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Eastlake, state champion Helix to rumble in season opener Phillip Brents | Fri, Aug 31 2012 01:02 PM

The Eastlake Titans will open the 2012 high school football season like no other previous pigskin campaign when they host the defending State Bowl champion Helix Highlanders on Friday.

The Highlanders finished 13-1 in 2011, capping their most memorable season with a 35-24 victory against Del Oro to win the Division II state title last December at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Helix won its last 13 games to secure its date with history. The Scotties’ lone loss in 2011? It came in the season opener against Eastlake.

EHS coach John McFadden predicted Friday’s match-up will be, as he puts it, a “tough battle.”

“We’ll be going against one of the top teams in the state — Helix is a talented and well-coached team — so we’ve got to come ready to play,” he said.

McFadden said his team will need to build on the success of last Friday’s four-way scrimmage if it wants to be successful against the Highlanders, who enter the 2012 season understandably ranked No. 1 among San Diego Section teams.

The Titans, who enter the season ranked seventh in the same poll, looked dangerous on both sides of the ball in last Friday’s match-ups against Mt. Carmel, Mar Vista and Sweetwater, especially on offense fueled by last year’s Mesa League Offensive Player of the Year, Tavarus Green, as well as by Aaron Baltazar, Isiah Olave, Jalen Mondane, Joseph Carpizo, Jeramie Smith, Isaiah Strayhorn, Jon Gamalinda and Pete Nelson.

“I think all four teams showed well,” McFadden said. “Mt. Carmel is a very good team from North County and both Mar Vista and Sweetwater have improved. We showed a lot of good things. We just need to keep working hard.”

Taking advantage of opportunities will be a must against Helix. Green rushed for 1,113 yards and led the team with 14 touchdowns (13 rushing) last season while Olave ranked second on the Titans with nine touchdowns in 2011 to go with 479 rushing yards.

Baltazar rushed for 242 yards and ranked second on the team with 70 tackles in a season marred by injury. A healthy and motivated Baltazar could point Eastlake in the right direction.

Meanwhile, new quarterback Tyrone Stevens adds an exciting running dimension to the quarterback position that the team’s previous two signal-callers might have lacked.

Helping buttress Eastlake’s defense along with Baltazar are Keifer Graham (team-leading 98 tackles), Blake Wilson (team-leading eight sacks) and Olave (team-leading three picks).

Helix graduated 23 seniors off last year’s state championship team, but the Scotties’ talent pool remains deep, especially on defense.

The Highlanders will need to find a suitable replacement for departed quarterback Brandon Lewis, last year’s KUSI-TV Silver Pigskin trophy winner.

Lewis passed for 3,004 yards and 37 touchdowns.

The Scotties ended Oceanside’s run of seven consecutive section championships with a crushing 44-6 victory in last year’s Division II section final at Qualcomm Stadium.

“If we’re half as good as we were last year, we’ll have a shot,” Helix coach Troy Starr said matter-of-factly.

What the Highlanders do have coming back is quite a load to contain. Back in action this season are running back Mike Adkins, receiver/defensive back Kendal Keys and Tyree Hunter, linebacker Rocky Fuga and lineman William Milo.

Fuga and Milo were both first team all-league picks.

Adkins rushed for 919 yards and 12 touchdowns while Keys caught 36 passes for 631 yards and eight TDs (while also making five picks on defense).

Starr understandably remained cautious in reference to defense of the team’s state title.  “We don’t want to compare ourselves to last year’s team, which was one of the best teams ever in the history of San Diego County,” he said.

Both teams in Friday’s high profile match-up look to make their own name in 2012.

San Diego Section Rankings
(2011 section records)
Top 10: 1. Helix (12-1); 2. Oceanside (9-3-1); 3. Cathedral Catholic (12-1); 4. Mission Hills (8-4-1); 5. Poway (12-0-1); 6. Vista (7-6); 7. Eastlake (8-4); 8. La Costa Canyon (9-3); 9. Valley Center (12-1); 10. Steele Canyon (8-4).
 Others: 11. Lincoln; 12. St. Augustine; 13. Mira Mesa; 14. Westview; 15. Chula Vista; 16. Olympian; 17. Madison; 18, San Pasqual; 19. Grossmont; 20. (tie) Carlsbad, Santa Fe Christian; 22. Christian

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