promptly began.
Mar Vista fans simply watched in stunned silence.
Sanchez and Madarang said the play was a designed option.
“The No. 1 thing is that I didn’t want to drop the pitch and just read my blocks,” said Madarang, who kept possession of the game ball long after the exciting contest was over and thick fog had returned to the field. “Luis Hernandez had a great block. I just wanted to keep running, that’s all I could think about.”
Madarang kept running with the ball after he crossed the goal line, kept running with the ball out the back of the end zone and kept running with the ball as he veered back onto the field followed by a gathering horde of cheering teammates with fists pumping high into the chilly night air.
The Lancers were league champions. Finally.
“We had gone into overtime with them before (a 20-19 Mar Vista victory in last year’s league title game),” Sanchez said. “It was finally time to settle it in regulation.”
Roelof admitted it was a risky call but it was the only call that could really be made under the circumstances.
“You’re the hero if it works and the goat if it doesn’t,” Roelof said after the game. “Last year we went into overtime and lost on a missed extra point. We had practiced that play and the kids were calling for that play and they made it happen.”
Mar Vista (2-1 in league, 4-6 overall) scored first in the game on a one-yard run by quarterback Dan Lujon for a 7-0 lead. Hilltop countered on a 65-yard halfback pass play from Kameron Smith to Isaiah Dillon but the extra-point attempt by Hernandez was unsuccessful, leaving the Mariners with a 7-6 advantage.
The Lancers (3-0 in league, 9-1 overall) scored the only touchdown in the second quarter to go on top 12-7 as Sanchez took the ball in from 20 yards out as thick fog descended onto the field. Mar Vista closed to within three points, however, on a safety to make the halftime score 12-9 in Hilltop’s favor.
The fog cleared in the third quarter in time for the home fans to cheer a 30-yard scoring pass from Brandon Scales to Pono Cavaco as Mar Vista regained the lead at 15-12.
The Mariners had a chance to add to that lead but missed a 26-yard field goal attempt with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter to keep the visitors within striking distance.
Containing Hill (24 carries, 78 yards) was a major focus of the Lancer defense after Hill had rushed for 332 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-0 win at San Ysidro the prior week.
Hilltop rushed for 142 yards, including 15 carries by Madarang for 68 yards. Sanchez had 10 carries for 50 yards. Dillon had four catches for 77 yards.
Eastlake 35, Otay Ranch 7
The visiting Titans did not record their fourth consecutive shutout but they did wrap up an undefeated 4-0 run through league play. Isiah Olave scored three touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 116 yards while Isaiah Strayhorn rushed for 101 yards and scored once. The Eastlake defense collected three sacks (one each by Emilio Rodriguez, Issak Santos and Nathaniel Sweat), forced three fumbles (two by Santos) and garnered one interception (by Greg Bell).
Heading into the playoffs, Strayhorn leads Eastlake with 973 rushing yards, followed by Traylon Reed (810), Olave (556), Dean Klaser (299) and Bell (285). Olave has scored a team high 19 touchdowns, followed by Reed and Strayhorn with 10 each. Aeden Johnson has compiled 44 kicking points, including 29 PATs and five field goals. Santos, Rodriguez and Ronnie Sallee each have a team best six sacks while Gabriel Housson has a team high three interceptions.
Olympian 28, Bonita Vista 14
Manny Rodriguez scored three touchdowns, including runs of 49 and 70 yards, to boost his team to an early 14-0 lead. However, the visiting Barons tied the score on a pair of touchdown runs by Andy Garcia. The Eagles flew to the victory by scoring a touchdown in each of the final two quarters. Quarterback Gary Cannon hit Rodriguez on a 31-yard scoring pass and then Cannon took the ball in himself from one yard out for the insurance score.
Rodriguez rushed for 157 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 64 yards. Trevor Kemp had one sack for Bonita Vista.
Sweetwater 35, Montgomery 7
The Red Devils claimed their first league title in 25 years and did so in dominating fashion against the Aztecs. Angel Reyes (12 carries, 184 yards) scored the first three touchdowns for Sweetwater, including a 65-yard bolt from the line of scrimmage on the first play of the game. Reyes added TD runs of 40 and eight yards and Raven Middleton (eight carries. 131 yards) later scored on a 75-yard run as the Devils took a 28-0 halftime lead. Antonio Garcia (11 carries, 116 yards) tacked on a 46-yard scoring run for the visitors, who recorded their fifth consecutive win to close regular season play. James Zarate led the SuHi defense with 21 tackles.
Castle Park 31, Mater Dei Catholic 28
Fernando Vieyra had two rushing TDs for the host Trojans. The Castle Park defense had three sacks (one each by Steve Calderon, Robert Stretch and Angel Juarez) and one interception (by Felipe Liborio). Liborio also kicked two field goals.
Southwest denied San Ysidro a potential playoff berth after defeating the visiting Cougars, 48-31, last Friday. The win was the Raiders’ first of the season as Southwest finished regular season play 1-9; the loss dropped San Ysidro to 3-7, 0-3 in Metro-South Bay League play.
Carlos Campos rushed for 223 yards and scored four touchdowns in the loss for the Cougars.
Chula Vista also did not advance to the CIF playoffs; the Spartans finished 3-7 after a 48-7 non-league loss at Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro.
Hunter Gotto passed for 71 yards, hitting Thomas Otero for the Spartans’ lone score in the non-league game played in Rancho Santa Margarita. Tesoro built a 35-0 lead in the contest. Jayvon Reed paced Chula Vista with 49 rushing yards.
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