Injury-riddled Eastlake plays on; tops Spartans, 49-17, for homecoming win

Eastlake's Tavarus Green scores on a short run. Photo by Jon Bigornia

The pre-game coin toss might seem trivial to most fans attending a high school football game. But when three of the four Eastlake captains taking the center stripe were dressed in street clothes, it might have raised some concerns about the Titans’ ability to perform at a high level.

Indeed, Eastlake was tested in last Friday’s Metro-Mesa League opener by the visiting Chula Vista Spartans but the Titans’ superior depth prevailed on the field, as well as on the scoreboard, via a 49-17 victory.

“It’s a tribute to the fighting spirit of the team,” said EHS coach John McFadden, whose team improved to 5-2 on the season. “When one guy goes down, someone else steps up.”

With star running back Jude Isbell in a knee brace and leaning on a crutch, and star receiver Travis Gardner and defensive back Cameron Espinoza also limited to wearing a throw-back black Titan jersey on the sideline, it was time for Tavarus Green to step forward by scoring three touchdowns for the hosts.

Green scored on runs of 45, one and six yards while collecting 170 rushing yards on 18 carries to key the Eastlake rushing game that amassed 311 yards overall on the night.

“Tavarus Green kind of put the entire team on his shoulders and our quarterback, Josh Palet, also had a nice game,” McFadden said. “It’s nice to have a few kids step up to help the team.”

Palet completed six of 10 passing attempts for 165 yards. He threw a pair of scoring passes — a 35-yarder to Joseph Carpizo in the second quarter and a 71-yarder to Darran Hall in the third quarter.

Isiah Olave continued to be a major contributor this season by scoring on a 43-yard run while Jeremy Smith closed out scoring in the game on a one-yard run.

The Titans led 21-3 at one point in the second quarter. The Spartans, though, did test Eastlake’s mettle by scoring the final touchdown of the first half and the opening touchdown of the second half to narrow the hosts’ lead on homecoming night to 21-17.

Ricky Estevez connected with Isaac Martinez on a 15-yard scoring pass with less than a minute to play in the second quarter to make the halftime score 21-10. Martinez then electrified the large crowd with an 83-yard kick-off return on the first play of the third quarter.

But the Titans, garbed in honor of the 20th anniversary of the school’s football team, promptly restored calm on their sideline on Palet’s TD strike to Hall and Olave’s breakaway run.

Olave finished the night with seven carries for 75 yards while Hall had two catches for 86 yards.
Martinez had five carries for 49 yards and also caught four passes for 17 yards while totaling 102 yards on two kick-off returns and 47 yards on two punt returns.

Estevez had 115 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. Richard Walker had four receptions for 42 yards while Ray Holden had four catches for 30 yards.

Chula Vista (0-1, 3-3) got its first points of the game on a 25-yard field goal by Omar Rebollo in the second quarter to make the score 6-3. Donovan Mendez also rushed 12 times for 47 yards while Javante Reed had four carries for 24 yards.

Defense remained a strong point for the victors. Matt Bigornia and Gabe Casillas each registered sacks while Ronnie Cortell had one pick. Nathan Mitchell led the winners with nine tackles.

Eastlake has a bye week before testing Bonita Vista in the teams’ annual Battle for the Boot rivalry game Oct. 28 at Southwestern College.

“I was happy with our performance,” McFadden said. “When you lose the caliber of kids like we have to injury, you wonder about the direction the team will go in. But I think we’ll be OK.”

The Titans did receive some good news in their quest to secure a top seed in the upcoming Division I playoffs when San Pasqual suffered its first loss of the season (24-14 to Mission Hills). Poway (5-0-1) remains the only undefeated Division I team. San Pasqual dropped to 5-1-1.