East County Sports

Small-school Pats get big playoff win





EastCountySports.com staff report


EL CAJON – Christian High became the lowest-enrollment school to win a San Diego CIF Division II playoff game with a 24-21 win over visiting Otay Ranch at Valley Stadium on Friday night.

Freshman kicker Nathan Provience booted a 20-yard field goal with 1:32 left in the game to give CHS a 24-21 lead.

Then, freshman defensive back Chris Acreage made two stops on the Mustangs’ last-minute possession, including an interception near the front of the end zone as time expired, sending the Pats into the quarterfinals.

Christian High junior quarterback Gabe Krug rushed 21 times for 150 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play, 85-yard drive with 2:49 left to play in the third quarter which gave the hosts a 19-14 lead.

A two-point conversion pass from senior Nate Stine to senior Todd Beezer gave the Pats a 21-14 advantage.

But the Mustangs tied the game with 6:48 to play in regulation on a 5-yard touchdown run by junior Carl Addy.

The drive was aided by a 40-yard completion from quarterback Paco Puente to senior Adrian DeLa Cruz, and a 25-yard run by junior Dylan Baldoni

On the ensuing possession, junior Christian Salacup had a 42-yard run on a third-and-4 play to take the ball down to the Mustang 15.

After getting near the goal line, Baldoni had a tackle-for-loss on Krug, bringing out the Pats’ young kicker, who missed a point-after try in the first quarter. Despite his stutter step, the kick appeared to easily split the uprights.

Puente drove the Mustangs close to field goal range but not close enough for an attempt, forcing the offense to try for the end zone.

Beezer recorded a sack on the final drive of the game.

Acreage defended a pass on the final series before making his interception after the receiver couldn’t recover his footing after the ball was just short of the goal line.

The Mustangs struck on their second possession when Puente connected with senior Dylan Baca on a 55-yard touchdown.

The Patriots countered in just five plays, which included a 49-yard run by Salacup to the 1, where Stine rushed in to tie the game at 7-all with 5:18 left in the opening quarter.

Otay Ranch then managed an 11-play drive which was aided by a third-down pass interference penalty.

Senior Ernesto Perez scored on a 6-yard run to give the ‘Stangs a 14-7 advantage.

Christian then followed with its own impressive long drive, using 10 plays to go just 58 yards, capped by a touchdown pass from Krug-to-Beezer from nine yards out to give the Pats a 14-13 lead with 8:43 to go until halftime.

“We knew that Otay was gonna have the size advantage but that just motivated us to work harder,” Krug said. “Two standout lineman would be Isiah Owens and Eric Markowicz and the rest of the line. Christian (Salacup) also had a great game offensively and defensively, so a lot of props to him.

“It was a really great game and we all had a ton of fun came together as a unit to come out with the win.”

Andrew Young had a sack in the second quarter for Christian, while Beezer had an interception in the second quarter.

“Beezer left it all on the field tonight,” Salacup said.

Salacup had a strip and recovery in the third quarter, then later in the quarter, had an interception and 45-yard return.

“I knew they were gonna throw to the receiver that caught it and I just came up behind and outmuscled him pretty much,” Salacup said. “I wasn’t having the best first half (with a muffed punt) but my team and coaches kept my head up and my team didn’t give up on me and got me ready for the second half. I first want to thank God because without him none of this would be possible and my abilities are God-given.”

Christian High senior Alex Markowicz had two tackles-for-loss and defended a pass.

“We all worked as a team, executed plays, and did what we practiced all week to do, and came out with the win,” Salacup said. “We knew they were an evenly balanced team that likes to throw and run and we stopped their run game with our outstanding defensive forcing them to throw and from there, I trusted my teammates and happened to be at the right place and the right time.”

Otay Ranch junior Sebastian Miramontes had a sack in the fourth quarter.

Mustang senior Jordan Garcia hauled in a fourth-down reception with seven seconds left in the game, giving Otay one last shot at the end zone.

The Patriots, seeded No. 6, will travel to face third-seeded Vista next Friday night.

“They’re a tough opponent,” Krug said. “But a great week of practice and a good game plan is what we’ll strive for in order to come out with the win.”

The Patriots will attempt to reach the Division II semifinals but would need to defeat legendary Vista High on the road next Friday.

“We know Vista is a hard, working, tough team so we just have to go hard in practice as we did for Otay, study and practice what we need to improve on and I think it will be a good game.”

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