East County Sports


Grossmont's HUNTER GAINES / photo by Christopher Smith - MBA Sports



By Bill Dickens 



LA MESA – As one of the top four teams in San Diego County according to the San Diego CIF power rankings, the Grossmont Foothillers have earned the right to play their first-ever Open Division playoff game at home Friday night.

For the Mission Hills Grizzlies, playing in the elite division is a case of been there, done that.

Fourth-seeded Grossmont (9-1) will likely be involved in high-flying affair with Mission Hills (6-4) as the focus could be on the quarterback duel between Hillers senior HUNTER GAINES and touted Grizzlies junior slinger Jack Tuttle.


Grossmont’s JAILEN BAILEY runs with the ball against Lincoln. / photo by Ramon Scott

Gaines is the East County leader in completions, yards and touchdowns this season, while Tuttle is already on the list of several notable Division I programs around the country.

While Grossmont could be still steaming over their title-deciding loss at Helix three weeks ago, a convincing win over West Hills in the final, following by an off week heading into the postseason, has likely refocused the Foothillers’ mission.

Mission Hills won the Open Division title back in 2013, but were ousted in the semifinals in each of the last two seasons.

Three of the Grizzlies’ losses this season were to to some of the top teams in the county – Rancho Bernardo, Mater Dei and Torrey Pines. However, Mission Hills comes in with a two-game losing streak, having lost at San Marcos, 14-10, in their season finale two weeks ago. The Griz do own wins, however, against Oceanside, La Costa Canyon and El Camino.

Grossmont’s record-setting wide receiver DOMONIQUE GUEVARA is the East County’s leading receiving threat with 68 catches for 1,014 yards. His 14 touchdowns receptions this season ties him for fifth all-time in the Grossmont Conference single-season record book.

Not to be outdone, the Grossmont ground game is averaging nearly 6 1/2 yards per carry.

The Mission Hills passing game will be challenged by Hiller DBs RILEY HAVIRD, RAYMOND PERRAULT and ANDREW LIRA, who have combined for eight interceptions this season.

Could a date at top-ranked Cathedral be next?… GROSSMONT, 38-28.


VALHALLA (8-2) at HELIX (8-2), 7 – The Valhalla Norsemen could bemoan the fact that they face Grossmont Hills League rival Helix in the Open Division quarterfinals, but they may relish in the fact that they have had two weeks to prepare for a team that they just faced the last time out.


Helix’s JESSE LEASAU grabs Valhalla’s BRYAN MADRIZ in the matchup two weeks ago. / photo by Chris Parks

In the season finale, the Highlanders claimed a 40-13 win right here at Benton Hart Stadium.

The Norsemen got off to the type of start they were looking for, keeping the game in check, before Helix scored a pair of deflating touchdowns in the last 1:08 of the first half.

Despite the early purge, Helix ended up outgunning the Norse, 502-133, as Helix QB CARSON BAKER threw for 269 yards.

Recevier RASHAD SCOTT had two touchdown receptions in the first half. Baker leads all East County starters in completion percentage (68.8 percent).

The Highlanders have also seemed to step up their running game towards the end of the season after the promotion of freshman back ELELYON NOA, who has 385 yards in three games .

Valhalla running back JEROME JOHNSON was able to post some modest success in the contest, rushing for 78 yards on 14 carries. The Norsemen are a tactical team offensively that can benefit from the first-meeting experience.

The second-seeded Highlanders have some of the top defensive talent in the county led by Silver Pigskin finalist EZEKIEL NOA, tackle BLAYKE DE LA ROSA and defensive back SCOTTIE YOUNG.


Valhalla’s BRANDON LEFFEW (55) closes in on Helix. / photo by Chris Parks

Meanwhile, the seventh-seeded Norsemen are not devoid of defensive stalwarts, as ANTHONY PORTILLO, JOSH MCNISH-HEIDER and BRENT BURNETT are likely eager to get a chance to extend the early success they had in slowing the Scotties two weeks ago.

Should the Norsemen work to those strengths, then unheralded target JACOB PAAPE and his large frame could be the key in getting Valhalla into the end zone for some early momentum.

Figure Valhalla is strong enough to close the gap from the earlier meeting, but still too much separates the Scotties from their league foe… HELIX, 33-19.



BONITA VISTA (4-7) at EL CAPITAN (4-6), 7 – Despite sub-par records, this could end up being one of the more exciting games of the evening.

