East County Sports


Mount Miguel senior Ruben Hernandez. / P.J. Panebianco




By Ramon Scott



EL CAJON – While the hot mess that is the Grossmont Hills League will have to battle through their non-league schedule for a few more weeks, the red-hot Grossmont Valley League is set to commence a championship season for the first time in two years.

While three GVL teams – Monte Vista, Santana, and El Capitan – were acknowledged as co-champs of the circuit last season, the Grossmont Conference didn’t officially award a league championship to either of its two leagues.

Therefore, technically, the Monarchs still come into the league season as the back-to-back defending Valley League champions.

This season, at least two of those three teams are among the top contenders in the seven-team competition.

Joining preseason favorites El Capitan (3-1) and Santana (4-0) are the undefeated West Hills Wolf Pack (4-0).

Entering the week, the unbeaten Sultans have the highest standing in the computer ratings but the Vaqueros are the only team in the GVL that received a county top ten vote in this week’s local media poll.

The Wolf Pack, meanwhile, are actually ahead of El Cap according to the power ratings and will host both of their top rivals on the blue turf this season.

The league’s balance should create a lot of fun and excitement for all of the teams, including those not expected to be in contention.

Among the other entries, the Monarchs have one more tuneup as they try to regain contending form, while the Mount Miguel Matadors were impressive in their first victory of the season last week and are a bit of a wild card entering the fray.

Valhalla and El Cajon Valley, which have both won one game so far, will enter the campaign with a legitimate status as spoilers.

MOUNT MIGUEL (1-1) at WEST HILLS (4-0) –
West Hills head coach Casey Ash knows better than to not have his team completely focused on the matchup with the lurking Matadors.

After all, despite winning the last four games in this head-to-head series, three of those contests were decided by three points or less, with two of them coming by just one point.

Mount Miguel was forced to miss a game when an opponent had to call off a Week 2 contest due to health protocols. Then the Matadors tried to schedule a game for their bye week, but couldn’t work it out, giving them a two-week hiatus from competition.

The team proved ready in Week 4, recording the program’s first non-league shutout in six years in a 27-0 win over winless Crawford.

Mount Miguel senior quarterback Ruben Hernandez is someone the Matadors can get behind. Hernandez passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two touchdowns in the win.

Two-way sophomore Jeremiah Castillo is a name to get used to for the next few years when discussing the Matadors.

Mount Miguel junior Saul Salgado also is making his presence known on both sides of the ball.

However, the task will be tall against the Pack.

West Hills is one of 10 undefeated teams left in the county (along with Santana).

The Wolf Pack were simply terrific once again in a 34-20 road win at Escondido last Friday.

Quarterback Braden Oberg now has over 750 yards of total offense and still hasn’t thrown an interception.

Versatile Dylan Snyder stepped up on offense last week and caught a season-high seven passes.

Wolf Pack leads the all-time series 14-6, including 6-3 this century despite the tight finishes over the last five years.

West Hills has won three straight league openers and is 21-10 all-time in its first league game of the season… WEST HILLS, 31-14.


No. 17 EL CAPITAN (3-1) at EL CAJON VALLEY (1-3) – El Capitan head coach Ron Burner won the Chargers’ Coach of the Week voting after being nominated following his team’s performance in a 21-12 upset at previously unbeaten Rancho Buena Vista last Friday night.

Burner was the Chargers’ Coach of the Year in 2014, back when the team was based in San Diego.

The Vaqueros were down multiple starters on both sides of the line against the Longhorns but the El Cap coaching staff made adjustments and promotions in order to slow the county’s leading rusher to his lowest output of the season.

Meanwhile, brothers Savigon and Antwone Yokley connected eight times together for 108 yards, including a 50-yard catch-and-run score by Antwone.

The Braves had a great night against the winless Clairemont Chieftains last Friday night.

El Cajon Valley junior running back Kal-El Gordon rushed for 230 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 41-12 win over the section’s lowest-rated team.

The Braves finished with over 400 yards in total offense, including 101 yards passing from senior quarterback Daniel Jacobs, who passed for three touchdowns on just four completions on the night, all to underclassmen.

El Cajon sophomore Paris Dixon had a 25-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring and he also had an interception on defense.

El Cajon Valley had six takeaways and would have to duplicate that type of turnover margin here, then they would still have to pull out all the stops.

The will be the 51st meeting but El Cap has won six straight with the last ECVHS win, 29-21, coming in 2007, which was a league opener, and the last time the Braves have won a league opener, as well.

El Capitan leads the all-time series, 41-11-3, including 16-2 since 1991… EL CAPITAN 41-14.

