East County Sports

Cougar “D” spells curtains for Titans




By Jim Lindgren

Special to EastCountySports.com


SPRING VALLEY – Four decades ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers captured four Super Bowls in six years on the strength of a defense known as the Steel Curtain. With deepest regards to Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, et al, we now present the Steele Curtain.

Time and time again Friday night, the Steele Curtain defense of Steele Canyon High flexed its mettle to thwart the Titans of Eastlake in a 17-6 win on opening night of the high school football season in the San Diego Section.

“They played great defense,” Eastlake coach John McFadden said. “They have a lot of talent over there, and they really stuffed us all game.”

Of Eastlake’s 14 offensive series, 12 lasted three plays or fewer.

“Our defense is pretty stout,” Cougars coach Scott Longerbone said. “It should be, too. We have a lot of guys who played in our state championship game (two years ago). They have a lot of experience. We expect them to do what they did tonight.

“All the dudes who are supposed to be dudes played really well.”

The Titans did manage two big plays, but each time the No. 10-ranked Cougars responded quickly with decisive plays of their own.

Midway through the first quarter, Eastlake quarterback Adriel Colmenero tossed a short pass to Holden Stevens who found a seam and bolted 67 yards to the 5-yard line. Next play, zero yards. Next play, zero yards. An encroachment call moved the ball to the 2-yard line, but it took two more plays before Eastlake scored on a 1-yard Jordan Swan dive.

Moments later, Steele Canyon’s Chris Carter raced 80 yards with the ensuing kickoff, and Wes Neely scored from 12 yards out on the next play for a 7-6 lead the Cougars would never relinquish.

Moments later, Eastlake’s Mateo La burst through a hole for a 70-yard pickup to the 3-yard line. A holding penalty backed up the Titans to the 15-yard line and then a fumble was recovered by Steele Canyon’s Junior Akintunde, the first of two for the senior who was hurt most of last year but is garnering college interest this year.

Outside of those two long gains, plus an 18-yard run by La in the third quarter, Eastlake netted 6 yards for a total of 161. The Titans earned two first downs in the first half and two in the second half. They punted seven times and lost two fumbles.

They were sacked five times – thrice by Viliamu-Ahyou Morse, a 6-foot, 184-pound senior who goes by the nickname “Rugby” because he also plays that sport in the offseason. Cameron Ewert added the other two sacks and was in on several other key stops.

Chance Johnson, a three-year starter and an All-CIF candidate, collected his first interception near the end of the first half.

Antoine Walker had four pass defenses to go with a highlight 10-yard touchdown catch on an expertly thrown ball from rookie quarterback Jeremy Mendez-Gal that gave the Cougars a 14-6 lead with 4:10 to play before intermission.

“We had opportunities, and we should have done more with them,” McFadden said. “They did a great job making plays to stop us.”

Eastlake was a perennial power under McFadden for 13 years and won the Division I section championship with future NFL star Tony Jefferson in 2009. McFadden stepped down for four seasons, then was re-hired last year and guided the Titans to a 10-2 mark with its only losses coming against Torrey Pines and Helix.

Last year, sophomore quarterback Richard Colmenero threw for 2,111 yards, but he transferred to St. Augustine. This year, Adriel Colmenero shows promise as a junior quarterback for the Titans. The two Colmeneros, however, are not related.

The Titans are ranked No. 12 this season and figure to make waves in the playoffs again.

“Eastlake’s going to be tough,” Longerbone said. “They took a lump tonight, but they’re going to be good and tough to beat in the playoffs. Both of us are young on offense, but they’ve got a great defense.”

Indeed. Eastlake limited the Cougars to only 131 total yards. Neely, a 1,000-yard rusher last year, gained only 32 yards on 13 carries.

Mendez-Gal was 7-of-14 passing for 60 yards and a score in the first half, but completed only one pass in the second half for 4 yards, giving him a line of 8-for-21 for 64 yards.

Two of his better passes that could have been long touchdowns were dropped by wide-open receivers.

“I think Jeremy stepped in and did a great job,” Longerbone said. “First win in his first start. His stats should have been better. He was doing a good job running the offense. I thought he managed the game well.”

After Eastlake took a 6-0 lead, Carter’s 80-yard kickoff return turned momentum back to the Cougars.

Neely scored on a nifty, 12-yard run, slicing off the left side and sliding into the end zone.

“We really believe in special teams,” Longerbone said. “A lot of teams neglect that in the preseason, but we spend a good third of our practice time on special teams.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you score on us, you better be ready to defend us on the kick return.”

Steele Canyon’s best and only extended drive began midway through the second quarter. Neely rushed for 5 yards and Akintunde for 16. Mendez-Gal then hit Carter for 14 yards and later Walker for 15 yards to the 3-yard line. A fumble set the Cougars back 10 yards before Mendez-Gal rushed for 3 yards and then threw his first varsity TD pass to Walker for 1 14-6 lead.

The Cougars’ only other score came in the fourth quarter. “Rugby” Morse strip-sacked Eastlake’s QB and Akintunde recovered the fumble at the Titans’ 10-yard line.

Steele failed to punch a TD and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by David Martinez with 7:52 to play.

“This was a great matchup,” Longerbone said. “Eastlake throws a really good defense at you, and we were ready for it.

“We’ll continue to improve. We showed some signs. We just missed on a couple of plays. As soon as we clean those things up, we’ll be good.”


Eastlake      6 0 0 0 – 6

Steele Canyon 7 7 0 3 – 17

E – Jordan Swan 1 run (kick failed)

SC – Wes Neely 12 run (David Martinez kick)

SC – Antoine Walker 10 pass from Jeremy Mendez-Gal (David Martinez kick)

SC – FG David Martinez 24

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