Eastlake kicks off season in defense of Metro-Mesa League title


The defending Metro-Mesa League champion Eastlake Titans will ride the arm of sophomore quarterback Johnny Limon for renewed success in 2021-22. Photo by Jon Bigornia

If Eastlake High School’s football players are as excited as much about the upcoming fall pigskin campaign as their coach, then the sky appears to be the limit for the Titans.

“I’m just excited with the guys we have,” second-year EHS coach Jose Mendoza said. “Things are back to normal. We did summer seven-on-sevens. We did tournaments. The kids were hungry for that. The kids are way ahead compared to the crunch we had in the shortened spring season.”

Mendoza, who is in his third coaching stint with the Titans, said the extra time for detail has allowed the team to absorb more of the play book instituted during the spring.

“The defense was good, offensively we looked good,” Mendoza said of the Titans’ unblemished 4-0 spring record in Metro-Mesa League play. “But they’re still learning our offense and defense. The kids are asking the right questions in practice. You can see the growth.”

Top returners include senior receiver Jordan Blondin, sophomore receiver Ayden Billups, senior running back/defensive lineman Trey White, senior running back/safety Christian Aguilar, sophomore quarterback Johnny Limon and senior receiver Estabond Moss.

Limon completed 19 of 28 passes (.679) for 137 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as a freshman while sharing primary signal-calling duties with senior Cole McFarlane.

Blondin caught eight passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns to top the Titans in scoring.

Moss is making the transition from running back to receiver this season. He rushed for 59 yards on 11 carries and scored twice on the ground last season. He also reeled in three catches for 16 yards.

Senior running back/defensive back Nythum Lao paced the Titans on the ground with 161 rushing yards in the spring.

Aguilar ranked second on the team with 21 tackles in three games while White had 18 stops. White led the team with five sacks while Aguilar had one interception and two caused fumbles.

Impact newcomers include seniors Dominic Wright (defensive back/running back) and Justin Cardoza (receiver), senior defensive backs Jayden Cortell and Jaydin Jackson, senior Jayden Kendricks on defense, and senior Dasean Burdette.

Cortell, son of former Sweetwater legend Ronnie Cortell, made an impression during the spring with one catch for 25 yards. He also had one interception on defense.

Burdette also had one pick last season.

Players to watch also include senior running back/rover Christian Aguilar, senior offensive/defensive lineman Isaiah Hinojosa and senior receiver/defensive back Jordan Swan.

“We’re senior-heavy, with a lot of kids back,” Mendoza admitted. “We raised the standard from the shortened season to achieve more.

“We made it a challenge and they accepted it. They’ve taken an accounting of the program, trying to build it to a higher level.”

Eastlake enters Friday’s home season opener against the visiting Steele Canyon Cougars ranked 10th in the section, eighth among Division I teams. Steele Canyon is ranked 16th in the section, 10th among Division I teams.

Following Friday’s home game against the Cougars (2-3 in the spring), the Titans will play four consecutive games on the road: Aug. 27 at Poway, Sept. 3 at La Habra, Sept. 10 at Granite Hills and Sept. 24 at E; Camino.

Eastlake kicks off league play Oct. 1 against visiting Olympian.




Bonita Vista Barons
Eastlake Titans
Hilltop Lancers
Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders
Olympian Eagles
Otay Ranch Mustangs

Castle Park Trojans
Chula Vista Spartans
Mar Vista Mariners
Montgomery Aztecs
San Ysidro Cougars
Sweetwater Red Devils



(Through Aug. 15/MaxPreps)

Division I: 1. Cathedral Catholic, 2. Carlsbad, 3. Mission Hills, 4. Lincoln, 5. El Camino, 6. Torrey Pines, 7. St. Augustine, 8. Eastlake, 9. Granite Hills, 10. Steele Canyon, 11. Helix, 12. San Marcos, 13. Oceanside, 14, Madison, 15. La Costa Canyon, 16. Grossmont

