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Olympian (6-1), Montgomery (5-2) brace for key clash Phillip Brents | Thu, Oct 28 2010 11:59 PM

A new era will dawn in the Metro Conference on Friday, Oct. 29, when the new Metro-Pacific League officially makes its debut with a pair of games: the Montgomery Aztecs will host the Olympian Eagles while the Castle Park Trojans will host the Sweetwater Red Devils.

Kick-off for both games is 7 p.m.

The Metro’s mid-tier league looks to get off to a rousing start. Olympian is 6-1 and ranked second among the San Diego Section’s Division IV schools while Montgomery is 5-2 and a legitimate contender for a Division III playoff berth. Castle Park is 5-2 and also bidding for a Division III playoff berth, while Sweetwater  is playing its best football of the season at the moment.

But the slate is essentially wiped clean when league play kicks off. The Metro-Pacific League’s four teams will each play three league games, with the league champion receiving automatic entry into the upcoming San Diego Section playoffs. The remaining teams will vie for at-large playoff berths.

Just which team will emerge with the inaugural Metro-Pacific championship may be up for debate at this point. The two front-runners appear to be Olympian and Montgomery and the schedule-maker has left no time in letting either team take a 1-0 advantage from the get-go.

The importance of Friday’s game is not lost on either coach.

“This is the first game in our league, (so) it’s the biggest game of the year for us right now,” Olympian head coach Gil Warren said. “We’re excited. We’ve got a few injuries right now but we’ll play hard and see what we can do. They (the Aztecs) will be practicing hard in preparing for the game.”

Montgomery head coach Julio Alcala echoed Warren’s comments.

“Looking at their record from last year and this year, it’s obvious Olympian is a very good team,” Alcala said. “But we’re looking at it more as our first league game that just happens to be against a tough opponent. Castle Park has a good team and Sweetwater is coming around. Sweetwater almost beat Mar Vista last week and we barely beat Mar Vista, so I think anything an happen.”

Olympian, which is ranked in a tie for 13th in the current San Diego Sportswriters/Sportscasters poll, is coming off a harrowing 31-28 victory at Hilltop last Friday. The game was a back-and-forth struggle between the Eagles’ vaunted running game and Hilltop’s precision passing game. It wasn’t until Olympian’s Jovan Gonzalez kicked a 22-yard field goal with 10 seconds to play that the outcome was finally decided.

“We’d go ahead and they would catch us and they would go ahead and we’d catch them — it was that kind of game,” Warren said.

The teams were tied 14-14 on the strength of a pair of touchdown runs by the Eagles’ Alex Cornist (seven yards) and Dre Gibson (four yards), a one-yard run by Hilltop’s Trey Ventura and a 75-yard scoring pass from Lancer quarterback Omar Hernandez to Mark McGuire.

Olympian took a 21-14 halftime lead on a two-yard run by Gibson. But the host Lancers scored the opening two touchdowns of the second half to go ahead 28-21. Both Hilltop TD strikes were delivered via airmail: Hernandez to McGuire.

Cornist scored his second touchdown of the game in the waning minutes of the third quarter to knot the teams in a 28-28 standoff. Cornist’s 12-yard run would be the last of eight touchdowns scored in the non-league contest.

Olympian’s game-winning drive was set up with some genuine derring-do as Eagle quarterback Cobrin Humphrey completed a key fourth-and-15 play to Kevun Ehm to keep the drive going.

“It was an exciting game, for sure,” Warren said. “Hilltop played a hell of a game. They could easily have won it.”

Olympian was forced to employ a more balanced offensive attack with 216 rushing yards and 160 passing yards. Cornist rushed 15 times for 140 yards while Gibson had 12 carries for 69 yards. Humphrey completed eight of 14 passing attempts with one interception.

For the season, the Eagles are averaging 260 rushing yards per game, led by Cornist (653 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Gibson (395 yards, four touchdowns). Humphrey has passed for 591 yards with four scores and four picks.

Roderick Castillo and Jacob Samuel led the Olympian defense with nine and eight tackles, respectively. Olympian recorded three sacks — one each by Devon Flores, Cedric Williams and Anthony Marable — while Andrell Snowden had one interception. Williams leads the Eagles with five picks while Arutro Cuevas has four sacks and Brandon Casillas three QB drops.

Montgomery is coming off a 42-14 non-league victory at San Ysidro behind three touchdowns by Diego Rodriguez, two by Manny Quiambao and another by Steven Shafer.
Rodriguez scored on runs of 12, eight and eight yards while Quiambao scored on a 65-yard punt return and an 18-yard run. Shafer scored his touchdown on a 14-yard interception return.

The Aztecs have been especially deadly this season on kick returns.

Rodriguez rushed 20 times for 145 yards to raise his season total to 1,356 yards and 17 total touchdowns. Quiambao rushed seven times for 80 yards as Montgomery totaled 268 rushing yards — just below the team’s season average of 304 rushing yards per game.

“Our game is built on the run,” Alcala said. “Our bread and butter is the running game.”

Castle Park is coming off a bye week while Sweetwater narrowly missed extending its unbeaten streak to two games in a 28-26 loss to visiting Mar Vista. The Red Devils missed a two-point conversion in the final moments of the game after coughing up a 20-0 first quarter lead.

The Red Devils recorded their first win of the season by defeating visiting Southwest, 41-0, on Oct. 15.

Castle Park lost, 34-6, at Mar Vista two weeks ago.

The Trojans are led by Jamar Shelby with 717 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while Paul Sierra has rushed for 642 yards and eight TDs and Daniel Noriega has rushed for 271 yards and three scores. CP is averaging 253 rushing yards per game.

Sweetwater kicked  its own rushing game into high gear to open up last week’s homecoming thriller against Mar Vista as Kristian Garcia and Daniel Castro both ripped off long-range TD runs.

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