East County Sports

Eagles let Madison take it to house




By Jim Lindgren

Special to EastCountySports.com


SAN DIEGO – Against most teams on most evenings, Granite Hills played well enough to win its football game on Friday night.

Madison, however, is not one of those “most” teams.

The Warhawks are a perennial power in the San Diego Section and feature one of the shiftiest running backs in the section in multi-faceted Ke’ontae Springs.

Oh, and their defense is pretty darn good as well.

Granite Hills won the real estate battle in terms of total yards but lost on a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns in the first half.

No. 13-ranked Madison’s 39-29 victory over No. 11 Granite Hills was ugly in most regards and marred by over 200 yards in penalties, but a win against a highly regarded Division I team like Granite Hills is always special.

“That’s a great team over there,” Madison coach Rick Jackson said. “They’re well-coached and play a tough brand of football.”

Said Eagles coach Kellan Cobbs, “You can’t spot them 14 points and expect to win. They’re just too good.”

The Warhawks (2-1) took a big lead at 32-9 midway through the third quarter but needed every bit of it in the end as the Eagles (2-1) rallied behind Justus McComb and a young, up-and-progressing offense.

Undaunted by his costly interceptions in the first half, McComb guided the Eagles to three straight touchdown passes in a 12-minute span to pull Granite Hills within 32-29 with 1:55 to play.

Springs, to that point, had been limited to 80 yards on 18 carries by an aggressive Granite defense that is the granite of this team.

After Madison’s Sam Owens recovered an onside kick attempt by the Eagles, Springs gained 20 yards on the next play. He gained 27 yards on the next play. He basically strolled into the end zone on the next play from 4 yards to complete the scoring.

Oh, and on Granite Hills’ next play, Springs intercepted a long pass to officially seal the game.

Oh, and Springs also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and, at the time, had more passing yards (35) than rushing (9).

Oh, and later, Springs threw a 19-yard pass to regular quarterback Jaylen Thomas, who was only 2-of-5 passing for 5 yards as Granite Hills pressured him continuously and posted four sacks.

So strange was this game that after 20 minutes, Madison had run only 12 plays, and Springs had minus-2 yards rushing (but 35 passing). That from a guy who came into the third game of the season with 414 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

Madison’s 13th play was a 39-yard touchdown run by Springs to give the Warhawks a 26-9 lead they took into halftime.

To open the second half, Madison marched 58 yards in 13 plays – the Warhawks only ran 17 plays in the first half – and took a 32-9 lead after Springs sprung for a 5-yard scoring run.

More so, this game seemed doomed for the Eagles after two long Pick-6s in the first half.

Hernan Smith jumped the Eagles’ second pass of the game and returned it 45 yards untouched down the right sideline for an early 6-0 Madison lead.

James Johnson hauled in a 24-yard TD pass from McComb to give Granite a 7-6 lead.

On the first play of the second quarter, Smith made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch in the back of the end zone on a 35-yard heave by Springs to give Madison a 12-7 lead.

“Our DB didn’t expect him to be able to throw the ball that far,” Cobbs said.

It was Springs’ second TD pass of the year.

Granite engineered a decent drive after that and appeared to score on a long pass to Johnson, but he clearly was called for offensive pass interference.

Granite Hills got a safety when Madison’s punter fielded a bounced snap with a knee on the turf to make it 12-9.

Three plays later, the Warhawks went up 19-9 when Owens jumped a receiver and returned an interception 58 yards for a TD.

“Our defense was great,” Jackson said. “Those two Pick-6s were huge. It was ugly with a lot of mistakes, but we’ll take the win.”

Springs finally got going, reeling off a 39-yard TD run to give Madison its halftime margin.

Granite Hills mounted its comeback late in the third quarter, marching 69 yards in 11 plays with Johnson scoring his second touchdown on a 10-yard pass from McComb.

Midway through the final frame, McComb hit Jacob Setterberg for a 13-yard score, and it was 32-22.

Matthew Keeley, who earlier picked his fourth interception of the season, hauled in a short pass from McComb, fumbled the ball and then recovered it in the end zone for a 7-yard score. Suddenly it was 32-29, and the Eagles attempted a third straight onside kick attempt.

Madison recovered, however, and Spring put the game away for good.

McComb, who came into the game with 486 yards in his first two varsity starts, was 15-of-31 for 201 yards and four TDs, but the three interceptions were costly. He also rushed for 41 yards.

“We didn’t help ourselves,” Cobbs said. “Offense put us in a deep hole.

“We came back strong though. That shows a lot about our football team.”

Johnson caught six balls for 94 yards and two TDs. Jaquayle Hodges nabbed three balls for 38 yards, and Keeley caught two for 39.

Granite Hills finished with 283 total yards to Madison’s 242.

“Defensively, we played well enough to win,” Cobbs said. “Offense needs to get better. Too many costly mistakes.”

The Eagles’ Jacob Hennessey recovered a blocked punt that boinked off a Madison lineman’s helmet, and Hennessey added a big sack. Austin Smith and Zach Burton also recorded sacks.

Madison, which won a state division championship in 2016, had lost two of its previous three games to Grossmont Hills League teams. Grossmont beat the Warhawks, 44-42, in a wild Division I playoff game last fall. No. 6-ranked Steele Canyon edged Madison, 19-14, last week.

In three weeks, the Warhawks play at No. 9 Grossmont before embarking on a Western League schedule that includes games against No. 5 Lincoln, No. 1 Cathedral Catholic and No. 2 St. Augustine. Grossmont was idle this week after putting up a San Diego Section-record 817 total yards against Mater Dei last week.

“It’s definitely the toughest schedule we’ve ever had,” Jackson said.

Likewise, Granite Hills plays host to Westview next week, then travels to El Centro for a game against Southwest before taking on league foes Grossmont, Steele Canyon and No. 3 Helix.

Granite Hills was a tri-champion in the league last year with Steele Canyon and Helix and advanced to the semifinals for the fourth time in six years, losing to Division II champion Lincoln. The Eagles’ only two section title games resulted in losses to Morse in 1979 and Oceanside in 1975. Granite beat Madison, 32-14, in the ’75 semifinals. That was the first and only time the Eagles had ever played Madison before Friday.


Granite Hills 7  2 6 14 – 29  

Madison       6 20 6 7  – 39

M – Hernan Smith 45 interception return (kick blocked)

GH – James Johnson 24 pass from Justus McComb (Gavin Armstrong kick)

M – Hernan Smith 35 pass from Ke’ontae Springs (pass failed)

GH – Safety, punter down in end zone

M – Sam Owens 58 interception return (Mauricio Escodero kick)

M – Ke’ontae Springs 39 run (Mauricio Escodero kick)

– Ke’ontae Springs 5 run (kick blocked)

GH – James Johnson 10 pass from Justus McComb (pass failed)

GH – Jacob Setterberg 10 pass from Justus McComb (Gavin Armstrong kick)

GH – Matthew Keeley 7 pass from Justus McComb (Gavin Armstrong kick)

M – Ke’ontae Springs 4 run (Mauricio Escodero kick)

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