East County Sports

Return triumphant for young Cougars

Steele Canyon's Major GIvens carries on Friday night. / Rob Riingen




By Jim Lindgren 

LAKESIDE – The first game of a season is always special for football coaches, players and fans alike. Perhaps never so much as Friday night. Emphasize NEVER.

In March. Seven months late.

No scrimmage. Real game.

After a year of wondering and wondering. And waiting and waiting.

A Steele Canyon player got lit up on a kickoff return in the first quarter.

A scream from his own sideline: “Welcome back, kid!”

Indeed. Welcome back!

In near-freezing temperatures and a wee bit of rain, Steele Canyon flexed its muscles and speed a bit more efficiently than El Capitan and came away with a 35-12 win in front of a crowd of about 400 folks who had been told for months that gatherings of 10 or more people could be a grave risk to their health … or someone else’s life.

“That was fun,” Steele Canyon quarterback Elia Kirisimasi said with an ear-to-ear grin that symbolized months and months of a super-frustrating, wait-and-see game played out in political offices in Washington, D.C., Sacramento and San Diego and science institutions in Atlanta and, well, worldwide. “It was awesome to get out there and play again.”

Relishing the moment, Steele Canyon coach Scott Longerbone seemed relaxed – perhaps relieved to be playing – throughout the official contest with nary a championship on the line.

“It was fun,” Longerbone said. “I was really impressed by the kids. A lot of chippiness, but we held our own. We’ll get better.

“The experience for everybody was fantastic. These families who have been sitting around the house doing nothing, this was great.”

Friday marked Day No. 365 from when schools were shuttered completely for the final months of the 2019-20 school year and then opened late and very briefly for the 2020-21 year. El Capitan students only recently were permitted to be on campus two days a week. Steele Canyon, a charter school, has limited students on campus to fewer than half.

Still, football players went through arduous workout sessions, whether on Zoom or separated in small groups while wearing masks.

As a longtime walk-on coach who first-hand felt the brutal brunt of the coronavirus pandemic as an owner in the restaurant industry, El Capitan coach Ron Burner was pleased just to get to “open” something.

“The kids got to play football,” he said. “I wish it was a better outcome for us and we eliminated some mistakes, but it was a football game. You take away those two long punt returns, it’s a decent ballgame.

“But we’ve all been waiting a long time for this day. It was special.”

The Cougars and sophomore tailback Major Givens scored on their first play from scrimmage on a 22-yard sweep left after Adrien Chargualaf returned a punt 40 yards.

Joshua Trendvahl catches a touchdown on Friday. / Rob Riingen

Establishing a defense that would shut out the Vaqueros for 3½ quarters, Steele stuffed a fourth-and-2 play on the next possession and then drove 57 yards in seven plays to take a 14-0 first-quarter lead when Joshua Trendvahl hauled in a 12-yard scoring strike from Kirisimasi with 0:30 on the clock.

The Cougars got another pair of touchdowns in the second quarter. With 3:46 left, Givens showcased his multiple talents by nabbing a 16-yard scoring pass from Kirisimasi to make it 21-0.

After another three-and-out stand, Chargualaf fielded a punt and darted 34 yards into the end zone for a 28-0 lead with 2:11 before intermission.

The Cougars’ Kenneth Davis recovered a fumble and rumbled 7 yards to the 15-yard line with 0:11 to play. But Longerbone elected to kneel on the next play and head to the locker room, er, end zone for a brief coaching moment.

Before the game, El Capitan honored its senior players in a special ceremony with parents permitted to greet them on the field.

A Senior Night is normally the norm for the last home game of a season. This year, who knows?

“Ron asked me a few days ago if it was alright that they hold Senior Night,” Longerbone said. “I told him, ‘You do anything you want. I don’t care. We’re playing a game.’ ”

No one scored in the third quarter, and both coaches emptied their sidelines in the fourth quarter to make sure everyone got a chance to play.

“It’s hard to do for a lot of us coaches,” Burner said before the game. “We’re programmed to win football games. Now, we’re trying to focus on playing everyone. We have 118 kids in the program who have busted their butts for nine months waiting and waiting and not ever knowing if they would ever get to play at all. We’re going to play them.”

El Capitan finally got on the scoreboard as junior Savigon Yokley, playing his first game at quarterback, raced 10 yards for a touchdown with 5:33 to play.

The Cougars got another score when backup quarterback Eric King scored on a 1-yard plunge at 1:38.

Then the Vaqueros drove again, and Antwone Yokley made a spectacular catch off a toss from Mason Parr from 24 yards out with 0:11 left.

COVID-19 testing barring, there will be another game for both schools. Steele Canyon will host No. 2-ranked Cathedral Catholic next Friday.

The Vaqueros will drive over to Granite Hills. (No busses. They will literally drive over to Valley Stadium in El Cajon).

Whatever it takes, right?

It’s a real game!


Steele Canyon 14 14 0  7 – 35 

El Capitan     0  0 0 12 – 12  

SC – Major Givens 22 run (David Martinez kick)

SC – Joshua Trendvahl 12 pass from Elia Kirisimasi (David Martinez kick)  

SC – Major Givens 16 pass from Elia Kirisimasi (David Martinez kick)

SC – Adrien Chargualaf 34 punt return (David Martinez kick)

EC – Savigon Yokley 10 run (kick blocked)

SC – Eric King 1 run (David Martinez kick)

EC – Antwone Yokley 24 pass from Mason Parr (kick failed)



Steele Canyon – Major Givens 10-67-1, Elia Kirisimasi 7-27-0, Manny Lovering 2-5-0, Jacob Manzo 2-(-2)-0, Jacob Meza 2-4-0, Eric King 3-(-3)-1, Kaleen Perkins 1-(-3)-0.

El Capitan – Savigon Yokley 14-79-1, Alex Fa’aea 3-42-0, Angel Diaz 4-38-0, Xavier Peace 7-34-0, Mason Parr 2-24-0, Daison Desinor 3-14-0, Taylor Grasmick 3-1-0.


Steele Canyon – Elia Kirisimasi 6-14-54-0 (2 TDs), Eric King 3-3-25-0.

El Capitan – Savigon Yokley 4-8-28-0, Mason Parr 1-1-24-0 (TD), Alex Fa’aea 0-1-0-0.


Steele Canyon – Manny Lovering 4-30-0, Major Givens 3-22-1, Finley O’Gorman 1-15-0, Joshua Trendvahl 1-12-0.

El Capitan – Antwone Yokley 2-30-1, Angel Diaz 1-10-0, Taylor Grasmick 1-6-0, Daison Desinor 1-6-0.


Steele Canyon – Spencer Campillo fumble recovery, sack; Finley O’Gorman sack; Kenneth Davis fumble recovery; Adrien Chargualaf blocked PAT; #3 fumble recovery.

El Capitan – Stryder Prather sack; Austin Lee pass defense; Santana Medina pass defense.


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