It appears there will be only one Metro Conference boys lacrosse champion this season after the Otay Ranch Mustangs edged the visiting Eastlake Titans, 7-6, in a hotly contested match-up Monday. The game was essentially for this year's league championship.
"We are the only undefeated Metro team," Mustang coach Eric Ruden said afterward. "The next team behind us has two losses and that team is Eastlake. We have three league games left."
The math appears simple. But it took a bit of addition (seven straight goals on the part of Otay Ranch to erase an early 3-0 Titan lead) and subtraction (20 saves by Mustang goalie Chris Songer) to complete the winning equation.
Eastlake, needing a win to forge a possible co-championship and extend their league championship streak to two consecutive seasons, appeared in the driver's seat after Jacob Dempsey, David Santana and Jeff Duncan each scored goals to put the hosts into a deep hole.
But Otay Ranch rallied in heroic fashion, closing the deficit against the Titans to 3-2 at halftime and continuing their run in the second half with five more goals.
Eastlake pressured in the latter stages of the contest but could not quite complete an otherwise valiant comeback.
"It was a physical, hard-fought game by both teams," Ruden said. "Eastlake had a brilliant run at the end but our defense held on. Chris Songer, our goalie, played a phenomenal game. He was the real hero. We had a great game on offense the second half but he was the difference as it turned out."
Colton Wood led the Mustangs with four goals. His first two goals of the game gave Otay Ranch the lead and his final two goals provided the necessary insurance margin for victory.
Robbie Sills, John Nicholls and Franz Hahn each scored single goals to aid the Mustang comeback. Nicholls also contributed an assist, as did Josh Bivens and Kritter Bourbois.
Wood set what are believed to be conference records last season with 53 goals and 77 assists. His four goals in Monday's game put him on pace to break them before this season is over, according to Ruden.
Both Wood and Songer are headed for Randolph College in Virginia and a try at Division III men's lacrosse as college freshmen.
Two goals by Zach Bannon, last year's Metro Player of the Year, and a singleton by teammate Christian Ballow fueled the Titans' own comeback bid in the late going.
Otay Ranch improves to 9-0 in league play with its next scheduled outing this coming Monday against visiting Chula Vista (2-6, 4-10). Eastlake dropped to 7-2 in league play, 10-4 overall, in advance of Thursday's game against visiting Montgomery (4-4, 4-9).
The Mustangs are 10-5 overall and in contention to secure the conference's automatic berth in the upcoming San Diego Section playoffs. The Metro runner-up will face the daunting task of politicking for an at-large spot in the single division field.
Monday's win was the ninth consecutive for Otay Ranch.
"If we had played like we are playing now in the second half of the season, our record would be better than it is," Ruden said. "We've played some tough teams like La Jolla, Granite Hills and Wheatfield, a top team from Colorado. We played close games against Carlsbad and Francis Parker. Three of our losses have been by two goals. The second half of the season, we've played at a higher level. We've really picked up our game."
Metro Conference standings
(through May 3)
Otay Ranch 9-0 (10-5)
Eastlake 7-2 (10-4)
Bonita Vista 4-4 ( 8-6)
Hilltop 4-5 (7-8)
Montgomery 4-4 (4-9)
Chula Vista 2-6 (4-10)
Mar Vista 0-9 (1-11)