East County Sports

Eagles suffer first shutout in nine years



By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

GRANITE HILLS —- Everyone seemed to enjoy the Granite Hills High homecoming game, held Friday (Sept. 10) at Valley Stadium, which also served as Military Appreciation Night.

In recognition of the 20th anniversary since the 9-11 tragedy fell upon the United States, the family of Eagles defensive back Joaquin Thomas were joyous by the surprise return of relative Stephanie Thomas from her current military commitment, arriving just two hours prior to kickoff.

At halftime, there was the introduction of the homecoming court, with the naming of Mikey Birkenbach, a defensive back from the football team, as the king, and queen Nina Bacarti , a softball player.

As for the game itself, visiting Eastlake was the ballclub which left the field with smiling faces. The Titans turned three crucial Eagles mistakes into 17 easy points, racing to a 31-0 victory.

The shutout was the first suffered by Granite Hills in almost a decade, falling 41-0 at Valhalla to close the 2012 campaign.

The 31-point margin was a bit misleading, as both sides were able to run the ball. But just like last week’s setback to Madison, turnovers would allow the opponent to gather easy points.

When Granite Hills fumbled the ball away on a strip and recovery by Jordan Jackson on its first possession, Titans running back Jordan Blondin rumbled 34 yards on the very next play on a burst up the middle.

The Eagles then tossed an interception that was returned 86 yards by Eastlake safety Dominick Wright to the end zone. However, only the first 51 yards counted due to a penalty on the runback.

Eastlake, utilizing its triple-option running game, was twice stopped by the Eagles defense.

However, the Titans gained a first down on a fake punt to keep the drive alive. When they were stopped a second time, kicker Kalen Jones bombed a 47-yard field from the left hashmark for a 10-0 advantage early in the second quarter. The kick was the longest in the CIF-San Diego Section this season.

Eastlake closed the half with a 17-play, 72-yard march, capped by a 4-yard gallop over the middle by Treyton White with 45 seconds left before intermission. White also plays left defensive end.

Just like against Madison, the Eagles again fumbled the ball away in the third quarter, setting up a short field. and a 1-yard TD burst by Ayden Billups.

The late score saw Nayhum Lao score on an option-left for 19 yards, , giving each of the Titans’ four backs one score in the contest.

Coming out of halftime, the Eagles kept running back, not showing much in opening the offense in an attempt to rally. At one point, they held a “double-possession” as a pass was intercepted, but the Titans return man lost the ball on a fumble.

Granite Hills then moved the ball, again almost exclusively on the ground, until losing the ball on downs at the Eastlake 40.

The only other time the Eagles advanced deep into Eastlake territory was to the 23 in the first quarter, but another fumble killed their chance to score.

The Granite Hills defense played much better than the final score would indicate, but just couldn’t force a turnover.

Linebacker Carter Braun led the ballclub with nine tackles; he was also on the homecoming court. Meanwhile, senior defensive lineman Zach Burton displayed a great swim move to avoid a pair of Titans blockers to register a first-quarter sack.

In total offense, Eastlake (3-1) led 315-to-150, mostly added by superior field position.

Blondin completed 15 of 19 passes and had 193 total yards for Eastlake (3-1), which could enter the top ten this week.

Next week, Granite Hills (2-2) will host Otay Ranch in another tough matchup.

Eastlake (3-1)…….. 7 10 7 7 – 31
Granite Hills (2-2) .. 0  0 0 0 –  0
E – Blondin 24 run (K.Jones kick)
E – FG K.Jones 47
E – White 4 run (K.Jones kick)
E – Billups1 run (K.Jones kick)
E – Loa 18 run (K.Jones kick)


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