East County Sports

Eagles finally land on top of league throne

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By Jim Lindgren

© East County Sports.com

SANTEE (11-7-15) — JIM MANN was the man in charge of Granite Hills the last time the Eagles won a league championship in football. The year was 1988, but even that wasn’t an outright title as Granite Hills tied Helix 13-13 to share the crown with the Highlanders. GH at S Score

Twenty-seven years later, now in his fourth year at the helm, 28-year-old KELLAN COBBS has guided the Eagles to an outright title.

Granite Hills used a dominant rushing game and a stellar defensive effort to beat Santana 41-13 on Friday (Nov. 6) night to claim the Grossmont Valley League championship. The Eagles (9-1, 4-0) won their eighth straight game to enter the playoffs with the best record in Division II.

Santana (6-4, 2-2) was hoping to share the title, a league banner having eluded the Sultans since 1999. Santana will play in the Division IV playoffs.

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The Eagles were 1-9 in Cobbs’ first season but improved to play in the Division III semifinals the past two seasons, finishing 9-4 last year and 7-6 in 2013.

“It feels like … I can’t even explain it,” said Granite Hills tailback THOMAS YOUMOG, who had a career day rushing for 256 yards on just 15 carries, including touchdowns of 63, 4 and 70 yards. “The program started 1-9, and now we’re 9-1. It’s unbelievable.”

Youmog’s previous high had been 234 rushing yards against West Hills, starting a stretch of four league games in which he has amassed 698 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I didn’t think I would ever top that West Hills game,” Youmog said. “This feels awesome. It feels really good when your offensive line blocks perfectly and opens things up like they did tonight.”

Said Cobbs, “He’s been running the ball really well. He gets behind our big guys up front, then breaks loose before anyone knows it.”

Sophomore quarterback JACOB SIEGFRIED also benefitted from the O-line, though he also gained a lot of his 123 rushing yards on his own, breaking tackles and sprinting away from would-be defenders. His touchdown runs of 27 and 75 yards were highlight-reel material.

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“He’s a good running quarterback,” Cobbs said. “He runs hard between the tackles.”

Santana coach TIM ESTES was concerned coming in about Granite’s size up front. Rightly so, as it turned out, with the Eagles rushing for 441 yards and five touchdowns.

The Eagles offensive line consists of seniors BRENDAN DENNEY and VICTOR GARCIA, juniors MARTIN SAMANIEGO and KALVIN SANDERS and sophomore GARRET CURAN, plus senior tight end JACOB BURTON, who has committed to play at Arizona next fall.

“Their big guys really did a good job,” Estes said. “Granite Hills is big, but I underestimated their speed. They have some good team speed on both sides of the ball.”

Santana came in averaging 40.1 points per game but could muster only two field goals and a 12-yard touchdown pass from FRANKIE GUTIERREZ to ADAM CHILDRESS. It was TD pass No. 21 for Gutierrez and TD catch No. 11 for Childress.

Gutierrez was 12-of-24 passing for 158 yards, but he was also intercepted twice. Childress had four catches for 47 yards. AIDAN RASMUSSON caught four passes for 52 yards.

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BOBBY WALLACE rushed for 152 yards on a career-high 37 carries, but Granite Hills time and again made the key stops when it needed them. The Eagles had five sacks, two interceptions and frequently chased Gutierrez out of the pocket.

“We knew their linebackers and defensive backs were quick,” Estes said, “but their down guys were faster than we expected.”

Burton posted two sacks and younger brother WILLIAM BURTON added one – as did AHMAD JONES and KELLEN GAEIR.

RILEY REYES, who missed the last three games with a shoulder separation, and GUSTAVO GUTIERREZ had the picks and both of them led to fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Reyes’ interception was perhaps the biggest play of the game. Santana trailed only 21-13 and was driving in the fourth quarter when Reyes stepped in front of a Sultan receiver and intercepted a pass at the Eagles’ 45-yard line. Six plays later it was 28-13 as Youmog rushed five times for 44 yards, including the final 4 for the score.

On its next possession, Santana thought it had a first down deep in Eagles territory, but the fourth-down play was ruled to be caught out-of-bounds.

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Next play, Youmog darted 70 yards for his third score and a 34-13 lead with 4:43 to play.

After Granite’s Gutierrez intercepted Santana’s Gutierrez at the 25-yard line, Siegfried fried the Sultans with a 75-yard touchdown scamper.

“They were tough on us,” Cobbs said. “That staff does a great job. We had to make some adjustments on offense, but once we did, we moved the ball pretty well.”

Santana controlled the ball for most of the first quarter but came away with only a 6-0 lead. On the opening possession of the game, the Sultans benefitted from a roughing-the-kicker call to drive 69 yards in 14 plays but had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by TIMMY TISCHER.

Granite Hills fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and ALEC KOVAL recovered it for the Sultans at the 9-yard line. However, three plays later, Santana had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Tischer, who now has seven field goals.

“We drove down and got the first field goal, that was OK,” Estes said. “The second one, we had the ball at the 9-yard line and couldn’t get it in. That hurt.

“One of our goals plans was to keep the ball out of their hands. We did a pretty good job in the first quarter, but then they started to roll.”

Granite Hills took the lead for good early in the second quarter as Youmog made a couple of spin moves and raced 63 yards to the end zone.

Midway through the quarter, it became Granite Hills 14-6 when Siegfried willed his way to a 27-yard TD rumble, carrying two Sultans the final three yards into the end zone.

Midway through the third quarter, Reyes muffed and then returned a punt 38 yards to the 16-yard line, setting up his own 3-yard TD run to make it 21-6.

Santana countered with an 11-play, 77-yard drive capped by Childress’ 12-yard scoring catch from Gutierrez with 0:22 left in the third quarter to make it 21-13.

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Granite Hills then went three-and-out, and Santana started to drive until Reyes’ interception returned momentum back to the Eagles.

“They were averaging 40 points a game so to hold them to 13 is pretty impressive,” Cobbs noted. “They did a good job of making some adjustments, but ultimately, defense made some stops when we needed to.”

After two straight Division III semifinal appearances, Granite Hills moved up to Division II this year and will have to contend with the likes of Valhalla, which handed the Eagles their only loss, Westview, Rancho Bernardo and Otay Ranch, among others.

“I believe we can win it all,” said Youmog, who now has 976 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. “If we execute like we did tonight, I think we can win it all.”

Santana, which finished last year at 4-6 after a 54-7 loss to Granite Hills, will get its first playoff taste since losing the Division IV championship game to Valley Center 20-14 in 2011.

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