VALHALLA (1-3) at SANTANA (4-0) – The Santana Sultans play an exciting brand of football. Maybe too exciting for their fans and families, but the wins keep coming.

The Sultans rallied past host Sweetwater, 28-21. Santana led 14-7 entering the fourth quarter only to see the Red Devils swarm back take a one-score lead.

Santana quarterback Nick Leger, who finished 23-of-27 for 220 yards passing, led a pair of scoring drives in the game’s final minutes, including the 38-yard, go-ahead score to Dylan Anderson.

The Sultans, who are averaging 26 points per game, figure to keep the momentum going in the Grossmont Valley League opener against visiting Valhalla.

The Norsemen have had some tough assignments during a current three-game losing streak but league play puts Valhalla on somewhat closer terms.

The Norsemen were no match last week for one of the hottest clubs in the section at any level in the undefeated Mt. Carmel Sundevils.

Just this past April, the Norsemen pushed a limping Santana team to the limit, as the Sultans held on for a 21-13 victory. Valhalla led in the third quarter by a point.

This century, Valhalla leads 5-2, but Santana has won the last 2 meetings and now trailed the all-time series just, 17-15-1… SANTANA, 31-14.

The Cathedral Catholic Dons, currently ranked No. 1 in the county, handed the Highlanders their biggest loss in school history at Manchester Stadium last Friday night.

It was also the first Helix has been blanked since the season opener to Oceanside, 27-0, back in 2006, snapping a streak of 187 games.

The Scotties, with wins against Mira Mesa and Otay Ranch, figure to have somewhat better success against the Saints and are indeed the higher-rated team coming in but a win against St. Augustine, even at home, is never a gimme.

St. Augustine’s losses are to the Trinity League’s Santa Margarita, and also El Camino and Oceanside.

Saints are unranked but are 15th in the computer ratings having played one of the top ten toughest schedules, with their win coming, appropriately enough, against Steele Canyon, 27-0, last Friday.

St. Augustine’s Isaiah Pressley rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars and the Saints have one of the top Division I prospects in the county in Oregon commit Gracen Halton, who had 10 tackles, a sack, and a blocked punt last week.

Helix leads the series this century, 6-3, but Saints have gone 2-1 against the Highlanders in the CIF playoffs, including a pair of title game wins (’15, ’19) before Helix won 12-6 in a 2019 Division I quarterfinal.

The Highlanders are favored here but are sure underdogs in each of the following two games, so they will need this win to have any shot at an Open Division berth… HELIX, 21-20.

GRANITE HILLS (2-2) vs OTAY RANCH (1-1) at Hilltop High
The Eagles were shutout for the first time in nearly a decade last Friday night, snapping a streak of 94 consecutive games without being blanked, but like three-quarters of the GHL last week, Granite couldn’t crack the scoreboard against visiting Eastlake in a 31-0 homecoming loss.Granite Hills is having major turnover problems. Even though they were blanked by the Titans, the Eagles seemed to move the ball well on the ground against a tough defense.

However, Eastlake, which moved into the top ten this week at No. 9, was able to double Granite’s yardage output.

Granite Hills can point to Otay Ranch’s 29-14 loss to Helix as a measuring stick. Also, this game will be at Hilltop High, and not the Mustangs’ home field, which remains out of service.

Otay Ranch hasn’t been seen in two weeks since that loss to Helix back on Aug. 27.

Quarterback Brian Rudden has over 500 yards combined in the two starts, which also includes a 19-14 road win at Madison, another common GHL opponent.

These two have had one meeting, in the 2015 CIF playoffs, which Otay Ranch won, 35-20, in a first-round matchup.

The Mustangs have all but disappeared from the county poll, probably out of forgetfulness, but they are still 11th in the computer ratings, while the Eagles are 21st… OTAY RANCH, 20-17.


No. 3 LINCOLN (2-1) at STEELE CANYON (1-3) – Lincoln is second in the computer rankings but third in the media poll. Doesn’t matter, the Hornets are elite.

Steele Canyon has lost to three teams that the GHL is quite familiar with. Eastlake, Madison, and Saints have taken down the Cougars thus far, with Steele’s win coming against San Marcos.

Last week, Lincoln defeated Mission Hills, 30-13, in a county top-five showdown. Lincoln’s loss is to Los Alamitos, which is undefeated and highly-ranked in the state.

The computers suggest possibly a lopsided contest but Steele Canyon’s usual brand of defense, particularly at home, could allow the Cougs an opportunity to stay within striking distance.

This is the first meeting between these schools and might figure to be a good series in the years to come, just maybe not at this time… LINCOLN, 27-14.


CAJON (3-0) at GROSSMONT (2-2) – It’s homecoming at Grossmont, which should give the Foothiller faithful something to cheer for, at least at halftime.

