East County Sports


Helix sophomore quarterback Ryland Jessee. / P.J. Panebianco




By Ramon Scott

East CountySports.com


LA MESA – For all the angst and frustration experienced by the Grossmont Foothillers this season, they’ve still arrived at the point to which the program seems to always take aim.

The 22nd-ranked Foothillers will host the No. 8-ranked Helix Highlanders for the right to compete for the Grossmont Hills League championship on Friday Night.

The storyline has long been told it does have a twist in 2021.

Of course, the last time Grossmont defeated Helix in football was in 1991 with quarterback Tom Karlo, who returned to take over as head coach of the Foothillers in 2012 vowing to finally defeat the Highlanders. He tried over nine seasons (including a CIF playoff game) resulting in no wins against the rivals.

In fact, the closest of the 10 meetings was last season’s spring matchup, as the Hillers still lost by two touchdowns, 49-35.

For 2021, Grossmont has a new head coach and this moment came so quickly there hasn’t been much time for considering the rivalry as much as the sudden opportunity.

One thing is for sure, should the Hillers win, they clinch at least a share of a league title for the first time since 2005 when Grossmont won a co-championship in the old Grossmont North League when they tied El Capitan, 23-23, on the final day of the regular season.

That tie may have been one of the reasons the section instituted a rule change for the following year, forcing all ties to come to an overtime conclusion.

Helix’s current winning streak against the Foothillers has now reached 25 games, which spans 30 years.

How significant was that 1991 victory over Grossmont, the win snapped a then 13-game losing stretch against the Scots.

Grossmont defeated Granite Hills, 24-14, last week behind senior Trenton Giles’ big night through the air, as he amassed 333 yards and two TDs, including a long connection to senior Ryan Rodieck of 65 yards.

Grossmont also got bookend interceptions by JoJo Benevente and the end of the first half and start of the second half.

Helix outlasted Steele Canyon behind Christian Washington, whose two big touchdowns in the fourth quarter stymied Steele Canyon’s upset bid against the now-familiar championship rival.

Once again, when Helix needs a big play from “Big Moves,” he seems to come up, well, big.

Helix is fifth in Division I, while Grossmont is ninth. The Highlanders might be destined as a top-seed in the Division I playoffs.


21st Century: Helix leads 16-0-0

1991-2000:  Helix 9-1
1981-1990:  Helix 8-0-2
1971-1080:  Grossmont 6-4
1070 and earlier: Grossmont 11-9

ALL-TIME: Helix 46-18-2

Grossmont is coming off the high point of the season and now they must face a team that still appears to be one of the top ten teams in the county… HELIX, 35-14.


No. 24 GRANITE HILLS (4-4, 0-1 GHL) at STEELE CANYON (1-7, 0-1 GHL) – The must-win game of the season if either team hopes to gain a share of the GHL title.

The Eagles have backpedaled into this position after winning the spring season championship, while the Cougars are suffering a tough year against a tough schedule.

Turnovers have plagued Granite Hills all season and it impacted the game in a big way last week against Grossmont.

The Cougars have the game’s top offensive threat in running back Major Givens, who scored three touchdowns in the wild 40-33 win by Granite back in April, including a 92-yard kickoff return.

Granite Hills can counter with Joaquin Thomas Jr., as the game surely can’t turn into the type of contest the team’s played earlier this year with these defenses.

The Cougars led by 12 points at halftime in that one before the Eagles rallied in the second half.

Steele Canyon may have found its man at quarterback for now in senior Jacob Manzo, who helped the Cougars nearly spring the upset over the Highlanders last week.

Granite Hills is 11th in Division I so a win could help achieve a first-round home game. Meanwhile, Steele Canyon is 14th in Division I, and a win or two could elevate the Cougars to a home game, as well.

All-time, SC leads the series, 12-6 (opened 7-1, 5-5 since), but in the last 10 the series is 5-all with Granite Hills’ wins by just 7, 3, 2, 1, and 3 points.

The teams played twice in 2017, with GHHS winning 43-41 in the regular season, and SC coming back for a 28-27 win in the CIF semis. The Cougars eventually went all the way to win a state division championship.

In 2019, Granite Hills took a 4-1 mark into the Steele game and lost 28-13. In 2018, the Eagles prevailed 30-27 en route to a 10-2 season.

Granite Hills meets Helix in the season finale, while the Cougars match up with the Foothillers.

In the meantime, this week’s important matchup is closely rated but the positive vibes are currently coming from… STEELE CANYON, 31-20.

SANTANA (6-1, 2-1 GVL) at No. 16 WEST HILLS (8-0, 4-0) – The West Hills Wolf Pack, who are currently on a 10-game winning streak, host the Santana Sultans in what is a championship-deciding game in the Grossmont Valley League.

And, by the way, the teams play for the right to hold the Santee Mayor’s Trophy.

West Hills defeated Santana in the season final in the spring, 20-7, even though the Sultans were limping to the finish line back in April.

While last spring’s game didn’t result in a league championship (one wasn’t awarded by the Grossmont Conference), it did count for the trophy, which changed hands for the second straight season.

The Wolf Pack currently trails the Sultans and fellow championship rival El Capitan in the section’s Division III playoff rankings.

The Wolf Pack faces El Capitan at home next week but first things first.

The Wolf Pack defeated Monte Vista last week. West Hills is aiming for its first league title since 2014.

Several players in Friday night’s game were factors in the spring encounter.

West Hills’ super-efficient quarterback Braden Oberg lobbed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Max Conaway to make it 7-0 in the first quarter. Conaway also had an interception.