First off, El Capitan comes in as the No. 3 seed in Division 2, and the extra week to prepare has them holding the advantage in Lakeside come Friday night.

The Vaqueros have faced a tough schedule this season in the Grossmont Hills League, as well as, losses to Mater Dei and Valley Center.


El Capitan senior lineman JARED STONE.

But the Barons have faced one of the hardest schedules in the county, which appeared to pay off in a playoff-opening road win at West Hills, 27-10, last Friday.

Meanwhile El Cap dispatched the Wolf Pack on their home turf, 24-17, back on Nov. 28.

Both teams also faced Helix, with the Vaqueros falling 45-14 at home to the Highlanders, while BVHS lost to the Scots, 21-6, at Helix back on Sept. 30.

El Capitan’s senior defensive stoppers OSCAR VALENZUELA and DYLAN HELMHOLTZ, along with junior linebacker CHRIS MCDONOUGH will have to task of trying to rein in the Trojans’ resurgent offense.

El Cap defensive back COLTON SANDOVAL had two interceptions in the win over West Hills and is second in the East County with four picks.

Despite Castle Park’s ups-and-downs along the way this season, seniors Anthony Posada and Keenan Ellis turned it around last week, connecting six times for 149 yards and two touchdowns against the Wolf Pack. Senior Robert Cota busted out for a season-high 165 yards rushing in the game.

El Capitan freshman quarterback WICK HAUSER has stood the tough test since his on-the-job training began midseason, as he has averaged over 180 yards per contest. Senior receiver JAVIER VIDALEZ is his big-play threat.

This season still rates as a strong improvement from the recuperating Vaqueros of last season, but this Barons team has a ton of experience… BONITA VISTA, 26-20.


GRANITE HILLS (7-4) at OLYMPIAN (6-4), 7 – You thought last week’s win by the Granite Hills Eagles over the San Pasqual Golden Eagles was confusing.

The fifth-seeded Granite Hills Eagles earned their trip to the South Bay to face the fourth-seeded Olympian Eagles by way of a most-confident 30-14 win over those previously mentioned Golden Eagles.

Granite Hills may have emerged from the bevy of contenders this season to sweep through the Grossmont Hills League once again, but it is faced with a supposedly more difficult task than even last season, as Granite failed to get out of this round last season, falling to Otay Ranch at home.

The caveat here, however, for Granite Hills is the momentum of a six-game winning streak.


Granite Hills junior running back SETH ALLISTER. / EastCountySports.com photo

Junior quarterback JAKE SIEGFRIED was the starter on last season’s league title team, but had seemingly lost his grip on the job to start 2016. But an injury returned him to the lineup and after a shaky start, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has found a near-perfect scramble-or-pass combination, which has allowed several players to develop roles.

Case-in-point are seniors SHANE SWECKER and MISHAL WASIMI, who stepped up in the roles and made big plays in the key road wins at Monte Vista and El Cajon Valley to help clinch the championship.

Siegfried also passed and ran for over 550 yards of total offense in those wins.

Best of all he has done it without turning the ball over. Senior GUS GUTIERREZ had 33 catches for 630 yards this seasons, along with four scoring receptions.

Olympian, primarily a rushing team, is led by running back Noah Lacsina, who has rushed for 822 yards, while quarterback Nico Mendoza had thrown for 16 touchdowns.

Granite Hills’ TYLER GONZALEZ recorded his East County-leading 13th sack last week, while senior defensive back BRENDEN QUILL picked off his East County-leading fifth interception. Meanwhile, senior end NOAH JOUBERT earlier this week announced his commitment to Sterling (Kan.) College.

Olympian has also faced a pretty formidable schedule this season with losses to Grossmont, Poway, Sante Fe Christian and Mater Dei. Junior Rock Gonzalez has nine of the team’s 29 sacks.

The only thing we’re sure of is that the Eagles will win… OLYMPIAN, 26-21.


HILLTOP (7-4) at CHRISTIAN (10-0) – The Lancers would need an extraordinary performance to upset the Eastern League-champion Patriots at Granite Hills Stadium.

The Patriots simply don’t lose early-round playoff games.

Christian is the top-seed in Division 3 and sit squarely across the bracket from second-seeded Bishop’s. It’s the matchup most everyone wants to see, but a couple of obstacles stand in the way.


Christian senior JOEY MORONES / CHSRedZone photo

Ninth-seeded Hilltop pulled a bit of a surprise last Friday winning at No. 8 Henry, 41-14, as the Lancers won their third in-a-row.

