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Fast start by Titans, furious finish by Pirates produce playoff thriller Phillip Brents | Wed, Nov 27 2013 02:17 PM

The San Diego Section’s inaugural Open Division championship game is scheduled Monday, Dec. 2, at Qualcomm Stadium. Alas, the Eastlake Titans will not be participating.

Instead, the top-seeded Mission Hills Grizzlies will take on the third-seeded Oceanside Pirates at 5 p.m. in what shapes up as a heavyweight battle between the section’s two top-ranked teams.

Oceanside, despite two losses on the season, including a 30-6 setback to Mission Hills two months ago, enters the game as the section’s No. 1-ranked team with a 10-2 overall record. The Grizzlies (11-1) are ranked No. 2.

The Pirates’ climb to the top likely had something to do with their dramatic 33-30 semifinal-round victory last Friday at Eastlake. The host Titans, who finished regular season play ranked third among section teams and were seeded second among the eight teams in this year’s Open Division class, built a seemingly comfortable 30-7 halftime lead in a bid to secure a berth in the section’s first-ever premier division championship game.

But the 23-point lead wasn’t enough as Oceanside rallied with 26 second-half points to unceremoniously bump Eastlake out of the playoffs.

The Pirates scored the game-winning points on a 19-yard field goal by Jackson Koonce with 8.4 seconds left on the clock to snap a 30-all deadlock.

Perhaps the torrential downpour that went with the pre-game thunder and lightning show was an omen.

“It was a great game, one of the best ever,” EHS coach John McFadden said upon reflection. “When we had all our guys in the game we were the better team.”

While players wore downcast looks and the home fans sat stunned in silence following the final play, there is much to look forward to for the Titans, who entered the semifinal tilt against the North County visitors with a 10-game winning streak and unblemished mark against section opponents.

Eastlake finishes with a very respectable 10-2 overall record, though in bitter defeat.

Many of Eastlake’s skilled players are underclassmen and expect to renew their quest for the section’s top playoff prize in coming seasons. In the meantime, last Friday’s playoff contest can only be remembered as a tale of two halves – the first half won by the Titans and the second half won by the Pirates.

It could easily be Eastlake playing in this year’s Open Division championship game.

McFadden pointed to second-half injuries to standout players Isaiah Strayhorn and Isiah Olave, along with Dean Klaser, as contributing to his team's Jekyll and Hyde performance in the game. The EHS coach said Olave's absence hampered the team particularly on defense.

“For sure, if we don't lose those guys, we win the game,” McFadden said. “But we had those injuries and we had some trouble (because of those injuries).”

Fast start
The Titans owned a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game on a pair of touchdown runs by Strayhorn. The speedy junior ripped off an 80-yard scoring run to start the game, then added a 19-yard touchdown run on his next carry from scrimmage after an interception set up the hosts in great field position.

The Pirates got on the scoreboard courtesy of a one-yard scoring run by Nikko Mageo. A botched punt set that up as the ball sailed over the head of the Eastlake kicker and rolled out of bounds at the one-yard line.

Still leading 14-7, the Titans scored 16 unanswered points to build what appeared to be a safe cushion on the scoreboard.

Olave scored on a seven-yard run to up the hosts’ lead to 21-7 at the end of the opening quarter. A two-point safety gave the hosts a 23-7 lead and sophomore Dean Klaser’s seven-yard scoring run closed out the first half with Eastlake up 30-7.

The safety proved to be one of the game’s biggest plays — or non-plays, as it turned out.

On a Pirate punt, an errant snap sent the ball rolling into the Oceanside end zone where Eastlake defender Issak Santos just missed gaining control of for a potential Titan touchdown.

Furious finish
Both Strayhorn and Olave each racked up more than 100 rushing yards in the first half — the hosts generated 265 rushing yards as a team — but both players sustained injuries in the third quarter. That was enough to take the shine off the Titans’ game and greatly assist Oceanside’s furious second-half comeback.

McFadden said's Olave's injury was the turning point in the contest.

