East County Sports





EastCountySports.com staff report



EL CAJON – For all intents and purposes, at least in football, the Grossmont Conference seemingly no longer exists.

Because of the previous CIF power ranking system, there became virtually no incentive for a Grossmont Hills League school to play one from the Grossmont Valley League. In fact, a victory over a lower-echelon school could hurt its postseason seeding or even prevent a school from even making the playoffs.

Not to mention, a power gap has increased over the last few years necessitating the current four-seven split of the conference football programs.

That could change, however, in the next few years since the county’s Football Advisory Committee voted late in the preseason to revert back to a more general formula previously used by the section that puts less emphasis on a true power rating that encompasses all of the season’s results.

Now the path to a team’s standing in its section division is clearly laid out. However, when the section previously used the “new” system, the postseason seedings were often less accurate than with the secret “algorithm-based” rating that produced fewer upsets in all divisions since its inception.

Meaning, that teams with a higher seed won more often regardless of whether they appeared to be the better team or not, meaning the seed placed on the team was more accurate.

Still, with all the talk about which format is best, the final seeding is still conducted by the section office with input from the committee.

The subtle difference in the rating systems, however, may allow some of the stronger teams in the Valley to meet those Hills teams more frequently once again.

Thus, in 2021, there is only one game slated between GHL and GVL schools, and it’s the annual rivalry ballgame finding unbeaten teams Valhalla (1-0) traveling up Jamacha Road to Valley Stadium to take on host Granite Hills (1-0).

The game is scheduled for Thursday night at 7.

Unfortunately, at this time, the records are pretty much where the similarities end.

Granite has won four straight over their longtime foe by a composite score of 175-30 (142-13 over the last three years; 56-7 in the spring).

The current GHL champ Eagles are currently the highest-ranked East County team in the county poll, coming in at No. 11 following a 14-10 season-opening win over Poway. It was the third straight time Granite has opened the full season with a four-point win over the Titans. Poway only managed 86 yards of offense.

But the Norsemen are standing tall after their first win since Oct. 25, 2019 (a 28-20 win over El Capitan), a 14-8 win over visiting Hilltop, which snapped an eight-game losing streak.

This game doesn’t figure to be close but both teams will have goals. The Eagles figure to put the claws down but also ensure their roster’s experience grows as a few of their top players can continue to heal if need be. The Norsemen will have their chance to try to crack the scoreboard despite Granite Hills’ strong depth.

This century, Valhalla opened by winning seven straight, then the teams have split the last 14 but in the 20th Century, Granite took series, 22-4.

Since 2001, only two games finished with a 7-point margin. All the others have been double-digit victories, and often blowouts, no matter who won, with an average margin of victory of 28.5 points… GRANITE HILLS 42, VALHALLA 7.

HILLTOP (0-1) at EL CAPITAN (1-0) – Also on Thursday night at 7, the Vaqueros will host a Military Appreciation Night with military members in uniform or with a military ID  receiving free admission.

Among the festivities is sure to be the fifth consecutive victory for the Vaqueros, which would extend the East County’s longest current winning streak.

El Capitan coaches will warn, however, the Lancers actually won the last meeting, 47-41, in Lakeside when Vaquero head coach Ron Burner’s son, Ron, was the defensive coordinator of the Lancers. Neither Burner was probably too thrilled when the teams lit it up for 48 points in the third quarter.

Vaquero senior quarterback Savigon Yokley played in that game and had a 48-yard reception. But that was nothing compared to the six touchdowns Yokley accounted for in last Friday night’s 46-12 win at Canyon Hills.

Yokley threw for three touchdowns, ran for two more, and later scored on a 93-yard touchdown reception. He threw two touchdowns to his twin brother, Antwone.

The Lancers penetrated the red zone failed to reach the end zone against Valhalla last week, scoring their eight points on two field goals and a safety.

In five previous meetings, El Cap leads 3-2. However, two of those were actually league games, believe it or not?

Two of the Vaquero wins came in El Cap’s first two years when they were in the Metropolitan Conference before the Grossmont Conference was created.