Division II: 1. La Jolla, 2. Poway, 3. Otay Ranch, 4. Rancho Bernardo, 5. Mira Mesa, 6. Central Union, 7. Vista, 8. Olympian, 9. Scripps Ranch, 10. Christian, 11. San Diego, 12. Point Loma, 13. Valley Center, 14. San Pasqual, 15. Morse

Division III: 1. Mater Dei Catholic, 2. Ramona, 3. Santa Fe Christian, 4. Mt. Carmel, 5. El Capitan, 6. Brawley, 7. West Hills, 8. Monte Vista, 9. Orange Glen, 10. Westview, 11. Santana, 12. Imperial, 13. Bonita Vista, 14. Escondido, 15. Canyon Hills (Serra)

Division IV: 1. Montgomery, 2. Patrick Henry, 3. La Jolla Country Day, 4. Coronado, 5. Sweetwater, 6. Mount Miguel, 7. Francis Parker, 8. Castle Park, 9. Del Norte, 10. University City, 11. Vincent Memorial, 12. Valhalla, 13, Classical Academy, 14. Rancho Buena Vista, 15. Chula Vista

Division V: 1. Tri-City Christian, 2. Holtville, 3. Palo Verde Valley, 4. Mission Bay, 5. Fallbrook, 6. Clairemont, 7. Foothills Christian, 8. O’Farrell Charter, 9. El Cajon Valley, 10. Crawford, 11. Mountain Empire, 12. San Ysidro, San Ysidro, 13. Maranatha Christian, 14. Escondido Charter, 15. Calexico



  1. Cathedral Catholic, 2. Carlsbad, 3. Mission Hills, 4. Lincoln, 5. El Camino, 6. La Jolla, 7. Torrey Pines, 8. St. Augustine, 9. Mater Dei Catholic, 10. Eastlake, 11. Poway, 12. Otay Ranch, 13. Granite Hills, 14. Ramona, 15. Steele Canyon, 16. Helix Charter, 17. San Marcos, 18. Santa Fe Christian, 19. Oceanside, 20. Madison, 21.La Costa Canyon, 22. Montgomery, 23. Rancho Bernardo, 24. Mira Mesa, 25. Central Union



Otay Ranch quarterback Brian Rudden looks for a target downfield in a summer seven-on-seven passing league game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Crusaders, Mustangs give chase for top South County billing

The best high school football team within the boundaries of the San Diego Section for the 2021-22 season? Take one guess and you’ll likely be stuck in repeat mode.

Did you answer the Cathedral Catholic Dons? If so, you are correct.

The Dons enter the new season ranked fifth in the state and possess one of the most competitive schedules in California. It will be interesting to see where they stack up in the state playoffs by the end of the season.

Will Cathedral Catholic finished undefeated against Diego County competition? That’s the fun of the rankings game and we’ll find out soon enough if the Dons remain kings of the section.

But enough on Cathedral Catholic and, for that matter, the Carlsbad Lancers (ranked second among section teams in the preseason), the Mission Hills Grizzlies (ranked third overall) and the Lincoln Hornets (ranked fourth overall).

What teams will be vying for supremacy for the Division I championship this season? Closer to home, what teams will be vying for bragging rights over the entire South County?

The top four teams in the Division I rankings advance to the Open Division playoffs at the end of the regular season, leaving the next 12 teams to fill out the ensuing Division I playoff field.

Entering this week’s season openers, the E; Camino Wildcats held down the No. 5 ranking in the composite 16-team division, followed by the sixth-ranked La Jolla Vikings, seventh-ranked Torrey Pines Falcons, eighth-ranked St. Augustine Saints, ninth-ranked Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders and 10th-ranked Eastlake Titans. Those would constitute the top six teams in the revised Division I playoff seeding.

Preseason rankings are subject to frequent revision, and teams will likely shift position each week.

It’s emotionally satisfying to have two Metro Conference teams included in the preseason top 10 rankings but both Mater Dei Catholic and Eastlake will have to hold their own against challenging schedules if they have the desire to finish in such elite company.

Mater Dei Catholic finished 3-2 during the spring season with narrow losses to Eastlake (13-12) and Otay Ranch (42-38) in Metro-Mesa League play. But the Crusaders wowed the rankings-makers with their 19-2 non-league win over perennial section powerhouse Helix Charter.