The Hillers will try to remain in the contest early with the Southern Section’s 35th-ranked club.

The Cowboys’ sophomore quarterback has over 700 yards in three starts thus far with eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

Last week, the Foothillers gave the GHL the only thing to cheer for. A touchdown.

Grossmont had the league’s only score in a 32-6 loss to Rancho Bernardo on the most futile night in Grossmont Hills League history. The four teams trailed by a combined 122-0 at halftime to their four opponents.

Grossmont head coach Chris Holmes admits the Foothillers have to establish more of a ground game to get back to being successful but they may not have that option here.

In 2018, Rancho Verde, a then-highly ranked team out of Moreno Valley, came to La Mesa and put a 61-3 hurting on the Hillers.

That same season, Cajon defeated Helix in the first game of the year, 34-3, in San Bernardino behind highly-touted quarterback Jaden Daniels, now of Arizona State.

The Foothillers can’t let that moment come where the Cowboys can turn a close game into a multiple-score lead in just a few plays… CAJON, 34-14.

CHRISTIAN (3-1) at CENTRAL UNION (1-3) – The Christian High Patriots will be “Eastbound and down” with a rare trip to the Imperial Valley, meeting a large enrollment school in Central Union.

The Patriots have played in the Imperial Valley a mere eight times, coming through with a solid 6-2 record, including a 1-1 split with the Spartans in El Centro.

But this one could be closer than the records or the ratings would suggest. The teams met at Valley Stadium in 2019 and the Pats just held off the Spartans, 31-28.

Christian High junior quarterback Jake Davils was injured in last week’s loss to Santa Fe Christian, which ended the Pats’ three-game winning streak.

Although it was quite likely that Davila could return tonight, his status certainly could understandably be considered questionable considering he was taken to the hospital by ambulance for what appears to have been a bruised back.

The Spartans may be able to match Christian offensively. Central has over 900 yards passing thus far.

The Patriots are considered the favorite here given that they are nearly 20 spots higher in the computer ratings, currently slotted 25th in the section… CHRISTIAN, 31-27.

IMPERIAL (1-2) at MONTE VISTA (0-3) – The Monarchs are probably considered underdogs against the visiting Tigers.

After all, ten spots separate the two teams in the computer ratings and Monte Vista has been outscored 135-12 this season.

Imperial lost, 21-7, at West Hills in the season opener, then just last week, the Tigers lost at home to Valley Center, a team that trails West Hills in the computer rankings. Imperial High’s win came against Cibola (Ariz.), which was expected.

The early returns from Monte Vista have been upsetting but the Monarchs were underdogs to Lincoln, Rancho Buena Vista, and Patrick Henry so this matchup will be the least difficult thus far.

The Monarchs can handle the Tigers, however. Imperial has just over 400 yards of total offense in its three games this season.

The teams’ only meeting was in 2019, with the Tigers winning, 26-25, in Imperial, and that team had a pair of offensive stars that this Imperial team doesn’t possess at this time.

Perk up Monarchs fans, that loss in ’19 pushed the team’s record to 1-4 and Monte Vista still went on to win the Grossmont Valley League championship… MONTE VISTA, 21-20.

CRAWFORD (0-4) at MOUNTAIN EMPIRE (1-2) – The RedHawks will try to defeat the Colts for the first time in seven meetings.

The RedHawks are coming off back-to-back losses against tough opponents but they’ll be favored to finally beat Crawford.

After a heartbreaking 22-17 non-league loss to rival Holtville, Mountain Empire ran into red-hot quarterback Clash Orsborn and the Mission Bay Bucs last Friday night, 49-0.

Included in the Colts’ four losses was last week’s 27-0 loss to Mt. Miguel.

By comparison, the Colts lost their season opener at Mar Vista, 28-7, and the RedHawks are currently just slightly ahead of the Mariners in the computer ratings.

Mountain Empire can win by two scores or more if Larry Clark is back in the lineup. He missed the Mission Bay game with a broken wrist… MOUNTAIN EMPIRE, 21-14.

HOOVER (1-2) at FOOTHILLS CHRISTIAN (0-3) – At Seau Field, the Knights are still looking for the elusive victory since returning to 11-man football this season.

Figure the Knights lost to Army and Navy Academy 36-0 at home in the season-opener, only to come back last week to fall just 27-6 on the road to the Warriors. So that is a measured improvement.

Hoover won its season opener, 30-14, at El Cajon Valley, a team certainly rated higher than the Knights. However, this will be the Cardinals’ first road game of the season.

The only meeting between the schools came in 2009, when Hoover won, 54-0, in an 11-man game. This will be far from that… HOOVER, 26-22.


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