Cohen Benavente, who had an interception in the win over the Monarchs, had an interception return for a touchdown against the Sultans.

In the third quarter, the Wolf Pack went up 20-0 on a 5-yard TD scamper by Dylan Snyder.

Trevor Imbimbo posted a pair of sacks as the Wolf Pack limited Santana to 72 rushing yards.

Logan Ellis led the Santana defense with eight tackles, while teammate Logan Jorden recorded five tackles and a sack.

In the Division III power rankings currently, Santana is in fifth, despite that lopsided loss to El Capitan, which is right behind the Sultans in sixth.

Meanwhile, it’s the Wolf Pack that isn’t registering with the section’s formula, as undefeated West Hills is behind 7-2 Brawley in eighth, which still would be good enough for a first-round home game.

WHHS has won eight of the last nine encounters and has won 16 of 20 meetings this century… WEST HILLS, 28-14.

MOUNT MIGUEL (3-3, 2-2 GVL) at VALHALLA (2-6, 1-3 GVL) – Mount Miguel senior Ruben Hernandez had nearly 200 yards in total offense and scored four touchdowns, while Eric White, a sophomore, emerged to rush for 100 yards for the Matadors in a win last week over El Cajon Valley.

The Matadors have played well enough to be considered for a postseason berth in Division IV. However, the team is currently battling on the field to earn its spot, as Mount Miguel sits precariously in 11th position in the section power rakings.

In a lopsided loss to El Capitan last week, Valhalla got a first-half touchdown from the great passing connection of quarterback Tommy Logan and receiver A.J. Cornthwaite. The pair are among the top-scoring combinations int he East County.

Valhalla is likely in the playoffs, especially if its beats either the Matadors this week or Monte Vista next week. In fact, a win could secure a first-round home game in Division IV.

Valhalla has a nice schedule to close out the season to see where it really stands, not only this year but in the near future, although some top senior players will be leaving.

East County’s oldest continuous annual series will happen here for the 47th consecutive time, with the clubs meeting every year since Valhalla started playing varsity football in 1975. All-time, the Matadors lead, 29-16-1…  MOUNT MIGUEL, 28-21.

MONTE VISTA (0-8, 0-4 GVL) at EL CAPITAN (7-1, 4-0) – The Vaqueros’ Savigon Yokley had over 300 yards of total offense last week in the Vaqueros’ win over the Norsemen, scoring three touchdowns and throwing for two more, as he continued to make a case for county player of the year consideration.

While the Vaqueros, winners of five straight games, can gain plenty of experience here, expect the senior star to continue to put up some more impressive statistics.

Monte Vista will have an opportunity to gain its first win of the season more likely next week when it faces Valhalla in the Grossmont Valley finale. The Norsemen might be wary in that one.

El Capitan leads this series all-time, 27-16-1, including 5-2 this century… EL CAPITAN 42, MONTE VISTA 7.

CANYON HILLS (1-6, 0-2 Eastern) at CHRISTIAN (4-3, 0-1 Eastern) – Christian last week ran into a juggernaut in the No. 6-ranked Scripps Ranch Falcons in a 41-23 loss.

Jake Davila threw for 250 yards and found buddy Joey Merritt twice for scores.

This is the first meeting between these two teams since 2015, when the Pats won, 56-0.

All-time, the series is led by Canyon Hills, the school formerly known as Serra, 3-2, with all five being determined by 21 points or more.

The Patriots might not be looking ahead but Christian High head coach Dan Mitchell has already started mentioning next week’s game against head coaching pal Joel Allen and the Point Loma Pointers.

That shouldn’t affect the outcome here. In fact, Christian may be looking to let out a little frustration against an overmatched opponent… CHRISTIAN, 45-14.

MOUNTAIN EMPIRE (4-4, 1-1 Desert) at HOLTVILLE (6-2, 1-1 Desert) – Right now, the two rivals are tied for third in the Desert League, just a half-game behind Vincent Memorial.

Mountain Empire is going to be cutting it close in its pursuit of a playoff spot in Division V if it can’t win one of its final two games of the season, which is really too bad because the team is putting together a historical season defensively.

The RedHawks are obviously are a pretty good football team at this level, with four shutouts this season, which accounts for all of their wins.

Mountain Empire, however, is currently in 11th in the Division V power rankings, which are used by the section to help determine playoff seeding.

The school record for shutouts is five but after this tough rivalry game, the RedHawks play Palo Verde Valley next week.In 2021’s first meeting between these teams, which was a non-league contest, Holtville won, 22-14, in Pine Valley.

The first meeting between these schools came in 1945 as the all-time series is led by Holtville, 39-22-1… HOLTVILLE, 20-15.

ESCONDIDO CHARTER (6-1, 3-0 Pacific) at FOOTHILLS CHRISTIAN (3-4, 2-1 Pacific) – Foothills Christian fell to San Ysidro last week, 14-3, as the Cougars scored two touchdowns in the third quarter.

Foothills Christian is the other factor locally in Division V, along with El Cajon Valley and Mountain Empire.

The Knights are currently 13th in the playoff rankings and on the outside looking in, while El Cajon Valley is in 10th.

Foothills Christian faces Maranatha Christian on the road next week with the winner possible squeaking into the postseason.

Escondido Charter is currently 3-0 in the Pacific League standings. This series is tied, 2-2, with the last meeting coming in 2014.

The Knights won the first two in the series but Escondido Charter won the last two, including 69-41 in 2009, the highest-scoring 11-man game in Knights’ history… ESCONDIDO CHARTER, 33-14.


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