Eastlake emerged as the spring’s Metro-Mesa League champion while Otay Ranch gleaned runner-up honors. Mater Dei Catholic finished third in the league standings ahead of the fourth-place Olympian Eagles.

The Mesa League expects to be just as competitive for the fall season.

Mater Dei Catholic lost quite a bit of firepower to graduation, foremost among the skill positions being quarterback Trevor Appelman (now at New Mexico State) and receiver Darren Barkins (now at Oregon).

But the Crusaders have a knack for restocking the shelves and should command respect once again under head coach John Joyner, who is entering his 13th season at the team’s helm.

Junior linebacker/running back Tre Edwards (6-1, 235) headlines the list of 12 returning starters.

The school’s 2021 fall edition overall will feature a physical offensive line, top-notch linebackers and a very strong defense.

Junior cornerback/receiver Chris Snyder (6-0, 180) tops returners with 177 receiving yards in the spring while junior running back Nico Mosely (5-8, 180) averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the spring.

The defense is anchored by junior cornerback/receiver Surahz Buncom (6-2, 170), senior defensive end Jason Harden (6-0, 230), senior receiver/free safety Brian Dukes (6-4, 190), junior linebacker Vincent Freund (6-0, 215).

Big men to watch include senior offensive/defensive lineman Taylor Lepisi (6-0, 290), senior offensive/defensive lineman Jose Santos (6-0, 255), senior offensive/defensive lineman Danny Lopez (6-0, 280), junior Cruz Estrada (6-1, 185), senior Jeremiah Cook (235 pounds) and senior Joey Hiner (6-1, 280).

Junior Domonic Nankil (6-0, 170) expects to take over signal-calling duties from the departed Appelman, who passed for 2,788 yards and 35 touchdowns in 13 games as a junior and senior.

The new-look Crusaders, on offense anyway, expect to be more of a running team this season, especially lined up behind the team’s immense beef train.

Mater Dei will get an early season barometric reading when it hosts Friday in its season opener Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Horse power
Otay Ranch (3-1 in the 2021 spring season) is braced by 11 returning starters, including a sizable portion of its sizable offensive line that includes senior Dylan Lazo (6-2, 315), junior Abdiel Amolitos (6-2, 310 pounds), senior Kito Fierro (6-2, 280) and sophomore Daniel Desmond (270). junior Kaleb Bowler (6-1, 200) and senior Dominic Yancey (6-2) also will buttress the trenches.

Juniors Brian Rudden and Makai Corpuz were competing for the starting quarterback position during the summer. Rudden passed for 442 yards with seven touchdowns in four spring outings. He and receivers Johnathan Nava (5-11, 160), Haydn Brotschi (6-1, 176) and junior Jayhalin Sanders (111 all-purpose yards) should prosper behind protection from the large offensive line.

Sanders racked up 111 all-purpose yards in the spring while Nava registered 26 tackles and three interceptions. Yancey had three sacks.

Senior Noah Concepcion (5-10, 180) is another key defender.

Rudden, Fierro, Bowler and Brotschi, Nava and Conception all earned second team all-league honors.

Otay Ranch (2-1 in league) came up on the short end of a 20-14 score in last spring’s Metro-Mesa League championship game at Eastlake High School but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort.

Head coach Lance Christensen, now in his eighth year with the Mustangs, will be looking for that continued effort as his team gallops toward a possible league championship this fall.

Otay Ranch enters the season ranked 12th overall in the section, third among Division II teams.

However, the Mustangs will once again need to persevere through some adversity, however, as they will once again play all their games on the road because of ongoing stadium repairs. Otay Ranch is slated to open the 2021 fall campaign Friday with a non-league engagement at Madison.


New direction
The Olympian Eagles will be hitting the gridiron under new head coach Jimmy Clark, who was hired to replace former coach Ryan Van Nostrand in June.

Clark, a 2005 Chula Vista High alumnus, has instituted a new spread offense that could turn around the team’s fortunes this season. In the least, it will lay the foundation for a new beginning.

The interest is definitely there with 91 players who turned out this year.

