East County Sports


West Hills quarterback Braden Oberg against El Capitan. / Vic Marano




EastCountySports.com staff report


SANTEE – A battle of undefeated league leaders to decide the championship isn’t all that uncommon in the Grossmont Conference.

In fact, on average over the last 20 years, a meeting between league unbeaten teams on the final night of the season happens nearly every other season.

But, it is far less often that those teams meet while sharing just one loss for the entire regular season, including non-league games.

Only three times since the turn of the century have two Grossmont Conference teams met on the final night sharing just one loss.

There have been no games between regular-season unbeaten teams in the conference since then.

The next time such a game will take place is on Friday night when the 9-0 West Hills Wolf Pack host the 8-1 El Capitan Vaqueros for the Grossmont Valley League championship.

Both teams are 5-0 in league play.

The Wolf Pack have won 11-straight games dating back to the spring, a school record.

The Pack is aiming for a first-ever undefeated regular season following a Homecoming victory over city rival Santana last Friday night.

El Capitan, meanwhile, had won six-in-a-row, in putting together one of the most successful regular seasons in the school’s 62-year history.

The last time the conference had such a game was just two seasons ago when 9-0 Steele Canyon met 8-1 Helix.

The Highlanders went to Spring Valley had won 35-21 for the title as both teams came in 4-0 in the Grossmont Hills League.

In 2014, El Capitan’s historic CIF championship team came into the final night 9-0 against visiting 8-1 “underdog” Helix.

The Vaqueros, anointed the favorite on that night by the “Fearsome Forecaster” Bill Dickens, took a monumental victory over the Scotties to win the Grossmont Hills title.

The only other instance over the last two decades was in 2004 when the 9-0 Monte Vista Monarchs went to La Mesa and knocked off the 8-1 Highlanders, 17-7.

Notice, however, that those cases all were in the stronger of the conference’s two circuits.

For the West Hills Wolf Pack, they are facing a fellow Grossmont Valley League unbeaten team on the final night for the third time in the last seven years.

The Wolf Pack defeated visiting Monte Vista, 21-13, in 2013 for the GVL title, while the Monarchs shut out visiting West Hills three years ago, 35-0.

On both of those occasions, the combatants had no league losses coming into the contest.

This will be the tenth time in the last 21 years that such a championship contest will be played with both teams coming in with no losses in league contests.

Prior to 1985, it was far more difficult to achieve an undefeated league campaign prior to the splitting of the conference’s teams into the two leagues.

Friday’s game should prove to be nothing short of electric.

El Capitan and West Hills will also have a perpetual trophy on the line – the recently created Tony Burner Memorial Trophy goes to the winner of the contest.

The Vaqueros currently hold the award following a 27-14 win in Lakeside back in the spring.

Burner, who passed away in June of 2017, was a quarterback at West Hills from 1997-to-2000.

Current head coaches Ron Burner, of El Capitan, and Casey Ash, of West Hills, coached together as assistants at West Hills at the time.

Tony Burner later was a coach under his dad at El Cap.

The Tony Burner Scholarship Fund donates awards to selected students at both schools.

On the field, both teams have proven to be superb all year.

The 13th-ranked Vaqueros may have attracted slightly more attention county-wide thanks in large part to county Player of the Year candidate Savigon Yokley, a quarterback who makes big plays with his arm and his legs. When he throws it up for grabs or goes deep for the home run, it’s usually to his equally-athletic twin brother, Antwone.

El Capitan has survived the season with just one loss overall but not without some tense moments. The big-play style has led to some slow starts and close finishes.

Fourteenth-ranked West Hills, meanwhile, might be more methodical theoretically, but their consistency really has led to their solid unbeaten season thus far.

Maybe a dark horse entering the season, a closer look at the Pack’s roster would’ve revealed a lot of experience returning from the spring.

West Hills senior quarterback Braden Oberg is representative of the team’s success. He makes winning plays with pretty much zero mistakes.

The supporting casts on both sides can be broken down but it would be hard to find an advantage for either team.

While the Vaqueros may be regarded as the more high-powered offense, the Wolf Pack may be able to claim its consistent advantage on defense.

West Hills outscored the other five GVL opponents 197-33, while the Vaqueros racked up the five wins with a 191-62 scoring margin.

A number of players on both sides saw action in the spring game played between the clubs.

Oberg, who rushed for a TD in the game, threw a combined ten completions to veterans Max Conaway and Dylan Snyder, who caught a touchdown pass.

The Yokleys had a major impact in the game as El Cap regained the hardware, which has gone back-and-forth in the three years since it was created.

Another current Vaquero speed burner, Daisean Desinor, scored a touchdown in the contest.

The game also has some playoff ramifications but might have little effect on the placement of the postseason-bound teams.

Both teams could likely end up hosting a first-round game, although there’s a chance El Cap may have to open on the road should it lose on Friday night.