"He turned an ankle midway through the second half," the EHS coach said. "We were up by 20 points (sic) at that point and we didn't cover that well (on defense) after that. Isiah was very important both offensively and defensively for us. Both Strayhorn and Klaser were important for us."

The Pirates scored just one touchdown in the third quarter as Thai Cottrell bowled into the end zone on a three-yard gain. That score, set up by an Eastlake turnover, trimmed the score to 30-14.

The visitors tacked on 14 more unanswered points in the pivotal fourth quarter as the hosts remained scoreless.

Matthew Romero connected with Cottrell on a four-yard TD pass and the teammates combined on a successful two-point conversion to further whittle the Titan lead to 30-22 with 9:30 to play.

That eight-point deficit was quickly made up on a 72-yard touchdown pass to Mikah Holder and another successful two-point conversion as Romero passed to Johnny Arzola.

That left the teams in a 30-30 deadlock with possible overtime looming.

But the Pirates’ momentum proved unstoppable as they moved the ball one final time deep into Eastlake territory — from the 50-yard line with 1:28 left after the hosts coughed the ball up on downs to the six-yard line  — to set up Koonce’s game-winning chip shot.

As the kick split the uprights, it seemed as if Oceanside players came from everywhere on the field to join Koonce in his victory dance as he raced toward midfield.

Romero finished the game with 308 passing yards to ignite the Oceanside rally — the biggest this year, according to coach John Carroll, whose team will be out to claim its ninth section title in 10 years.

As for the Titans? They won’t have the chance to square off against Mission Hills in a rematch of last year’s equally exciting Division I championship game won by Eastlake.

They'll be watching from the stands — or on TV at home.



San Diego Section
2013 Football Playoffs

Open Division
Friday, Nov. 15

(1) Mission Hills 56, (8) Steele Canyon 35
(4) Helix 41, (5) La Costa Canyon 7
(3) Oceanside 35, (6) Torrey Pines 0
(2) Eastlake 41, (7) Poway 7

Friday, Nov. 22

(4) Helix (9-2) at (1) Mission Hills (10-1), 7 p.m.
(3) Oceanside (9-2) at (2) Eastlake (10-1), 7 p.m.

Mission Hills 24, Helix 21
Oceanside 33, Eastlake 30

Monday, Dec. 2

(1) Mission Hills vs. (3) Oceanside at Qualcomm Stadium, 5 p.m.

Division I
First round

Friday, Nov. 15
(5) Grossmont 35, (12) Otay Ranch 6
(8) El Camino 14, (9) Point Loma 13
(6) Olympian 35, (11) Mira Mesa 18
(7) Mt. Carmel 26, (10) Westview 14

Thursday, Nov. 21

(8) El Camino (5-6) at (1) San Pasqual (9-1), 7 p.m.
(5) Grossmont (9-2) at (4) Carlsbad (8-2), 7 p.m.
(6) Olympian (8-3) at (1) Cathedral Catholic (8-2), 7 p.m.
(7) Mt. Carmel (7-4) at (2) Ramona (9-1), 7 p.m.

(1) San Pasqual 42, (8) El Camino 9
(4) Carlsbad 33, (5) Grossmont 17
(3) Cathedral Catholic 43, (6) Olympian 7
(2) Ramona 30, (7) Mt. Carmel 21

Wednesday, Nov. 27

(4) Carlsbad (9-2) at (1) San Pasqual (10-1), 7 p.m.
(3) Cathedral Catholic winner at (2) Ramona (10-1), 7 p.m.

San Pasqual 28, Carlsbad 14
Cathedral Catholic 20, Ramona 0

Monday, Dec. 2

(1) San Pasqual (11-1) vs. (3) Cathedral Catholic (10-2) at Qualcomm Stadium, 2 p.m.

