Go Green: Lancers honor WWII vet, former teacher with 43-3 victory to kick start record to perfect 3-0

Former Hilltop High School teacher and World War II veteran Tom Rice (101) accompanies current Lancers Marko Aki (4), Gage Scruggs (5), Javin Deanda (18) and Tony Candelaria (24) during last Friday’s pre-game recognition ceremony. Photo by Jon Bigornia

As part of pregame festivities for last Friday’s home opener at Robert Dodds Stadium, Hilltop High School honored one of its own special heroes.

No, Tom Rice did not strut onto the field in full football gear to do battle on the gridiron, but the 98-year-old World War II veteran did accompany team captains to midfield for the ceremonial coin toss wearing a freshly minted Lancer jersey bearing the number 101.

Rice, a Coronado native who was born into a military family, fought for the freedoms we hold dear today in this country as a member of the 101st Airborne Division that landed in Normandy on D-Day.

Rice also saw action as a paratrooper in Operation Market Garden in September 1944 and took part in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.

He was wounded in the Normandy Campaign and also in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

He later participated in the raid on Hitler’s celebrated Eagles Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Rice was a 22-year-old staff sergeant when he took part in Operation Overlord on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the largest and most complex military campaign ever undertaken.

After returning home from military service, he continued his studies and later worked as a teacher at Chula Vista High School and was on staff when Hilltop High School opened in 1959. He served as a teacher at Hilltop until he retired in 1983.

Rice wrote books on his wartime experiences and for the last few years has participated in the same jumps over France to commemorate D-Day anniversaries. He made a tandem jump in June to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas honored Rice at the Chula Vista City Council meeting on Aug. 13 and Aug. 15 was proclaimed Tom Rice Day in Chula Vista.

Hilltop High School honored Rice for his service to his country, community and the school.

Hilltop’s Marko Aki scored four touchdowns to highlight last Friday’s 43-3 non-league victory against visiting San Ysidro. Photo by Jon Bigornia

The Lancer football team honored Rice with its 43-3 non-league victory over the visiting San Ysidro Cougars as quarterback Javin Deanda completed four touchdown passes to teammate Marko Aki to cement Hilltop’s 3-0 start to the season.

Aki finished the game with six catches for 79 yards, including one catch of 40 yards for a score.

Deanda completed 10 of 12 passes for 140 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Jeremiah Serrano rushed seven times for 105 yards and scored on a nine-yard touchdown as the Lancers finished the game with 315 total offensive yards.

The Hilltop defense held the Cougars (0-3) to 43 total yards, recording 16 tackles for a loss, two sacks, one interception and four fumble recoveries.

Tony Candelaria had two fumble recoveries while four players each recorded three tackles for a loss: Michael McShane, Rudy Lucero, Gage Scruggs and Issac Valdespino.

Angel Mora scored on a 21-yard punt return.

Makai Jackson led San Ysidro with 11 tackles and one sack.

Hilltop will get a better idea of where it stacks up in the county rankings when it hosts the likewise undefeated Valhalla Norsemen (2-0) this Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

“Tough opponent coming up against Valhalla,” HHS head coach Andrew Westling noted. “They have one of the best running backs in San Diego.”

VHS senior Kegan Baker has rushed for 468 yards and eight touchdowns in just two games.


Trojans, Aztecs score wins to improve to 3-0

The Castle Park Trojans and Montgomery Aztecs are slated to meet in a key Metro-Pacific League match-up in the final game of regular season play. At this point it looks like it could be for the league championship after both teams extended their undefeated starts to 3-0.

Castle Park is 3-0 thanks in big part to last Friday’s dramatic 33-28 come-from-behind non-league win over visiting Francis Parker, last year’s San Diego Section Division V runner-up team.

“It was a good win for us against a good program that is well coached,” Trojan head coach Chris Livesay said. “Defensively we didn’t play as well as we should have but our offense played well enough to win.

“We are continuing to build a quality program here that kids want to be a part of. This win was another big step in that direction.”

Castle Park trailed 21-20 entering the fourth quarter but pulled out the win on the strength of two scores in the final frame as the Trojans out-scored the visitors 13-7.

Erik Hernandez earned honors as Castle Park’s player of the game with 17 carries for 188 yards and four touchdowns. It was his 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that supplied the hosts with the game-winning touchdown.

Hernandez has scored six touchdowns and rushed for 308 yards in 2019.

Castle Park tallied 346 yards in total offense, including 276 rushing yards. Demarkus Lewis completed five of 13 passes for 70 yards with one interception.

Nicolas Magana kicked two field goals, including a longest of 34 yards.

The Trojan defense recorded three sacks — one each by Jose Castro, Chris Romero and Angel Aguilar — and one interception by Lewis.

Castle Park plays at winless Fallbrook (0-3) this Friday in its quest to score its fourth consecutive win of the season.

Francis Parker, which received 138 all-purpose yards from Trevor Brokowski, dropped to 0-3 on the season. The Lancers host Hoover (0-2) this Friday in a match-up of winless teams.

Aztec warriors
Quarterback Alexander Dixie passed for 159 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, and rushed for 62 yards and one touchdown as the visiting Montgomery Aztecs trounced the host Crawford Colts, 35-7, last Friday to remain undefeated on the season.

Montgomery led 14-7 at halftime before toppling the Colts with 21 unanswered points in the second half. The Aztecs total 277 yards in total offense, including 118 rushing yards.

