East County Sports

Cougars achieve first-ever 9-0 start




By Jim Lindgren

Special to EastCountySports


EL CAJON – Chris Carter was late for a team meeting earlier this week and wasn’t supposed to be in the starting lineup when Steele Canyon traveled to Grossmont for a key Grossmont Hills League matchup at Jack Mashin Stadium.


However, on the ride over from Rancho San Diego, Steele Canyon offensive coordinator Mitch Burton pitched an opening-play idea to head coach Scott Longerbone that directly involved Carter’s multi-faceted skills.


Longerbone mulled it over and ultimately conceded to Burton. Carter would have to pay for his tardiness at a later time.


On the opening play, from the 20-yard line, quarterback Elia Kirisimasi handed off to slotback Chance Johnson, who then pitched the ball back to Carter, another slot guy. Carter then pulled up in the backfield and fired a perfect strike to a wide-open Antoine Walker for an 80-yard touchdown and the rout was on.


No. 5-ranked Steele Canyon (9-0, 4-0) went on to thrash No. 10 Grossmont (6-3, 2-2) for a 58-3 victory to set up a league title showdown with No. 1 Helix (8-1, 4-0) next week at Steele Canyon.


“Yea, Coach cut me a break there,” Carter said. “I’m sure I’ll still have to pay for it, but that’s a play we practice a lot, and I was fortunate it turned out so well.”


“Mitch called that on the way over,” Longerbone said of Burton, who assumed the offensive coordinator position two days before the first game. “It’s all Mitch. Great call.”


Carter would go on to score on a 37-yard run to make it 14-0. He finished with 64 rushing yards, 44 receiving yards, 80 passing yards and added a 60-yard punt return TD as the Cougars piled up 530 total yards in winning its ninth straight to open the season for the first time in school history.


“Being 9-0 is fantastic,” Carter said. “We’ve worked really hard to get to this point.


“We have fantastic athletes, and it really showed tonight.”


While the offense showed off, the defense was equally dominant in holding the high-powered Grossmont offense to 105 total yards – the lowest output in coach Tom Karlo’s eight years at Grossmont, which came into the game averaging 501 yards and 37.6 points per game.


“Lockdown,” Longerbone said. “Secondary was absolutely lockdown.


“Jesse Spencer, my defensive coordinator, had them dialed in. We were amazingly prepared for their offense.


“From the first play to the last play, absolutely great. Just a really, really overall complete game.”


On defense, Walker picked up another interception and sacks were dealt by Colton Guerrero, Noah Samoata and Viliamu-Ah-You “Rugby” Morse. It was Rugby’s 11th sack of the season, a new school record for a potential defensive player of the year standout.


Steele Canyon put up its highest point total of the season without its starting quarterback, Jeremy Mendez-Gal, who severely injured a finger on his throwing hand in last week’s 49-7 win over Valhalla.


Kirisimasi, a junior whose Samoan name translates to Christmas, started for the first time and was brilliant, throwing for 168 yards on 11-of-20 passing for two touchdowns. He also rushed for 32 yards and a 7-yard TD.


“Elia’s a fantastic guy,” Carter said. “He played fantastic. He did everything we asked. If he keeps playing like that, we can go 14-0 and win a state title.”


The Cougars went up 7-0 on the first play, then followed that with a 10-play, 84-yard drive when Carter took a jet sweep and raced around right end for a 37-yard TD.


Grossmont got its only points on a 26-yard field by Axel Gonzalez with 1:29 left in the first quarter. The big plays were a 38-yard pass from Jaime Odom to Robert Tucker and a 13-yard pass from Odom to Adam Richmond. But on first-and-goal from the 9-yard line, Grossmont rushed for zero yards and had two dropped passes in the end zone.


Steele then went on an 8-play, 73-yard drive and made it 21-3 when Kirisimasi fired a strike to Walker in the end zone for a 10-yard TD.


Late in the half after a short Grossmont punt to the 41-yard line, Kirisimasi hit Carter for a 34-yard pickup to set up a 20-yard field by David Martinez as Steele Canyon took a 24-3 lead into intermission.


In the second half, the Cougars scored on their first three possessions to take a 45-3 lead with 5:15 left in the third quarter.


Wesley Neely had a 5-yard TD run following a 28-yard pass from Kirisimasi to Javaya Boyd.


On the ensuing kickoff, Victor Marquez forced a fumble that was recovered by Dimitri Zakar at the 16-yard line. Next play, Kirisimasi connected with Cameron Ewert on a 16-yard TD pass.


Neely’s turn again. Next series, he turned in an electrifying 49-yard scoring run. Neely finished with 122 rushing yards on 17 carries.


“Not enough,” said Neely on the sideline.


Kirisimasi scored midway through the fourth quarter, and Carter’s punt return was nothing short of outstanding as the Cougars scored their fifth TD in the past three games on special teams to ensure another weekend visit to a local Chinese buffet restaurant, compliments of Longerbone, who is also the special teams coach.


“They’re a good team, and we didn’t play our best,” Karlo said. “Things kind of snowballed.


“It was a combination of both (their defense and our offense). They played really well, and we didn’t have it tonight.


“We’ll bounce back though. We’ll learn from this, and we’ll be alright.”


Credit should also go to Steele Canyon’s offensive line. The Cougars got 282 rushing yards and 248 passing yards without a sack. The line: Logan Hicks, Isaac Hernandez, Darrin Roldan, Ulolo Samoata and James Bradle.


Kirisimasi spread the ball out to eight different receivers. Walker had two catches for 90 yards, 80 coming on the first play heave from Carter, who had two receptions for 44 yards. Boyd also caught two for 45 yards, and Ewert nabbed a pair for 23 yards.


Grossmont’s Jaime Odom came into the game with 2,045 passing yards and 624 rushing yards. He got only 97 passing on 10-of-24 attempts and had minus-3 yards rushing.


Robert Tucker caught five passes for 50 yards but only rushed five times for nine yards.


Leading receiver Brody Schicker caught only one pass for five yards.


“We have a dynamite secondary, and they really shut things down,” Longerbone said.


While Steele Canyon faces a second-straight-year epic showdown with Helix on the final day of the regular season, Grossmont plays at El Capitan (1-8, 1-3) next week with an eye on a good seed in the Division I playoffs.




Steele Canyon 14 10 21 13 – 58  

Grossmont      3  0  0  0 –  3

SC – Antoine Walker 80 pass from Chris Carter (David Martinez kick)

SC – Chris Carter 37 run (David Martinez kick)

G – FG Axel Gonzalez 26

SC – Antoine Walker 10 pass from Elia Kirisimasi (David Martinez kick)

SC – FG David Martinez 20

SC – Wesley Neely 5 run (David Martinez kick)

SC – Cameron Ewert 16 pass from Elia Kirisimasi (David Martinez kick)

SC – Wesley Neely 49 run (David Martinez kick)

SC – Elia Kirisimasi 7 run (David Martinez kick)

SC – Chris Carter 60 punt return (kick failed)

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