In 1959, “host” El Cap played at Helix at beat the Lancers behind two touchdowns by Les Cites, 14-12, then in 1960, “host” Hilltop played at Chula Vista High and lost to the Vaqueros, 27-13, as Al Hinkle and Leon Herzog both scored a pair of TDs for the Vaqueros. El Capitan also played three “home” games at Cajon Speedway in ’60.

The Vaqueros would appear to have the much stronger engine this time around, as well… EL CAPITAN, 35-7.

No. 12 HELIX (1-0) vs No. 13 OTAY RANCH (1-0) (at Eastlake HS) The Highlanders performed well enough to defeat Mira Mesa, 28-20, in front of a big crowd that included a few hundred former players who were honored at Hart Stadium Friday night.

Helix allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns as the Marauders remained in the game in the second half. Mira Mesa will be the lowest-rated team the Scotties will face on their non-league schedule.

The Highlanders, who have been beset by some COVID issues at the start of the season, are surely in a toss-up this Friday night against the Mustangs.

Helix played plenty of underclassmen on both sides of the line in its win.

Helix senior Christian Washington rushed for over 200 yards in the opener and made the big play, it seemed, just when the Scotties needed it, scoring three touchdowns.

The Mustangs are the higher-rated team by the computers but the Highlanders still feature an awful lot of talent.

Otay Ranch is primarily a passing team, with quarterback Brian Rudden, a junior, throwing for 275 yards in a 19-14 season-opening win at Madison. The Mustangs registered five sacks.

Helix junior Adren Parker, who had an interception against Mira Mesa, will lead a likely busy secondary. The Highlander pass rush, which mustered a pair of sacks against Mira Mesa, could also neutralize the Mustang aerial game.

The series is really tied, 1-1-1, but this is the first meeting since 2009. Otay won in 2006, then the tie in 2008, before Helix won in 2009, 26-14, at Otay.

The non-league schedule for Helix does not get any easier after this… HELIX, 22-21.


MADISON (0-1) at No. 16 STEELE CANYON (0-1) – The Cougars intercepted three passes but ultimately lost at No. 6 Eastlake, 10-6, last Friday night.

Steele Canyon senior Spencer Campillo returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown. He also recorded a sack in the defensive tussle.

Major Gives, a junior, rushed for over 100 yards against the Titans’ titanium defense. The Cougars couldn’t get much of a passing game going against the hosts.

Madison’s versatile James Tavio scored last week in the loss to Otay Ranch, but ultimately, the Mustangs’ passing toasted the Warhawks late.

Madison won in 2016 and ’17 to leads the series, 2-1, but Steele Canyon won the last regular-season meeting in 2019, 19-14, in Spring Valley against the Ke’ontae Springs-led Warhawks.

Two touchdowns may be enough here… STEELE CANYON, 14-7.

No. 5 EL CAMINO (1-0) at GROSSMONT (1-0) –
The Foothillers and senior Ryan Rodieck stopped upstart Sweetwater’s spring-long winning streak.

Rodieck caught three touchdown passes from senior Trenton Giles, and threw a 45-yard touchdown pass, as well, in a 37-14 victory over a 101-year-old rival.

Senior Brennan Sanders helped lead the Foothiller defense against Sweetwater’s resurgent running attack.

Grossmont also appears to have the conference’s top return man in Gio Burns, who was about 20 yards shy of a pair of punt runbacks against the Red Devils.

El Camino rallied from down six to beat Saints, 21-13, after losing their lead running back to a season-ending ankle injury just five minutes into the game and then losing four turnovers in the first half.

Still, the Wildcats didn’t deviate from their ground game as quarterback Kiah Reid rushed for two scores and Pe’a Tausulu shifted from offensive line to running back to score the game’s decisive touchdown. Tausulu also had a sack.

El Camino’s first season was in 1975 under Herb Meyer (went 11-1-1; def. Kearny for CIF title following a 6-6 declared tie with Monte Vista in a semifinal but won the on-field tiebreaker), so, surprisingly, this is the first-ever meeting on the football field between the two schools… EL CAMINO, 21-14.


RANCHO BUENA VISTA (1-0) at MONTE VISTA (0-1) – The Monarchs can chalk up their 49-0 loss at Lincoln as a scrimmage. Monte Vista certainly gained from its experience against the fourth-ranked Hornets.