The all-time series is led by West Hills, 17-14, but El Cap has won 9 of the last 14… WEST HILLS, 24-21.

No. 8 HELIX (5-3, 2-0 GHL) at GRANITE HILLS (4-5, 0-2 GHL) – Last spring, Granite Hills broke a 10-game losing streak to Helix to complete an undefeated Grossmont Hills League season.

The Highlanders appear to have restored order to their satisfaction.

Helix, still with an outside chance at qualifying for the Open Division playoff tournament, are technically still the defending champs and figure to put the finishing touches on a six-consecutive championship banner.

Turnovers have plagued the Eagles’ chances of repeating their historic performance from earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the Scotties have the East County’s second Player of the Year candidate in senior Christian Washington.

The beat Helix, the Eagles will have to start with stopping the star. Then Granite can worry about what to do once they get the ball against the Highlanders’ defense.

The amazing thing about Helix arriving on the cusp of the county’s final four teams is that half the starting lineup is comprised of underclassmen.

Helix seems most likely to head into the postseason as the No.1 seed in Division I, with other top seeds likely to include Madison, and Lincoln. An exciting field, indeed.

The Eagles will be hitting the road in the Division I playoffs, possibly heading north to go up against Oceanside or El Camino.

The previous win for Granite Hills this century before last April’s meeting was back in 2005 (38-35), as Helix has won 25 of the last 28 meetings since a tie back in 1988… HELIX, 28-14.

No. 23 GROSSMONT (3-6, 1-1 GHL) at No. 24 STEELE CANYON (2-7, 1-1 GHL) – The Cougars and Foothillers have had some memorable, wild finishes and some blowouts. This one could fall anywhere in between.

Both teams are trying to earn a home game in the San Diego CIF Division I postseason but more importantly, could share in the Grossmont Hills League championship should Granite Hills upset Helix. The winner here would join Helix with a final 2-1 record.

The teams have contrasting styles offensively.

The Cougars highlight their ground game with junior running back Major Givens carrying a sizeable load.

The Foothillers have had to rely on the passing and running of quarterback Trenton Giles.

Both teams have defenses that haven’t necessarily been able to prove their strength against the tough schedules assumed by the teams in the Hills League.

Steele Canyon leads the all-time series, 11-9, and the last 10 meetings are 5-all… STEELE CANYON, 23-17.

SANTANA (6-2, 2-2 GVL) at EL CAJON VALLEY (2-7, 1-4) – Santana has won 10 straight in this series with the Braves’ last win coming back in 2009 (42-35).

The Sultans may feel the disappointment of falling short of the top two teams in the Valley League but can wrap up a terrific winning record with a win here.

The Sultans are in the Division III playoffs, and like their fellow GVL rivals, will most likely be hosting a first-round playoff game.

Santana has suffered injuries and promoted junior varsity quarterback Alex Rico last week in time to get ready for the postseason.

It should be noted that the Braves are averaging over 20 points per game on offense in league play with leader Daniel Jacobs at quarterback.

El Cajon Valley senior Ruben Cosio has been one of the league’s best players this season, as well, particularly defensively.

The Braves are possibly heading into to the Division V playoffs and most likely will end up in will be a long trip either north or east.

Santana leads the all-time series, 37-16, which kind of sounds like the final score in this one… SANTANA, 35-14.

VALHALLA (2-7, 1-4 GVL) at MONTE VISTA (0-9, 0-5) – Scratch beneath the surface of this one and you can easily find an intriguing matchup.

This, obviously,  is the playoffs for Monte Vista, which is winless this season.

Surely, these Monarchs don’t want to be the first Monte Vista team since 1964 to finish with no victories.

Monte Vista finished winless in 1962 and 1964, as the Monarchs won just three out of their first 44 games when they started playing varsity football in 1961.In the Valhalla Norsemen, the Monarchs might think they have their sights set on their possible prey.

The Norsemen, meanwhile, have plenty to play for. A victory assures the team a playoff berth in the Division IV tournament. A loss could elimate Valhalla.

Valhalla had trouble stopping Mount Miguel’s ground game last Friday night in a 27-13 loss.

The Monarchs’ strategy will be similar with strong back Aiden Robey, who rushed for over 250 yards last week against El Capitan. Monte Vista led the Vaqueros early on.

Valhalla has scoring threats in A.J. Cornthwaite and Gio Alejo, who scored last week against Mount Miguel.

In 2020, surprisingly, MVHS broke an eight-game losing streak to Valhalla, although the teams were on a hiatus from meeting over the last few years when the Norsemen were in the Hills League.

Monte Vista leads the all-time series, 24-13-2… MONTE VISTA, 22-21.

CHRISTIAN (5-3, 1-1 Eastern) at PT. LOMA (3-5, 1-2 Eastern) – Former Patriot Joel Allen has faced Christian six times as a head coach but on Friday night he will face his long-time friend Danny Mitchell, who now patrols the Pats’ sideline as the head man.