The Eagles return nine starters and appear blessed with both size and speed this season as the team makes that transition in its attack plan.

The team’s linemen have size up front, anchored by senior defensive end/tight end Owen Ocampo (6-2, 230) and junior defensive end Davian Brewer (6-3, 215). Other key pieces include senior offensive/defensive lineman Noah Pountain and defensive end/offensive lineman Dion Harvey.

Receivers/defensive backs Brandon Loe (junior) and Trenice Woods (sophomore), along with tight end/linebacker Justin Jones, look to spearhead the offensive attack.

Freshman Kristian Noriega (5-11, 175) is also looking to develop as a quarterback. Baserball player Joshua Manness (6-5) got his feet wet behind as a sophomore on the Olympian junior varsity squad

Sophomores Tristan Anderson (running back/linebacker) and sophomore receiver Jake Marichal look to contribute to the team offensively as well while sophomore linebacker Ceejay Clavier (6-1, 210) looks to buttress the defense.

Olympian finished 1-3 during the spring, with its lone win coming in a non-league encounter against the Chula Vista Spartans (57-14).

The Eagles kick off their first season under Clark with a non-league home game Friday against Westview (7 p.m. kickoff).


2021-22 Mesa League Football Schedule

Bonita Vista Barons


20: Bonita Vista vs. Morse, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

27: Bonita Vista vs. San Ysidro, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College


3: Bonita Vista at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

10: Bonita Vista at John Glenn (Norwalk), 7 p.m.

17: Bonita Vita vs. Patrick Henry, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

24: Bye


1: Bonita Vista vs. Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

8: Bonita Vista at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

15: Bonita Vista vs. Otay Ranch, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

22: Bonita Vista at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

29: Bonita Vista vs. Hilltop, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College


Eastlake Titans


20: Steele Canyon at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

27: Eastlake at Poway, 7 p.m.


3: Eastlake at La Habra, 7 p.m.

10: Eastlake at Granite Hills, 7 p.m.

17: Bye

24: Eastlake at El Camino, 7:15 p.m.


1: Olympian at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

8: Eastlake at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

15: Eastlake at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

22: Bonita Vista at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

29: Otay Ranch at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.


Hilltop Lancers


20:  Hilltop at Valhalla, 7 p.m.

26: Hilltop at El Capitan, 7 p.m.


3: Chula Vista at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

10: Bye

17: Hilltop at Morse, 7 p.m.

24: Escondido at Hilltop, 7 p.m.


1: Otay Ranch at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

8: Eastlake at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

15: Olympian at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

22: Hilltop at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

29: Hilltop vs. Bonita Vista, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College


Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders


20: Brawley at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

27: Mater Dei Catholic at Westview, 7 p.m.


3: Helix Charter at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

17: La Jolla at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

24: St. Augustine at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.


1: Mater Dei Catholic at Bonita Vista, 6:30 p.m.

8: Mater Dei Catholic at Otay Ranch, 6:30 p.m.

15: Eastlake at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

22: Hilltop at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

29: Olympian at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.


Olympian Eagles


20: Westview at Olympian, 7 p.m.

27: San Pasqual at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.


3: West Hills at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

10: Bye

17: Point Loma at Olympian, 7 p.m.

24: Olympian at Oceanside, 7 p.m.


1: Olympian at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

8: Bonita Vista at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

15: Olympian at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

22: Otay Ranch at Olympian, 6:30 p.m. (Battle of the O’s)

29: Olympian at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.


Otay Ranch Mustangs


20: Otay Ranch at Madison, 7 p.m.

27: Otay Ranch at Helix Charter, 7 p.m.


3: Otay Ranch at Mira Mesa, 7 p.m.

10: Bye

17: Otay Ranch at Granite Hills, 7 p.m.

24: Otay Ranch at Lincoln, 7 p.m.


1: Otay Ranch at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

8: Otay Ranch at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

15: Otay Ranch vs. Bonita Vista at Southwestern College 6:30 p.m.

22: Otay Ranch at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

29: Otay Ranch at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

Note: home games TBA

Eastlake kicks off season in defense of Metro-Mesa League title