Now the Monarchs can get back to their winning ways when they host Rancho Buena Vista – 32-0 winners over Castle Park last week. It was just the second win for the Longhorns since the start of the 2019 season.

Rancho Buena Vista was balanced against the Trojans with a running back who rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns, and a quarterback who threw for 167 yards and had a 20-yard touchdown run.

Monte Vista had very little to show for the game against the loaded Hornets but several defenders were able to make good plays against some top players, including Nathaniel Barragan and Aiden Robey.

While no gimme, Monte Vista appears to be the favorite over RBV according to the computer ratings. The Monarchs also beat the ‘Horns, 28-14, in the first-ever meeting between the programs, which came in that ’19 season following a season-opening 42-7 loss against Lincoln.

A return to form seems likely here… MONTE VISTA, 21-14.

IMPERIAL (0-0) at WEST HILLS (1-0) – West Hills recorded its second-largest margin of victory in a shutout by defeating Kearny, 55-0, in the season-opener. In 1995, the Wolf Pack shut out Montgomery in a Week 3 game, 64-0, and that team went on to win a Grossmont North League championship.

West Hills senior Braden Oberg passed for three touchdowns (two to Max Conaway) and senior Dylan Snyder rushed for a touchdown and caught a TD pass.

The Wolf Pack also had scoop-and-score touchdowns on defense and special teams. The Komets were held to under 100 yards of total offense.

Imperial had a good scrimmage showing against El Capitan in Lakeside two weeks ago but still has inexperience on defense and at quarterback. This will be the Tigers’ season-opener.

In 2018, seventh-seeded Imperial defeated tenth-seeded West Hills, 25-0, in a Division III first-round contest. The Pack won a 2014 CIF quarterfinal over the Tigers, 41-27, at home.

This is the first-ever regular-season meeting… WEST HILLS 24-13.


MONTGOMERY (0-0) at SANTANA (1-0) – Santana’s Ethan Wright was the right man for the job to help the Sultans get out of Coronado with a victory last Friday night in a 10-7 overtime victory.

Stepping in to start at quarterback on late notice, Wright finished with 157 of Santana’s 219 yards of total offense. He completed 11-of-25 passes. That’s quite a job considering the circumstances.

But it was Dylan Anderson who saved the day when he returned a kickoff 92 yards with eight minutes left in the game to finally get Santana on the scoreboard. He also had an interception in the game, which he returned 30 yards.

“I give all the credit to my blockers on that one,” Anderson said following the game. “If they don’t block anyone, I can’t score. I just remember catching the ball and instantly seeing a hole so I ran as fast as I could through it and all my teammates held the blocks, and the next thing I knew I was in the end zone.”

Jackson Scott, a junior, was another Sultan hero, booting the 23-yard game-winning field goal in the first overtime.

Montgomery, which is playing its season opener, is a great test for the Sultans in Week 2. The Aztecs were 4-1 in the spring with four shutouts and have their first-team, all-league quarterback returning with a great mix of veterans and young talent on both sides of the ball.

Santana leads this all-time series, 7-1, including 5-0 this century. Monty won the second meeting, barely, 7-6, in 1982.

The computer ratings have Montgomery as a slight favorite here but the Aztecs have had a rough time making sure things are set to go this season, as have a few other South Bay clubs.

Montgomery will have to prove itself on the road against a Sultan team that found a way to win in the adverse setting… SANTANA, 17-13.


CHRISTIAN (1-0) at ST. MARGARET’S (0-0) – The Patriots had the second-longest active winning streak in the state when the Tartans knocked out the Patriots in the state semifinals at Valley Stadium in 2014 with a 48-21 win. Christian was 13-0 at the time and had won 20 consecutive games.

This isn’t so much of a revenge game as much as it could be a preview of another SoCal playoff rematch.

That’s a long way away, but still, this one figures to be plenty of fun up in San Juan Capistrano.

Christian couldn’t be stopped, really, in its opener against the Rancho Christian Eagles, of Temecula, in a 50-14 home win last Saturday night.

