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Eastlake Titans advance to sixth consecutive CIF football semifinal appearance Phillip Brents | Thu, Dec 01 2011 11:51 AM

It was harrowing at times during last Friday’s San Diego Section Division I quarterfinal playoff game for the host Eastlake Titans but they managed to hold off an athletic and unpredictable San Diego Cavers squad, 35-24, to advance to Thursday’s semifinal contest against the visiting Vista Panthers.

Thursday’s semifinal date, necessitated because of the short turnaround for the section finals on Monday, returned the second-seeded Titans (8-3) to familiar territory, marking the team’s sixth consecutive trip to a divisional Final Four match-up.

Eastlake has made consecutive semifinal appearances against Oceanside (twice in Division II), Rancho Buena Vista (once in Division I) and Helix (once in Division II) before finally capturing an elusive victory over Escondido to advance to the 2009 Division I championship game.

The Titans returned to the Division I semifinals last season as the reigning Division I champions but fell to visiting Mira Mesa.

Thursday’s semifinal contest against the third-seeded Panthers is a rematch of the 2009 CIF championship game won by Eastlake 21-14.

Thursday’s victor advances to meet either top-seeded Poway or fourth-seeded San Pasqual Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Division I championship game at Qualcomm Stadium.

Vista enters Thursday’s semifinal match-up 6-5 after eliminating sixth-seeded Carlsbad, 31-28, in double overtime last Friday.

Poway improved to 10-0-1 following its 42-14 quarterfinal win over visiting Chula Vista (6-6) while San Pasqual hiked its record to 8-2-1 by defeating 12th-seeded Grossmont 35-7.

“Vista doesn’t have the star players like San Diego but they’re a better team,” EHS coach John McFadden said.  “We’ve got to play good team ball to win.”

The Titans racked up two quick touchdowns against the Cavers on runs of one and 25 yards by Tavarus Green to build a 14-0 lead. But San Diego (7-4) responded to the challenge as wide receiver Eric Judge scored an 87-yard touchdown on a halfback option pass from running back Deshaun Scott midway through the second quarter.

Both Scott (22 carries, 117 yards) and Judge (122 rushing and receiving yards) would prove to be elusive targets to tackle throughout the game.

Eastlake appeared to build a safe lead when Isiah Olave scored on a 22-yard run to stretch the score to 21-7. But the Cavers promptly answered back when Canek Bustillos (seven carries, 49 yards) scored on a one-yard run after the visitors had pulled off a series of big plays.

The Cavers would rely on trickery throughout the game in an effort to unseat the higher-seeded Titans.

A 32-yard field goal by Bruno Mattioli following a fumble recovery at the EHS 21-yard line (and an ensuing huge defensive stand by the hosts) left Eastlake clinging to a 21-17 halftime lead.

But a 10-yard TD run by Green (13 carries, 148 yards) and a five-yard run by Olave (10 carries, 155 yards) gave the Titans some much-needed operating room at 35-17.

But when Judge returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown, first weaving from one side of the field to the other, the Titan lead had been cut to 11 points with 3:10 left in the game.

But the hosts managed to get a first down and successfully run out the clock and the Cavers’ season.
“We were a little more steady and were able to put them away,” McFadden said. 

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