East County Sports

Championship trio set for state playoffs

The Steele Canyon captains last Saturday against Ramona. / photo by Tammy Ryan - TRYAN PHOTOGRAPHY




By Ramon Scott



EL CAJON – Wow. What a weekend.

Now this.

Three local teams will take the field this weekend in the CIF Southern California Regional Championships of all things.

Welcome to the big time, East County.

The Helix Highlanders, Steele Canyon Cougars and Monte Vista Monarchs are one step away from a state division title.

All three teams certainly have a chance to make it to the ultimate game.


HELIX (12-1) at OAKS CHRISTIAN (12-2) – Helix, ranked eighth in California, has gelled at times in the postseason and also left some doubt as to whether they can meet this type of challenge from the Lions of Westlake Village.

This Division 1-AA game will be streamed live on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at http://www.myspectrumsports.com/cif_fb

Oaks Christian has rallied to win playoff games the last three weeks. Then the fires, including the Harris fire, posed a threat to a time or venue change. Still the game is set and the forecast is clear for this anticipated matchup.

The Highlanders have won 10-straight games, while the Lions have won nine in-a-row.

Both teams matched up this season with Paraclete, of Lancaster, which is playing in the Division 1-A regional semifinal.

However, it was Oaks Christian which defeated the Spirit, 30-21, at home, while Helix was sent to defeat a week earlier by Southern Section Division 5 champs, 23-6, proving their eventual might.

Despite that disparity, the rankings have this one very tightly-rated, making the Lions just the slightest of favorites, thanks in part to a home field edge.

Helix senior ISAIAH WOODEN / photo by Tammy Ryan – TRyan Photography

Oaks Christian RB Zach Charbonnet has 1,879 rushing yards and 22 TDs, while the star on defense is end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who has 20 sacks.


Helix interior star ARTURO TORRES has to be recognized as one of the county’s top linemen.

Also playing spectacularly up front last week in the Highlanders’ section championship win over top-ranked Mission Hills were WILLIAM PAYNE, ISAIAH MANN, LOPAKA ROJAS, ZEKE RODRIGUEZ and MATTHEW AVI’I.

They’ll have to keep Scottie quarterback CARSON BAKER upright.

As good as Helix’s offense has been, it has been ISAIAH WOODEN that has shined the brightest at the most critical moments.

And steady sophomore RB ELELYON “Fatto” NOA  has continued to excel. He rushed for 164 yards and 3 TDs in the title game last Saturday.

Senior superstar ISAAC TAYLOR-STUART led the defense with 10 tackles against the Grizzlies, while unheralded Helix defenders JAYDEN TAUANU’U, JAGGER GILES, REE REE TARRANT-PATANE and RAYMOND SANCHEZ, who won the team’s sportsmanship award in the final, all made seven tackles in the win.

The Highlanders’ biggest concern going in might be the health of top-tier two-way star RASHAD SCOTT.

Scott was injured during the second quarter of the game against Mission Hills. He didn’t return due to a reported foot injury.

Tauanu’u, Sanchez, MICHAEL SHAWCROFT and MATT AVI’I were credited with passes defended in Scott’s absence.

The winner of this one plays the winner between No. 16 Central Fresno (12-1) and No. 3 Folsom (14-0) at Sacramento State.

Helix’s last trip to this level resulted in a 32-28 loss at Mission Viejo. The Highlanders will need a healthy Scott in this matchup… OAKS CHRISTIAN, 24-21.




STEELE CANYON (10-4) at EL MODENA (12-2) – Congratulations on your first section title Steele Canyon. Now welcome to the state bowl playoffs.

The Cougars travel to face the Southen Section Division 7 champ Vanguards, in Orange, on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Steele Canyon hardly appears intimidated despite its role as a small underdog.

In fact, the Cougars are walking into El Mo’s Fred Kelly Stadium more like Lavar Ball.

Steele Canyon senior quarterback THOMAS FISHBURNE is finally getting his just due in being considered among the county’s elite players this season.

His postseason effort in wins over Ramona and Bishop’s has elevated him from star status to just a flat-out championship performer.

Steele Canyon against Ramona in the championship game. / photo by Tammy Ryan – TRyan Photography

However, Fish’s main man, JORDAN ANDERSON, somehow continues to get overlooked despite 13 touchdowns this season

And while senior big man MIKEL OLIVER has been solid and steady on the defensive front, fellow seniors DARIN WALTON and ROBERT WHITEHEAD have emerged as defensive superstars who came up big in the clutch when leading the Cougars to their first-ever section title in eight tries.

El Mo won its first CIF championship in 33 years last weekend led by QB A.J. Esperanza, RB Andrew Carvajal and WR Justin Simpson. Four different backs scored in last week’s section title win over Don Lugo, 35-7, the Vanguards’ eighth-straight win.

The Vanguards’ Angel Alcala picked up three sacks in the championship game and El Mo held Don Lugo to use 119 yards from scrimmage.

The winner hosts the survivor of the other regional between Sutter (12-1) and favored Half Moon Bay (13-0)… EL MODENA, 28-27.



MONTE VISTA (8-5) vs. KATELLA (13-1) – Katella, of Anaheim, may not want to watch the film of the Monarchs’ JAHMON MCCLENDON in last week’s Division 4 section final win over previously unbeaten San Diego last Friday.

After all, the Knights speedy defense had all sorts of problems tackling in their own right in their 55-49 in a Southern Section Division 11 shootout win over Covina in an emotional and thrilling game-of-the-year type of contest.

If K-town can’t wrap up again this week, we could see King Jahmon in the open field again heading to the end zone.

The Cavers saw McClendon find pay dirt a section record eight times in the championship win, in which Monte Vista racked up a mind-boggling 71 points.

Monte Vista junior kicker JASON HERNANDEZ / photo by Tammy Ryan – TRyan Photography

Could another wild tote be in the offing?

This CIF Southern California Regional Division 5-A game will be played at Glover Stadium on Saturday at 6.

The game had been scheduled for Handel Stadium at Western High because the city of Anaheim had plans to remove the visitors’ side temporary bleachers.

The city is keeping those bleachers intact for this game so that it can be played at Glover, Katella’s usual home field.

The Knights (13-1) won their first ever CIF championship and were led in their final by quarterback Nathan Arrington, who passed for 342 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior has passed for 2,910 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.

Arrington and two-way co-star EDWARD WILLIAMS played through injuries in the victory.

McClendon’s performance ranks with some of the top championship game performances in history, but how much of a toll did it take on Jahmon?

McClendon left it all on the field last Friday afternoon, as he somehow picked himself up off the DeVore Stadium turf time-after-time despite a severe battle with fatigue, the result of playing on an empty stomach, according to the star.

McClendon, a junior, has 3,919 career rushing yards and 58 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, after a back-and-forth first half, the Monte Vista defense – led by the brothers SCHMIDT, BLAKE and LOGAN – was the one with the second-half stamina to slow San Diego’s heralded trio.

JEVON BROOKS had eight tackles and a 37-yard interception return to lead Monte Vista’s tremendous secondary, which also doesn’t seem to get its just due. AMIR CONLEY and TORREY MACK are underrated stars.

The team that emerges with the win here hosts the winner between Grass Valley Bear River (10-3) and slight-favored Fortuna (12-2).


K-town has won 13 in a row but Monte Vista looks to have the championship experience… MONTE VISTA, 38-36.



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