Senior J.C. Gustin might be the county’s most-overlooked big-play maker. He caught a pair of touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a score in the win.

Christian High forced five turnovers, including an interception by junior Joey Merritt, who returned the ball 75 yards for a score.

St. Margaret’s didn’t have much of a spring season, playing just three games and losing two of them, but you can discount that disappointment considering the program’s annual success.

The Tartans have a quarterback that has some Ivy League interest but the defense is the team’s strength. St. Margaret’s likes to pressure the quarterback with its strong defensive line

The Patriot version has a look about it… CHRISTIAN 28-21.


EL CAJON VALLEY (0-1) at HOOVER (0-0) – The Braves and Cardinals will meet for a third-straight season and if the last two meetings are any indication, Friday night’s tilt at Breitbard Stadium figures to be more of the same.

The Braves won a meeting this past spring, 20-14, at home as El Cajon Valley won the season finale.

For the Cardinals, who are making their season debut, it means they will face the Braves for the second straight game.

El Cajon Valley’s Jaheim Mendenhall had four tackles in the victory back in April.

The Braves also won a Week 2 meeting in 2019 in El Cajon, ironically, by the score of 20-19.

Veteran Daniel Jacobs, now a senior, had an interception and a tackle-for-loss in the victory.

Although it’s El Cajon Valley’s first-ever game at Hoover, the Braves have faced “home teams” Crawford and Kearny there in the past.

The Cards are in a funk right now with 15 consecutive losses, but they have a great mentor that connects with players and has had great success in a similar situation… EL CAJON VALLEY, 19-12.

HOLTVILLE (1-0) at MOUNTAIN EMPIRE (1-0) – For the RedHawks, the Vikings are Public Enemy No. 1, meeting their arch-rival for the 64th time.

Holtville has won three straight in the series, including a CIF playoff game in 2018.

Mountain Empire appears dramatically improved after a winless spring with unheralded section star Larry Clark, one of the division’s top players.

Clark had 136 yards and three rushing touchdowns to go along with 16 solo tackles as the RedHawks crushed Maranatha Christian, 51-0, at 4S Ranch.

Just last spring, the Eagles defeated Mountain Empire, 12-6, in overtime at the RedHawks’ field. That’s a big turnaround.

The RedHawks held Maranatha to negative yardage on the night, which included minus-48 yards rushing. Chaz Ennis, a senior, had two sacks for MEHS.

Mountain Empire quarterback Corey Vann, a sophomore, threw for three touchdowns, as well.

Holtville defeated the Southwest Eagles, 36-29, with a pretty strong running game and the quarterback play of Spencer Hilfiker, who passed and rushed for scores in the contest.

The Eagles did manage over 300 yards of total offense against the Vikes, however.

The Vikings lead the series this century, 16-9 (39-22-1 overall), but MEHS has had some recent success against the H-word, winning regular-season contests in 2017 and ’18.

In 1983, these teams met in a CIF playoff game at Valley Stadium because the RedHawks’ field was unplayable following a snowstorm, so both teams traveled to El Cajon to meet.

Mountain Empire is a sure underdog but looked strong enough last week to figure that it has closed the gap from a 40-point loss two years ago… HOLTVILLE, 28-20.



SAN BERNARDINO (1-0) at FOOTHILLS CHRISTIAN (0-1) – The Knights were on the wrong side of the scales in their return to 11-man football against Army-Navy Academy last Friday night at Seau Field.

Playing an 11-man contest for the first time in nearly seven years and an actual game for the first time in 21 months, Foothills Christian lost, 36-0. The Knights, who didn’t play in the spring, had won 17-straight games, but those were amassed in 8-man competition.

The Warriors, which had won just three of their previous 20 on-field contests, had a big size advantage which proved to be a big difference maker.

San Bernardino won its opener 55-0 and has won three of its last four dating back to the spring but they have very just two wins over the prior two seasons, including an 0-10 mark in 2019.

This is the first meeting between these two but the Knights lost to Hesperia Christian, of San Bernardino County, in 2019 in an 8-man game, 38-12, as one of FCHS’ two losses that season.

The computer ratings still make the Knights a big favorite… FOOTHILLS CHRISTIAN, 28-14.


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