Division II
First round
Friday, Nov. 15

(8) Mission Bay 41, (9) Brawley 16
(5) Rancho Buena Vista 54, (12) Serra 21
(6) El Capitan 45, (11) Del Norte 21
(7) West Hills 31, (10) Scripps Ranch 17

Thursday, Nov. 21

(8) Mission Bay (10-1) at (1) Madison (9-1), 7 p.m.
(5) Rancho Buena Vista (8-3) at (4) Mt. Miguel (8-2), 7 p.m.
(6) El Capitan (10-1) at (3) Imperial (10-0), 7 p.m.
(7) West Hills (8-3) vs. (2) St. Augustine (8-2) at San Diego Mesa College

Division I
(8) Mission Bay 21, (1) Madison 18
(5) Rancho Buena Vista 50, Mt. Miguel 10
(3) Imperial 49, (6) El Capitan 42
(2) St Augustine 41, (7) West Hills 7

Wednesday, Nov. 27

(8) Mission Bay at (5) Rancho Buena Vista, 7 p.m.
(3) Imperial (12-0) vs. (2) St. Augustine (9-2) at Mesa College, 7 p.m.


(8) Mission Bay 56, (5) Rancho Buena Vista 49
(2) St. Augustine 56, (3) Imperial 12

Monday, Dec. 2

(8) MIssion Bay (12-1) vs. (2) St. Augustine (10-2) at Qualcomm Stadium, 11 a.m.

Division III
Frist round
Friday, Nov. 15

(8) Granite Hills 28 (9) Bonita Vista 14
(5) San Marcos 42, (12) Fallbrook 14
(6) Hoover 61, (11) Calexico 0
(7) Morse 56, (10) Bishop’s 17

Friday, Nov. 22

(8) Granite Hills (6-5) at (1) Francis Parker (10-0), 7 p.m.
(5) San Marcos (7-4) at (4) Santa Fe Christian (6-4), TBA
(6) Hoover (8-3) at (3) Hilltop (9-1), 7 p.m.
(7) Morse (5-6) vs. Christian (9-1) at Granite Hills High School

Granite Hills 28, Francis Parker 16
San Marcos 3, Santa Fe Christian 0
Hilltop 13, Hoover 6 (overtime)
Christian 42, Morse 14

Friday, Nov. 29

(8) Granite Hills at (5) San Marcos, 7 p.m.
(3) Hilltop winner vs. (2) Christian at Granite Hills High School, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 7

Teams TBA at San Diego Mesa College, 7 p.m.

Division IV

First round
Friday, Nov. 15

(8) University City 20, (9) Castle Park 0
(5) Mater Dei Catholic 55, (12) El Cajon Valley 7
(11) Southwest El Centro 10, (6) Montgomery 7
(10) Clairemont 28, (7) La Jolla County Day 14

Friday, Nov. 22

(8) University City (4-6) at (1) Monte Vista (5-5), 7 p.m.
(5) Mater Dei Catholic (4-7) at (4) La Jolla (4-6), 7 p.m.
(11) Southwest El Centro (4-7) at (3) Central Union (5-5), 7 p.m.
(10) Clairemont (4-6) at (2) Sweetwater (6-4), 7 p.m.

Monte Vista 41, University City 2
La Jolla 63, Mater Dei Catholic 21
Central Union 41, Southwest El Centro 0
Sweetwater 35, Clairemont 0

Friday, Nov. 29

(1) Monte Vista at (4) La Jolla 7 p.m.
(3) Central Union winner at (2) Sweetwater, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 7

Monte Vista-La Jolla winner vs. Sweetwater-Central Union winner at San Diego Mesa College, 3:30 p.m.

Division V
Friday, Nov. 15

(1) Crawford 49, (8) Chula Vista Calvary Christian Academy 12
(4) Palo Verde Valley 19 (5) Army-Navy Academy 14
(3) Mountain Empire 16, (6) Escondido Charter 7
(2) Holtville 42, (7) Vincent Memorial 6

Friday, Nov. 22

(4) Palo Verde Valley (5-6) at (1) Crawford (11-0), 7 p.m.
(3) Mountain Empire (7-4) at (2) Holtville (9-2), 7 p.m.

Crawford 29, Palo Verde Valley 3
Holtville 27, Mountain Empire 22

Saturday, Nov. 30

(1) Crawford (12-0) vs. (2) Holtville (10-2) at San Diego Mesa College, 7 p.m.

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