Fri, Jul 16 2010 03:04 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
It may be July but there's never really any rest for high school athletes or coaches as they look for a competitive edge. The off-season is often spent playing for club teams, attending skill development camps and maybe getting in a couple weeks of summer vacation.
For the nine South County football teams that participated in last weekend's South County passing tournament at Southwestern College, it was a time to get back together with teammates and coaches following spring drills and start gearing up for the grind of smash-mouth competition in the fall.
The end prize: a league, section or possibly even state championship.
"Tournaments like these offer kids a chance to compete during the summer and get their timing down for the upcoming season," said Olympian head coach Gil Warren, whose team advanced as far as the winners bracket semifinals. "It's great for both the players and coaches, who get a chance to see everyone in a competitive situation."
Last weekend's South County tournament produced a good showing by East County teams, with Helix and Valhalla capturing championship titles in their respective divisions and both Steele Canyon and Granite Hills advancing to the semifinal round. Olympian was the highest placing South County team, losing to Helix in the semifinals. Montgomery advanced as far as the consolation semifinals before losing to eventual consolation champion Valhalla.
Bonita Vista, Hilltop and Eastlake all joined Olympian in the winners bracket for Saturday's single-elimination championship round, but only the Eagles managed to win their first bracket game to continue in the playoffs.
Bonita Vista lost to San Diego, Hilltop lost to eventual second-place finisher St. Augustine and, in a stunner, West Hills edged top-seeded Eastlake 21-20.
Helix successfully defended its National (winners bracket) title by topping St. Augustine 50-36. The Highlanders completed the 31-team South County tournament 7-0 and are working on a 13-game unbeaten streak after previously capturing the championship of a passing tournament held at the University of San Diego.
Scotties head coach Troy Starr appeared very pleased with the outcome of last weekend's seven-on-seven match-ups.
"We have the highest expectations for this year," Starr said succinctly.
Helix advanced to last year's San Diego Section Division II championship game, placing runner-up to Oceanside via a 26-10 loss in what was earmarked as a "rebuilding" season. Last season, Starr had pointed to the upcoming 2010 campaign as the season he expected his team to break out on top.
Oceanside went on to claim last year's State Bowl championship, the Pirates' second in three years.
The Highlanders appear to have something special in the making this season.
The same might be said about Olympian, which won its first 11 games last season before tasting defeat for the first time in the Division IV quarterfinals.
The Eagles finished 6-1 in last weekend's tournament, recording wins against Valhalla, Christian and San Diego before running into the Scotties to close out the second day of competition.
Warren was complimentary of his team's tourney showing.
"They did a lot of things right," the veteran coach said. "They're coming together as a team."
The Eagles kick off the 2010 season with a Sept. 10 game at Granite Hills, which advanced as far as the consolation semifinals in last weekend's tournament. Non-league games against Torrey Pines, Madison, Bonita Vista and Mater Dei follow prior to Olympian's debut in the Metro Conference's newest pigskin playing circuit: the Pacific League.
The Eagles will be joined by Castle Park, Montgomery and Sweetwater in the new four-team league culled from the best teams of last year's South Bay League (which Olympian captured with a 6-0 record). The South Bay League continues in name this year with Mar Vista, San Ysidro and Southwest joined by former Mesa League member Hilltop.
The Mesa League returns as a five-team circuit, with Bonita Vista, Chula Vista, Eastlake, Mater Dei Catholic and Otay Ranch as league members.
Mesa League teams will now play four league games instead of five while teams in the new-look Pacific League and South Bay League will play only three league games.
"As you can see, we've upgraded our schedule," Warren said. "I don't know how this will affect our record in our first five games but we're certainly going to try our best."
Some of the standouts pegged to lead the 2010 Eagles include seniors Corbin Humphrey, Alex Cornist, Steven Exum and Jacob Samuel and juniors Nikolas Castro and Santana Leomiti.
Corbin handled the quarterback duties last weekend, throwing lasers to receivers.
Cornist was an All-South Bay League first team offensive selection last year while Leomiti was a first team all-league defensive pick and Humphrey was a second team all-league defensive selection.
Despite graduating the school's first freshman-to-senior class in June, Warren feels the Olympian program now has continuity, with its second freshman-to-senior group ready and able to take the field this fall.
"These kids have played together," Warren said. "They won the league as freshmen and again at the JV level. We're just moving them all up. They've learned how to win."
Bonita Vista defeated Chula Vista to advance to the winners bracket playoffs while Hilltop defeated Palo Verde to do the same.
Of the five Metro teams relegated to the consolation playoffs, only Montgomery won to keep advancing. The Aztecs defeated Beaumont and Murrieta Mesa, a pair of out-of-region teams, to meet the Norsemen in the consolation semifinals.
Last year, Montgomery finished runner-up in the consolation bracket with a championship-round loss to St. Augustine. Thus, the Aztecs look to show well this season as one of the prime challengers to Olympian for the new Pacific League title.
As for Eastlake's swift exit on Saturday, Titans head coach John McFadden offered no excuses for his defending Division I championship team.
"We were up after the first half but didn't play as well in the second half," McFadden said. "They (the Wolf Pack) played well."
Eastlake went 3-0 in last Friday's opening round of tournament play with victories against Valhalla, Santa Fe Christian and Murrieta Mesa.
Valhalla finished as last year's Grossmont South League champions while SFC finished as a Division IV semifinalist.
Jordan Hines and Josh Palet shared quarterbacking duties for the Titans, who lose key players to graduation in ex-QB D'Angelo Barksdale and running back/linebacker Tony Jefferson.
St. Augustine qualified for the winners bracket final after edging Steele Canyon in the semifinals.
Valhalla, meanwhile, captured the American (consolation bracket) title by defeating Serra, 33-26, in the finale.
Serra advanced to the American Bracket title game after eliminating Granite Hills in the semifinals.
Steele Canyon finished 5-2 over the weekend, scoring wins against Sweetwater, El Capitan and West Hills before suffering the semifinal loss to the Saints.
Granite Hills might have been the surprise team at this year's South County tournament with its semifinal finish. The Eagles opened the last day of competition with a loss to Morse but scored back-to-back victories against Monte Vista and Palo Verde before going on to drop the semifinal contest to the Conquistadors.
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