East County Sports


Kayvion Jones, of the Christian Patriots, against Point Loma. / Andy Fierro



EastCountySports.com staff report

RANCHO SAN DIEGO —- San Diego Section officials of the CIF always attempt to keep schools from the same league meeting in the early rounds of postseason play. However, there are occasions when such pairings are hard to ignore without revamping the entire bracket.

This will be the case on two fronts in Friday’s (Nov. 5) Division I opener when 9th-seeded Grossmont travels to meet No. 8-seed Steele Canyon.

Not only is it a pairing of Grossmont Hills League programs, but it will also be a rematch of the regular-season finale, when the Cougars claimed a 23-10 Senior Night decision for, what turned out to be, earning the home-field advantage this Friday night.

Whether in the era when coaches voted on the postseason brackets or when CIF looked to an algorithm for guidance, local officials have always had the right to flip-flop two schools to avoid collisions between league squads.

However, the Grossmont-Steele Canyon situation was likely impossible to avoid, as the No. 10 spot went to Granite Hills making for three from the same league in a row in the final Division I rankings.

Mathematically, the lone solution was to elevate No. 11 San Marcos to the 8-spot and drop all three GHL ballclubs. But that would give the Knights a home game, while the GHL trio would all be relegated to the road.

Fortunately, they probably had been following the section power rankings for weeks and already knew this possible outcome was highly plausible.

The matchup sets up a mini-bracket between three of the Grossmont Hills League teams, with the winner facing top-seeded Helix next week in La Mesa.

The mini-tournament in essence extends the Hills League season and guarantees a GHL team in the semifinals.

As for facing the same opponents over consecutive weeks, although rare, it has happened a few times of note.

This will be Grossmont’s third-ever scheduling “double,” meaning coming back to face the same opponent after meeting them in the season finale.

In 1978, the Foothillers closed the regular season at Mount Miguel in 35-12 setback but rebounded in the return trip to Spring Valley to claim an 18-17 playoff triumph.

Way back in the 1927 Southern Section small-school division playoffs, Grossmont (with Walter Barnett, who would later become GHS’ principal for 17 years) played Calexico to a scoreless draw, so section officials called for a replay (instead of co-champions), with Grossmont wining at home, 9-0. So that counts, sort of.

But that wasn’t the case in 2015 when the Cougars won a pair of games (both were at Grossmont). The Foothillers had earned a bye and would face Steele Canyon for the second consecutive week in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, but not before SC went to San Marcos to win a first-round road game.

The scores were nearly identical, 39-36 in the regular season, 39-35 in the playoffs, and both were absolutely spectacular and memorable games, but it was Steele Canyon that came out on top in both contests.

In the playoff game, Mikel Oliver blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown for the game-winning play after Hunter Gaines fired three touchdown passes in the first half for a 28-0 Grossmont lead.

More recently, Helix faced Valhalla in the final week of the season in 2016, only to face the Norsemen again a week later. Both games at Helix were won by the Highlanders, 40-13 in the finale and 14-0 in the playoffs.

Last week, Major Givens rushed for over 150 yards and two touchdowns, and the Cougars two quarterbacks completed 9-of-10 passes against the Foothillers.

Junior Quentin Stevens found the end zone on a touchdown reception from senior Jacob Manzo for SCHS.

Ryan Rodieck scored for Grossmont’s touchdown, but Steele won its fourth straight in the series.

“Not a stellar performance for us offensively,” Grossmont head coach Chris Holmes said. “We left too many big plays on the field and out of the end zone. We had a lot of dropped balls and drive killers. We are looking forward to getting another shot at Steele.”

Steele Canyon is the sleeper in Division I with a pair of familiar foes, including the Highlanders, should the Cougars prevail here… STEELE CANYON, 27-17.

(10) GRANITE HILLS (4-6) at (7) OCEANSIDE (4-6) – The Eagles and Pirates met in the 1975 San Diego CIF Class AA championship game at then-San Diego Stadium, with favored Oceanside taking a 25-14 victory in the county’s large-school division.

The schools meet on Friday night in a San Diego CIF Division I first-round game with the winner moving on to face fast-rising Madison, the county’s sixth-ranked team.

The Eagles lost to Helix last week, 49-35, in a game that featured an incredible sequence that saw the two teams trade scores on five consecutive possessions in a span of 70 seconds, with the touchdowns occurring on the first play from scrimmage of each drive.

Granite Hills got a pair of long touchdowns against the Highlanders by Derek Edmund and Josh Zander but the Eagles fell winless in the GHL after an undefeated spring season.

Oceanside, which finished sixth in the Avocado League, has a pretty balanced offense, although they lean pass over the run.

Turnovers have been the bugaboo for the Eagles on offense. Those will have to be avoided in what is rated a one-score game in favor of the hosts.

Granite Hills is 7-7 in the postseason under current head coach Kellan Cobbs, including three road victories… OCEANSIDE, 28-23.

(9) CHRISTIAN (5-4) at (8) SAN DIEGO (8-2) – The Patriots will travel to Glen Broderick Field at old Balboa Stadium – where they haven’t won since 1988 – for a Division II playoff opener.

Christian had a rough time with the running game of Point Loma last Friday in a 35-6 loss and the run-heavy Cavers may pose a similar problem.

San Diego had a big win over University City this season, while its losses were to Scripps Ranch and City League champ Henry, the top seed in Division IV.

This is the final season with San Diego head coach Charles James, who is set to leave the program following the season.

