East County Sports

Cougars, Vaqueros zero in on playoffs

EastCountySports.com photo




By Ramon Scott
© East County Sports.com


LAKESIDE (11-5-16) — Fittingly, the man of Steele would have a major say in a defensive battle here Friday night. Sure, he’s heard them all as a student/athlete at Steele Canyon High, but junior PERRY STEELE will gladly listen to them all again following the Cougars’ 15-7 season-finale win over the host El Capitan Vaqueros.

Steele had a tremendous touchdown reception late in the first half and an interception early in the second half to help the Cougars (1-4 Grossmont Hills League, 3-7) win their first league game of the season.

The teams traded possessions in the first quarter, both making defensive stands inside the 10-yard line. Near the end of the first quarter, the Cougars stopped the Vaqueros at the 1-yard line to force a turnover on downs.

The Vaqueros, meanwhile, ended up thwarting the Steele Canyon drive on a fourth-down run stop from the 7, led by junior STAR IULI.


Steele Canyon’s XAVIER LEASAU knocks JAVIER VIDALEZ out of bounds on the Vaqueros’ final offensive play Friday night. / EastCountySports.com photo

In the second quarter, Steele Canyon junior quarterback THOMAS FISHBURNE tossed a delayed downfield screen to ISAIAH THOMPSON, who caught the ball at his own 15 and took off through a series of blockers up the left sideline, including CALEB O’GORMAN, ELVIN HORMIS JORDAN ANDERSON, and DARIN WALTON for a 68-yard gain down to the El Cap 12.

DEONTAE MCKINNEY finished up the scoring drive with a 5-yard run to the outside behind the block of fullback WAYNE BARELA, as Steele Canyon finally broke the ice for a 7-0 score with 2:33 to go before halftime.

Steele Canyon would get the ball back late in the second quarter when Fishburne struck for a devastating score with just :48 left in the first half. Fishburne, one of the best scrambling quarterbacks in the county, throws on the run as well as anybody. He was sprinting hard to the right when he form-lofted a bomb to the end zone.

Somehow, the Cougars’ Perry Steele separated from his coverage and wrapped the falling heave up just before it would have fallen to the ground. He cradled the score with a great grab, showing tremendous hand strength. The result was a 35-yard touchdown pass which sent Steele and Steele Canyon into the locker room leading 15-0.

“It was six weeks to the day that we went without a win,” said Cougars coach SCOTT LONGERBONE. “But our kids never gave up. We just kept coming back.”

Early in the third quarter, the teams exchanged interceptions, as Steele – the player – made his pick four minutes into the second half. The Cougars would end up missing a field goal attempt with 4:05 remaining in the third. Barela would record an interception for Steele Canyon on the ensuing drive, but the Vaqueros would force another turnover against the Cougs as CONNOR ROOSA fell on a mishandled handoff. XAVIER LEASAU had one of the three Steele Canyon interceptions.

Steele Canyon would then force a punt with 9:34 left in the game, but their drive was short and the Vaqueros got it back down two scores with under 5 1/2 minutes to play.

That is when the Vaqueros finally cracked the Cougars’ code.


Steele Canyon’s MIKEL OLIVER rushes Friday night against El Capitan. / EastCountySports.com photo

Freshman QB WICK HAUSER had the Cougars’ MIKEL OLIVER right upon his throwing arm for a near sack when his last-ditch pass attempt went deflected off the pressing rusher. The pass was hardly a spiral, but senior receiver JAVIER VIDALEZ was already coming back for the ball to where he was able to catch the wounded duck and impressively sprint past some confused Cougars to a 67-yard score, as RYAN DUMAS threw a downfield block.

The Vaqueros were able to secure one last possession with a defensive effort led by DYLAN HELMHOLTZ, who recorded a second-down sack bringing up a third-and-long. The Cougars punted it back with three minutes to go. El Cap picked up a couple of first downs behind some scrambling passing from Hauser, but the Cougars held on, as a fourth-down attempt past the chains along the right side was hauled in beautifully by Vidalez, but he was smartly being shoved out of bounds by a Cougar defender. Steele Canyon ran out the clock.

Vidalez had six catches for 121 yards, as Hauser finished with 190 yards passing.

Steele Canyon held the Vaqueros to nine first downs.

For El Capitan, Iuli and COLTON SANDOVAL had interceptions. For Sandoval, it was his third pick in two games.


EastCountySports.com photo

Longerbone figured that his Cougars will earn a No. 3 seed in Division I of the playoffs, which would give them a home game.

“That’s why this game was so key to win,” he said.

Steele Canyon, however, ended up with a No. 8 seed and will face Carlsbad at in the first round of the playoffs. The winner will face top-seeded Madison.

El Capitan (1-4 GHL, 4-6), meanwhile, gets a bye in the Division 2 playoffs and in two weeks will face the winner of a matchup between Bonita Vista and host West Hills.

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