The Eastlake Titans kick off Mesa League play Friday against the rugged Otay Ranch Mustangs in what has to be one of the marquee games this season in the South County. The defending Division I champion Titans will put a cumulative 19-game unbeaten streak (17-0-2) on the line while the Mustangs will attempt to jumble both the league and Division I standings with an upset victory.
Both teams are coming off impressive victories. Second-ranked Eastlake (6-0) recorded a 49-27 non-league win at Montgomery while Otay Ranch (3-3) shut out visiting Sweetwater, 38-0, under portable lights to highlight its first home game this season.
“We’re playing really well and that’s an important game,” EHS head coach John McFadden said.
“We feel we can compete,” first-year ORHS head coach Anthony Lacsina said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The Titans were thrown a curve ball early in last Friday’s game in Otay Mesa when starting quarterback Jordan Hines was forced to leave the game with a twisted ankle. Hines completed his only pass for seven yards before handing the signal-calling reigns over to teammate Josh Palet.
Palet, who threw the game-winning touchdown pass in Eastlake’s dramatic 20-17 come-from-behind victory against Steele Canyon on homecoming, went on to guide the visitors to seven touchdowns by completing six of eight aerial attempts for 119 yards, including a scoring pass to Zach Bannon. The Titans racked up six rushing touchdowns in the game, including three by Aaron Baltazar (10 carries, 163 yards), two by Matt Terhaar (nine carries, 45 yards) and one by Tavarus Green (four carries, 30 yards).
Marcelo Urrutia was perfect on five PAT conversions while David Naranjo was two-for-two on extra-point kicks.
“Josh came in during our first series and did a great job leading the team,” McFadden said.
That was an understatement as the defending Mesa League champions racked up a staggering 509 offensive yards, including 383 yards on 44 rushing plays.
The Titans lead 42-7 at halftime. Both Eastlake’s offense and defense shined in the game and, with the victory in hand, gave an opportunity for non-starters to see plenty of game action in the second half.
Key components to the Titans’ well-oiled machine include Chris Fletcher (44 rushing yards and 34 receiving yards), Travis Gardner (69 receiving yards) and Bannon (15 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards).
Clark Moses and Eddie Campain led Eastlake defensively with seven tackles, with teammate Josue Barradas making tackles. Blake Wilson had two sacks while Bannon had one interception.
Palet’s longest completion in the game went for 45 yards while Green had two kick-off returns for 85 yards, including a 58-yard return.
Baltazar has rushed for 390 yards in parts of five games for a team-leading 11.1 yards per carry average. Injured standout Jude Isbell is the team’s yardage leader with 701 yards. Fletcher has rushed for 314 yards and caught eight passes for 240 yards while Bannon has rushed for 241 yards and caught six passes for 121 yards. Gardner has 13 catches for 175 yards.
Hines leads the team with 395 passing yards and four touchdowns while Palet has passed for 241 yards with two TDs.
Isbell tops the Titans with seven touchdowns, followed by Baltazar with five TDs and Fletcher and Bannon, each with four scores.
Urrutia has amassed 30 kicking points on 24 extra-point conversions and two field goals.
Wilson has nine of Eastlake’s 15 sacks while Fletcher leads the team with three interceptions. Fernando Cabico has two picks on defense while Zeke Ganzon has two fumble recoveries.
Otay Ranch has a new offensive weapon to unleash on the gridiron in the guise of track speedster Donald Molton, who rushed four times for 74 yards and scored on a 45-yard breakaway run last Friday against the Red Devils.
Their holdover weapons aren’t particularly bad, either. David Mondy rushed eight times for 98 yards and also caught two passes for 44 yards in routing Sweetwater. Mondy scored once on a rushing play and once on a passing play to lead the Mustangs on the scoreboard.
Mondy fought off a Sweetwater defender at the goal line to catch a 40-yard pass for a touchdown while also rushing for 34 yards on three carries. Marques Roberts, another track standout, scored one touchdown.
Ernie Hicks rushed six times for 48 yards and also reached the end zone once. Billie Bechtel kicked five PAT conversions and also booted a 31-yard field goal.
As a team, Otay Ranch controlled the game’s tempo with 29 rushes for 291 yards, averaging 10 yards per rushing play against the winless Devils (0-5).
Defensively, the Mustangs were led by their three reliable standouts: Lauvai Tufele with seven tackles and Kyle Doton and Jon Bajet, each with six stops. All of Doton’s tackles came on first hits.
Albert Lopez also blocked a punt and John Dumaran made two interceptions to add to the victor’s defensive effort.
“It was good to finally get a home game and it was good to get a win in front of our home fans,” Lacsina said. “I was happy with our performance both on offense and defense. Friday’s game against Eastlake will definitely be a big game.”
Two of the Mustangs’ losses have come against out-of-area teams (28-16 to Wildomar Elsinore and 28-14 to Temescal Canyon). Otay Ranch also dropped an agonizing 27-26 non-league decision at Ramona after coughing up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter.
In the Oct. 1 loss at Temescal Canyon, Marcus Hernandez threw a pair of scoring passes — one each to Monday (31 yards) and J’Vion Johnson (five yards).
Hernandez passed for 159 yards and Hicks rushed for 93 yards in the loss to Ramona. Sean Licudine also scored a defensive touchdown for the visitors on a 75-yard fumble return. However, two offensive fumbles cost the visitors dearly in the game.
Hicks leads the Mustangs with 375 rushing yards while Mondy has rushed for 310 yards.
San Diego Section
1. Vista Panthers 5-0
2. Eastlake Titans 6-0
3. Helix Highlanders 5-0
4. Oceanside Pirates 3-2
5. Torrey Pines Falcons 5-0
6. Valley Center Jaguars 6-0
7. Steele Canyon Cougars 7-0
8. La Costa Canyon Mavericks 3-2
9. Ramona Bulldogs 4-1
10. Rancho Bernardo Broncos 5-1
Honorable mention: Grossmont Foothillers (6-0), Mission Hills Grizzlies (3-2), St. Augustine Saints (4-1), Mt. Miguel Matadors (5-1), Olympian Eagles (4-1), Carlsbad Lancers (3-2), Madison Warhawks (4-1)