Hilltop is led by quarterback Alex Tejada, who has thrown for 23 touchdowns and over 2,500 yards this season, while running back Domonic Esparza had rushed for 10 touchdowns this season. Tejada had 281 yards in the win over Henry.

That puts the onus on Christian defensive line stars JONATHAN STINE and GARRETT ROSENTHAL, who have combined for eight sacks this season.

When it comes to touchdowns, few have ever matched the Patriots’ JOEY MORONES. Morones’ 49 career rushing scores has him tied for 19th on the all-time San Diego Section list, while his 334 career total points lands the senior currently 21st on the scoring list.

Morones has 941 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing this season. He also has 26 total touchdowns, which is tied for third in the county.

Christian quarterback BRAD JEREMIAH has completed 61 percent of his passes and has 16 touchdown tosses this season. His main man is THEO GOODWIN, who has hauled in 48 grabs for 913 yards and 11 touchdowns. Goodwin is also a special teams threat with four kickoff returns for scores.

Christian beat Hilltop, 63-7, in a regular season meeting in 2014, but this one should be slightly closer… CHRISTIAN, 42-19.


SERRA (5-6) at MONTE VISTA (6-4) – The Monte Vista Monarchs should be in their comfort zone when they face the visiting Serra Conquistadors Friday night.

The second-seeded Monarchs had the bye coming into the Division 4 quarterfinal matchup, while the Q-Dawgs earned a 24-22 win at El Cajon Valley last Friday.


Monte Vista senior JESUS ZUNIGA

By the way, the Monarchs beat that Braves squad right here in Spring Valley, 26-14, on Oct. 21.

The tenth-seeded Conquistadors are in a bit of unchartered territory of late, having won their first playoff game last week since 2012 against – ironically – the Monarchs

Monte Vista is run, run and run some more on offense with sophomore JAHMON MCCLENDON and senior RASHAUN WILLIS-BROWN. The pair have combined for over 1,400 yards and 19 touchdowns.

The Monarchs fancy themselves as a defensive team, however, first and foremost.

Seniors JAMEZ MCCLENDON, JOSE GONZALEZ and CURTIS STEVENS are leaders among several two-way Monarchs.

Serra runs the ball at a 2-to-1 ratio, as the Conqustadors complete just 46 percent of their passes. Robert Harvey rushed for two scores last week in the win over the Braves, while junior Brian Pratt has 11 rushing scores on the season.

There’s good reason for the Monarchs to be a top contender for the division title… MONTE VISTA, 26-19.


CORONADO (9-2) at SANTANA (6-4) – Prepare to be entertained in Santee Friday night.

Both the Sultans and Islanders average over 30 points per game.

Sixth-ranked Coronado (9-2) survived a scare last week, getting a last-minute win over visiting Central, 20-17.

This group of Islanders has plenty of experience from last year’s Division 5 championship team, including junior quarterback Briley Knight, who threw the decisive touchdown pass last week.


Santana senior RB BOBBY WALLACE / photo by TRyan Photography

Coronado is a run-first type of offense, but avaerage an outrageous 22 yards per completion when they take to the air. Knight has 17 touchdown and just four interceptions this season, while the Islanders’ run game produces 7 yards per carry and has 34 TDs this season.

That’s fine by DOMINIC DEHOYOS, ADAM VARGO and STEPHEN ROE, who key the Sultans’ big-play defense.

The Sultans have given up their share of points, but they’ve made the necessary stops in their key wins along the way to earn their third seed in the division after winning six of their last eight games.

Santana certainly can feel confident that their offense can keep up with Coronado, despite the fact that the Islanders allowed just over 10 points per game. Only a couple of opponents really slowed the Sultans from their normal output this season and the reason Coronado was seeded so low was primarily based on strength of schedule after the rankings were crunched.

Junior quarterback JOSH OEDEWALDT, along with senior receivers ANDERS TOLHURST, AIDEN RASMUSSON and BROCK ELLIS give the Sultans an Air Coryell-looking attack. Oedewaldt has thrown for 2,178 yards and 26 touchdowns.

However, still lurking in the backfield is senior BOBBY WALLACE, the most prolific runner in Santana history. Wallace is second in the East County in rushing yards and touchdowns this season.

Santana won a first-round game at home last season against a Central program that almost pulled of the upset last week at the Islanders, so… SANTANA 37-30.




Fearless Forcaster’s Record
Last week:  2-3 (.400)
Season:      79-24 (.766)

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