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Eastlake Titans once again disappointed in CIF semifinals Phillip Brents | Fri, Dec 09 2011 03:41 PM

Few would dispute that the Eastlake Titans football team, with six consecutive CIF semifinal appearances, has become one of the San Diego Section’s elite programs. But the Titans’ record in those semifinal appearances is less than stellar.

Eastlake dropped to 1-5 in Final Four match-ups following a 23-21 loss to the third-seeded Vista Panthers Dec. 1 at Stan Canaris Stadium.

The second-seeded Titans ended their season 8-4.

Meanwhile, the afterglow of victory was short for the 2010 Division I champion Panthers who lost, 56-0, to top-seeded Poway (12-0-1) in Monday’s division title game at Qualcomm Stadium.

An anticipated “Clash of the Titans” in the CIF championship game was not to be this year.

This season’s disappointing semifinal loss comes on the heels of last year’s hugely disappointing 20-0 semifinal loss to Mira Mesa.

Eastlake, despite being the higher-seeded team, never held a lead in the loss to Vista, the runner-up to the 2009 CIF champion Titans.

And the hosts can only blame themselves. Eastlake drove the ball to the Vista five-yard line on its opening drive before fumbling the ball. The turnover proved costly by the end of the game. 

Vista came back to score the first touchdown of the contest on a seven-yard run by quarterback Justin Shute, who ran the option to near-perfection in the game.

The Titans countered with a 12-yard touchdown run by Tavarus Green to tie the score at 7 early in the second quarter.

The game quickly settled into a defensive battle, and the Panthers edged ahead, 10-7, at halftime on a 23-yard field goal by Miguel Carmona.

Carmona was the hero of Vista’s 31-28 double overtime victory over Carlsbad in the quarterfinals, and he would play a significant role in his team’s semifinal win as well.

Carmona opened the second half with a 20-yard field goal to put the visitors ahead 13-7. The Panthers then managed to open up some distance between the teams when Devin Hickey scored on an eight-yard run, also in the third quarter.

Hickey’s TD that made the score 20-7 was set up by a Vista fumble recovery.

The Titans answered on a dramatic 70-yard scoring pass from Josh Palet to Joseph Carpizo later in the quarter, pulling to within 20-14 on the scoreboard.

But Carmona inched the Panthers further ahead, 23-14, when he nailed a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Green scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run to narrow the score to two points to buoy the hosts.

Eastlake got the ball back for one last drive but Palet was hit hard and fumbled the ball, ending the Titans’ season.

It was the third lost fumble of the game for the hosts. The visitors also recorded three sacks.

Eastlake effectively shut down Vista’s passing game, holding Shute to just six completions in 14 attempts for 65 yards. But the Titans could not contain the Panthers’ rushing attack that racked up 234 yards.

Shute rushed 14 times for 73 yards while Hickey gained 81 yards on 18 carries.

The game — a rematch of the 2009 Division I championship game — was etched in contrasts.

Eastlake won its opening four games of the season before running into injury problems en route to a 4-4 finish in its final eight games.

Vista, meanwhile, lost its opening four games while retooling its offense due to a massive wave of graduation. The Panthers finished 7-2 in their final nine games.

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