East County Sports

Cougars win close renewal with Eagles




By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

RANCHO SAN DIEGO —- When it comes to the best rivalry in Grossmont Hills League football, will someone finally stand forward and ignore traditional thinking?

While Helix continues its decades-long winning dominance over neighboring Grossmont, the top series clearly belongs to Steele Canyon and Granite Hills.

On Friday (Oct. 22), for the sixth time in the past decade, the contest between these ballclubs was decided by three points or less, as Granite Hills failed on a potential game-winning two-point conversion in the final minute, allowing the host Cougars to escape with a 21-20 decision.

Although the game wasn’t anything close to being aesthetically pleasing, it was surely exciting, as both squads continued to trade touchdowns, especially in the second half.

The script was  familiar between pal coaches Scott Longerbone of Steele Canyon, and Kellan Cobbs, of Granite Hills.

In a battle tied at 7-all at halftime, then 14-all through three quarters, Steele Canyon would take the lead on the quick thinking of quarterback Jacob Manzo.

Faking a third-and-goal handoff up the middle, the senior carried the ball outside of the box when he encountered a run-blitzing safety. So he turned and rambled up the middle, diving under his offensive line to place the ball into the end zone, capping a 10-play, 65-yard drive with 3:59 remaining.

Granite Hills, which just scored on its previous drive after not scoring on offense all contest long, kept up the beat.

Running the ball for no fewer than five yards on each of a 7-play, 79-yard drive, running back Patrick Brady raced around a key block by junior lineman Michael Briney and another teammate to score from 16 yards out.

Instead of playing for overtime with a kick, the Eagles elected to go for a two-point conversion with yet another handoff up the middle.

However, the defensive front of the Cougars, led by the nose tackle, stuffed the ball-carrier just short of the goal line.

Defenses for both sides made big plays throughout the night.

In the second period, Granite Hills took the initial lead on an interception runback of 64 yards by Joaquin Thomas, Jr., the sure All-East County selection who is a candidate for East County Defensive Player of the Year. The ball landed perfectly to him after it went through the hands of the intended receiver. Thomas Jr. also had a 4-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter.

Steele Canyon got even on the ensuing drive, as junior running back Major Givens raced in from the Eagles’ 4 with 5:43 left in the half.  Givens carried for more than 100 yards to key a strong ground game while both sides struggled to pass the football.

Givens has rushed for over 1,100 yards this season and has rushed for eight touchdowns.

The third period was an artistic mess.

Included was a lost fumble on an attempted punt by Granite Hills, only to watch the Eagles get the ball back on an interception by junior Davion Green.

However, that was countered when the Cougars registered their own “Pick 6” on theft by cornerback Adrien Chargualaf, another sure first-team defender, who sprinted 32 yards for the score.

“Their defense was lights out,” Cobbs said of the Cougars. “Joaquin and Brady stepped up huge for us on offense in the second half. Joaquin had a big play on defense with the pick-six, as well.”

Nathaniel Gillis had an interception in the first quarter for Steele Canyon.

Steele Canyon (2-7, 1-1 Grossmont Hills League) can possibly earn a first-round home game in the Division I playoffs with a win over Grossmont in the season finale.

Granite Hills (4-5, 0-2 Grossmont Hills League) can also possibly earn a first-round home game in the Division I playoffs with a win over Helix in the season finale.

Should both of those results occur, then the Cougars and Highlanders would share the Grossmont Hills League championship.

Close Encounters
Recent close contests
between Steele Canyon
and Granite Hills over
the past decade:
Year   Score
2021 SC 21-20
2018 GH 30-27
2017 GH 43-41
SC 28-27*
2015 GH 25-24
2011 GH 17-14

*CIFSDS Division II semifinal



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