East County Sports

Eagles unravel in second half, drop playoff to Mustangs

Photos courtesy Charles Scott Photography / csprophoto.com

View the Granite Hills-Otay Ranch Gallery from Charles Scott Photography here


By James McHugh

© EastCountySports.com


EL CAJON (11-20-15) — Granite Hills controlled the game in the first half of Friday night’s (Nov. 20) CIF Division II Section Quarterfinal against Otay Ranch. Turnovers and bad snaps were the name of the game for the Eagles late though as they were handed a tough 35-20 season-ending loss at home.


Things started out well for Granite Hills at Valley Stadium as the Eagles dominated the clock in the first half. Otay Ranch was limited to just 16 offensive snaps in the first half as well as a total offensive output of less than 60 yards. The Eagles had their own offensive woes however, mainly, finding the end zone.


While Granite Hills kept the Mustangs off the scoreboard in the first half, the Eagles managed just one score of their own.


Sophomore quarterback JACOB SIEGFRIED scored from 1-yard out to cap an 11 play, 60-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes between the first and second quarters. The Eagles nearly found the end zone as the first half was drawing to a close but a penalty erased the short field created by a failed Otay Ranch fourth down attempt around midfield.


In the third quarter senior running back THOMAS YOUMOG found daylight on a 35-yard touchdown run that seemed to place a convincing hold on how the rest of the night would play out for Granite Hills. Leading 14-0 with 5:34 to play in the third quarter, the Eagles were punting the ball away from their own 20-yard line when everything started to unravel.


The next snap sailed well over punter BRICE STRICKLAND’s head and Strickland resorted to kicking the ball through the Eagles’ end zone to avoid having one of several Otay Ranch defenders pick it up for a touchdown. At the time the move seemed to be the correct action, a lesser of two evils solution to the Eagles’ first big hiccup of the night.


Two minutes later Granite Hills allowed Otay Ranch wide receiver Adrian Rodriguez to break free on a short screen and scamper 55 yards for the Mustangs’ first touchdown of the night, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 14-9.


Things didn’t improve for Granite Hills. On the next play from scrimmage (following a penalty), the Eagles met free safety Adrian Rodriguez. Siegfried’s pass attempt was tipped and intercepted by Rodriguez who brought the Mustangs to within one yard of taking the lead. Fenuki Kauvaka carried the ball in from three feet out a play later and Otay Ranch suddenly led 15-14 with 2:03 to play in the third quarter.


Like a bad dream things somehow managed to spiral even further downhill for the Eagles. A wild snap soared past Youmog on Granite Hills’ next play and none other than Kauvaka was there to scoop it up and find the Eagles end zone once again. Within the span of 11 second, Kauvaka had scored twice and Granite Hills suddenly found itself needing a quick offense. Otay Ranch failed to complete a two-point conversion and led 21-14 after the fumble return.


When the Eagles’ offense didn’t materialize on the next drive, Otay Ranch running back Samuel Stephens slowly started to suffocate the Granite Hills defense that had played so well all night. Stephens was limited to 26 yards on the ground in the first half. However, Stephens ended the night with 184 yards rushing. When Otay Ranch would shoot itself in the foot with misguided penalties, Stephens would find another hole and earn a new set of downs for the Mustangs.


A 1-yard run from Stephens with 5:44 to play put Otay Ranch up 28-14 and seemed to suck the last breath of life from the Eagles. The Eagles had a quick strike in store, though it seemed to arrive a day late and a dollar short. Siegfried found RILEY REYES for an 80-yard touchdown, then a failed point after attempt left Granite Hills within a score and two-point conversion of tying things with just 5:44 to play.


Samuel Stephens was having none of the Eagles’ comeback bid. Samuels proceeded to rush for four first downs and 74-yards on Otay’s final drive. For good measure Stephens closed out all hope for the Eagles when he sprinted 39-yards to boost the score to 35-20 with under a minute to play. It was hard to believe in that moment that the Mustangs had been held scoreless until the 5:34 mark of the third quarter.


The Granite Hills defense that had limited Stephens’ ground attack all night long and held Otay Ranch quarterback Arturo Saenz to just four completions before the final drive, finally broke. Otay Ranch ate up four minutes and all of the Eagles’ timeouts before Stephens even added his final touchdown run.


The loss was the first since a week 2 loss to Valhalla for Granite Hills, which closes their campaign with a final record of 9-2. The Eagles will have the solace of being the first Granite Hills squad to capture a league crown since 1988, but that meant little to the team who left the field Friday night knowing the snaps did not go their way.


“It feels like we should still be playing football at this point of the season,” lamented Eagles coach KELLAN COBBS. “We’re good enough to be a semifinal team.”

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