Allen last faced Christian in the 2016 CIF Division II final when he guided Bishop’s to a 49-20 win.

While at Bishop’s, Allen faced off against Christian six times, winning three of those contests. The winning team in each of the six games scored at least 47 points in five of the six games, including 56 points exactly three times.

One thing was for sure in those meetings, was that other than the championship game at neutral Southwestern College, the home team won every time.

The Patriots will never know if they were good enough to win the Eastern League title. A canceled game with league champion Mira Mesa (3-0 Eastern) may result in a 2-1 league mark should favored Christian defeat the Pointers on Friday night.

Homecoming King J.C. Gustin scored the first touchdown of the game last win in a 32-6 win over visiting Canyon Hills.

CHS led 32-0 at halftime as junior quarterback Jake Davila passed for two touchdowns and ran for another.

While Christian is battling for a home game in the first round of the Division II playoffs, the Pointers can assure a playoff spot with a victory.

With the familiarity and creativity of these coaches, more than a little razzle-dazzle could be in the offing.

This version of an Allen-coached team may be more ground-oriented than his TBS clubs, but the Pointers have nice wins, including an upset of Patrick Henry, 37-28, back in Week 4.

The Patriots are just 2-0 in this recent series with wins in 2017 (44-37 at ECVHS, not Valley Stadium) and 2016 (31-21 at Pt. Loma)… CHRISTIAN, 29-28.

MOUNT MIGUEL (4-3) at DEL NORTE (5-4) – Mount Miguel might not know its playoff status heading into its non-league game against the Del Norte Nighthawks.

The Matadors could be trying to hang on for a playoff spot in Division IV, should they qualify. A win over the favorite Nighthawks would solidify their standing.

Mount Miguel will fall short of the required nine games to be eligible by rule for the postseason. However, due to the pandemic, the San Diego Section CIF is expected to waive the rule for teams that had games canceled due to health protocols, which happened to the Matadors twice this season, including a Grossmont Valley League contest against Santana.

This will be a great test for the Matadors should they be admitted to the playoffs. Del Norte is currently sixth in the Division IV power rankings, while Mount Miguel is currently 10th, meaning these teams are likely to face a similar team in a similar role in next week’s first-round games.

The Matadors are worthy of their standing in the rankings considering their record and their quality of wins, and quite frankly, they look like a playoff-caliber team with a very strong running game that includes sophomore running back Davian McGowan.

Last week, a new star surfaced in the league when sophomore Hector Armenta recorded three interceptions in the first half for Mount Miguel against Valhalla, returning one of the picks 74 yards for a touchdown.

These two teams started a series recently and have met twice, splitting the contests. In 2018, it was host DNHS 42-20 while in 2019 it was 26-19 in favor of the home Matadors, a game in which Mount Miguel receiving legend Jaheim Allen-Pompey established single-season section records for receptions and receiving yards.

The computers have Mount Miguel as a four-touchdown underdog here… DEL NORTE, 33-23.

MOUNTAIN EMPIRE (4-5, 1-2 Desert) vs. PALO VERDE VALLEY (6-2, 3-0 Desert), at El Centro-Southwest –
The RedHawks are bound to give a favored opponent another tough battle, even if it is Desert League first-place Palo Verde.

No matter the strength and quality of the opponent, the RedHawks are seemingly in the game until the last play. Such was the case last week in a 7-3 loss at rival Holtville.

Mountain Empire appears to have a defense that can take on all comers at this level. And the RedHawks chew up the clock with their running game like they have to be home before 9:30.

Against the Vikings, MEHS had drives of nine and seven minutes in the first half.

Larry Clark and Landon Laskey led the defense for the RedHawks, who already have posted four shutouts this season.

Mountain Empire is heading to the Division V playoffs and will likely be on the road with an outside chance to face Calexico, otherwise, maybe the RedHawks can expect to travel to face Army-Navy or Crawford.

The series is tied at 1-all, with the games being played over 30 years apart. MEHS won at home in 1988, 10-0, while Palo Verde won in 2019, 28-6, in a game played at Imperial High… PALO VERDE, 14-7.

FOOTHILLS CHRISTIAN (3-5, 2-2 Pacific) at MARANATHA CHRISTIAN (2-7, 1-3 Pacific) – These teams played a Pacific League game earlier this season, which was won by Foothillers Christian 20-19, at Seau Field.

Escondido Charter (8-1, 5-0 Pacific) showed its championship form in wrapping up a league title against Foothills Christian, 48-6, at Seau Field last Friday night.

Knights freshman running back Kameron Brown scored a rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

Foothills is trying to hold on for a playoff berth in Division V and must win this game in order to do so. A loss could elevate the Eagles into the postseason at the expense of the Knights.

Foothills leads the all-time series, 3-1… MARANATHA CHRISTIAN, 20-19.


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