Zach Pearson had three catches for 73 yards and one touchdown while Isiah King had three catches for 26 yards and two touchdowns.

The Aztec defense totaled five tackles for a loss, including two by Christian Venegas, two sacks and one interception (by Juan Estrada). Venegas also had a sack in the game as well as a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Montgomery, ranked eighth among Division IV teams, will seek to improve to 4-0 on the season when it visits Kearny (1-1) this Friday. Kearny finished 11-2 last season as the Division IV runner-up in the CIF finals.

Crawford, ranked fifth among Division V teams, dropped to 1-2. The Colts will host San Ysidro (0-3) this Friday.

Prep football rankings taking shape, Titans No. 13

Through three weeks of play, the San Diego Section football rankings are starting to take shape.

The section’s top team is likely no surprise: the Cathedral Catholic Dons.

The Dons solidified their position at the top of the region’s teams after defeating visiting Corona Centennial, ranked fifth in the state, last Friday, 44-41. The win bumped Cathedral up to the No. 3 spot in the state and No. 8 in the nation, according to rankings maintained by MaxPreps.

The Dons will test perennial section power Helix this Friday in La Mesa, then play at Eastlake on Sept. 20 before hosting Otay Ranch on Sept. 27.

Cathedral Catholic’s high impact schedule doesn’t end there. The Dons will host Point Loma on Oct. 4 in a Western League contest, play at Madison on Oct. 11, host St. Augustine in the teams’ annual Holy Bowl contest on Oct. 18 and close out the season with a Nov. 1 encounter at Lincoln.

Helix is ranked fourth among section teams while Lincoln is ranked sixth.

St. Augustine is pushing Cathedral Catholic hard for the section’s No. 1 ranking. The Saints have outscored their three opponents 126-12 so far this season, including 89-5 in their last two games.

St. Augustine topped the Loyola Cubs, 42-5, last Friday as quarterback Angelo Peraza, a Chula Vista native, passed for 208 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards and scored once. The previous week, the Saints blanked host Eastlake, 47-0, as Peraza passed for one score and rushed for another.

Through three games, Peraza has a 122.2 quarterback rating after throwing for 400 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. He’s also rushed for 172 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Byron Cardwell leads the Saints with 325 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while Tyson McWilliams has caught eight passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

Cardwell leads St. Augustine with 417 all-purpose yards while Peraza tops the Saints with 572 total offensive yards.

Connor Heffler leads the Saintsmen on defense with 18 tackles, four sacks and one fumble recovery.

Cathedral Catholic signal-caller D.J. Ralph passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for three TDs in last Friday’s big win over Centennial while Zavien Watson rushed for 148 yards to lead the ground attack.

Watson has rushed for 481 yards and six touchdowns so far this season.

Top four teams in the Division I rankings qualify for the elite Open Division playoffs

Despite their 0-3 start, the defending Metro-Mesa League champion Eastlake Titans still place high in the section rankings, pulling down the No. 13 spot entering Friday’s non-league game at San Jacinto (2-1).

The Titan offense showed life in last Friday’s 35-24 non-league loss at Lincoln. It was Eastlake’s best offensive showing in three games to date.

The Titans piled up 314 total offensive yards, including 235 rushing yards. Emiliano Lozano (four carries, 85 yards), Mateo La (25 carries, 60 yards) and Jerwin Novicio (one carry, six yards) all scored rushing touchdowns.

Lozano ripped off one run for 69 yards. Jordan Swan and Jordan Blondin each caught passes good for 23 yards in the game.

Adriel Colmenero completed six of 18 passes for 79 yards but was intercepted twice

Josiah McGuire led the Titans with 11 tackles, including one for a loss. Also leading the defense were Matthew Zaravia with two interceptions and Andrew Kamo with one pick.

The Hornets totaled 249 yards in offense. Tyler Jensen led undefeated Lincoln with 141 passing yards while Keyshawn Smith had eight catches for 106 yards and one touchdown.

The hosts relied on their defense, however. Marquese Allen-Patmon had two picks for 75 yards in returns while Ke’shun Ford, Trequan Catlin and Anarealo Hill each made fumble recoveries totaling 75 yards in returns.

Smith finished the game with three touchdowns — one on a TD reception, one on a punt return and one on a kickoff return.

Lincoln plays at undefeated San Clemente (3-0) this Friday.


San Diego Section Football Rankings

MaxPreps Top 20

  1. Cathedral Catholic Dons (3-0)
  2. St. Augustine Saints (3-0)
  3. Carlsbad Lancers (2-1)
  4. Helix Highlanders (1-1)
  5. Mission Hills Grizzlies (2-1)
  6. Lincoln Hornets (3-0)
  7. Steele Canyon Cougars (2-0)
  8. Torrey Pines Falcons (2-1)
  9. La Costa Canyon Mavericks (1-2)
  10. Grossmont Foothillers (2-0)
  11. Madison Warhawks (2-1)
  12. San Diego Cavers (2-0)
  13. Eastlake Titans (0-3)
  14. Oceanside Pirates (2-1)
  15. Granite Hills Eagles (2-1)
  16. Otay Ranch Mustangs (2-1)
  17. Bishop’s Knights (3-0)
  18. Vista Panthers (2-1)
  19. Morse Tigers (2-0)
  20. Poway Titans (2-1)