Christian leads the all-time series 8-3-1, but the Cavers captured a 20-18 win in the spring, in just the second meeting between the clubs since a meeting in 2000.

In that game, played at this site, quarterback Jake Davila and receiver J.C. Gustin connected for a 69-yard touchdown play on a lateral downfield following the initial completion in one of the top plays of the shortened season.

The score brought the Pats to within two scores in the fourth quarter.

Joey Merritt, another current Christian High star, recorded an interception in the contest.

The winner here will face top-seeded Mira Mesa next week… SAN DIEGO, 27-23.

(12) BONITA VISTA (4-5) at (5) WEST HILLS (10-0) – Riding a historic 12-game winning streak, the Wolf Pack faces a team with one of the poorest playoff records of any school in the section.

The Bonita Vista Barons won section and regional championships back in 2015 but prior to that were just 3-24 in the postseason from 1980-2014.

The Barons run the ball at nearly a 2-to-1 clip but don’t have a dominant back. They spread the carries in the backfield.

That should bode well for a Wolf Pack defense coming off its championship effort against El Capitan last Friday night. West Hills is allowing less than 10 points per game this season.

The Wolf Pack captured the Grossmont Valley League championship by stopping GVL’s most thrilling offense with its plethora of all-league defensive candidates, including junior Braden Wilson, who had one of three West Hills sacks against the Vaqueros.

Everywhere the Vaqueros turned, there seemed to be a swarm of black shirts heading ’em off at the pass.

And West Hills has unheralded speed on offense to boot with underclass stars Collin Dill and Diego Calderon. The emerging duo combined for over 200 yards of total offense in the title game.

Both clubs faced the Olympian Eagles on the road. West Hills won 41-12 in Week 3, while Bonita Vista won 31-6 in Week 7.

This series is tied 1-all, with both contest coming in CIF playoff games.

In 1998 at WHHS, the Pack won, 39-14, while back in 2016, the Barons won, 27-10, also at WHHS.

West Hills would like to improve on its playoff record which is just 4-8 in the last decade, and 7-16 this century.

West Hills is just 6-7 at home this century in the postseason but that record gets to .500 here and move the Pack in the Division III quarterfinals… WEST HILLS, 38-19.

(10) ORANGE GLEN (5-4) at (7) EL CAPITAN (8-2) – El Capitan put forth a championship effort against West Hills last Friday night in one of the most anticipated Grossmont Valley League games since the circuit’s inception in 2010.

On Thursday, Vaquero senior star Savigon Yokley was acknowledged as one of the finalists for the county’s Player of the Year.

The humble and deserving superstar represents the lower division schools for the award, proving you can achieve the highest honor without playing for one of the current powerhouse teams.

He wouldn’t have achieved the notoriety without being associated with the best El Capitan team in seven years and one of the top clubs in school history.

A win over Orange Glen in this CIF Division III opener would give this El Capitan a ninth victory this season, a mark achieved by only six other Vaquero clubs in 62 years.

Orange Glen was third in the coastal league. The Patriots beat La Jolla Country Day but lost to Chula Vista.

The Patriots are a big-time passing team, with nearly a 2-to-1 ratio pass-to-run, but opponents have picked off 15 passes this season against them.

The Pats have a pair of receivers who both have double-digit touchdown receptions this season.

This is the first-ever meeting between the clubs.

Since their historic 2014 season, the Vaqueros are winless in CIF playoff games (0-3)… EL CAPITAN, 34-19.

(9) IMPERIAL (6-4) at (8) SANTANA (7-2) – Two clubs with a little bit of recent history meet in a Division III matchup that has the makings of a close thriller.

Imperial, third in the Imperial Valley League, lost to West Hills, 21-7, in the season opener in Santee. The Tigers also shut out Monte Vista, 31-0.

The Tigers run more than they pass but they have just six passing touchdowns this season, while they have rushed for 18 scores.

Four different Imperial backs scored in last week’s season-ending win over the Southwest Eagles.

Santana, which has won 25 of its last 31 games over the last three-plus seasons, will be coming into this one relying on its defense.

David Friedman had two interceptions last week against El Cajon Valley, including a pick-six.

Sophomore Linden Benson emerged as a real offensive threat, scoring four touchdowns against the Braves.

The Sultans can rely on their very good run game but will need production from quarterbacks Alex Rico and/or Ethan Wright to beat the respectable Tigers.

After not playing since 1982, this was a great series when resumed from 2007-13, including two CIF games. Imperial won in a 2010 playoff at Santana, 18-7, while the Sultans won a postseason meeting at home in 2011, 41-13.

Santana leads the all-time series, 6-2-1, but Imperial has been a decent postseason club over the year… SANTANA 20-19.

(9) MOUNT MIGUEL (4-4) at (8) LA JOLLA COUNTRY DAY (6-4) – This Division IV opener could be one of those games that keep the scoreboard operator busy.

La Jolla Country Day is a fast-paced outfit that has run nearly 600 plays this season. The Torreys pass about 60 percent of the time with their quarterback who has 32 touchdown passes.

The Matadors, meanwhile, can run rampant against the LJCD defense. Mount Miguel has already proven its potency on the ground several times this season.

Mount Miguel senior Ruben Hernandez has rushed for 13 touchdowns this season, including the team’s only score last week in a 26-8 season-ending loss at Del Norte.

Junior Chris Akridge had a sack in the loss to the Nighthawks. He could be a threat in the kick return game with extra opportunity.

LJCD was fourth in the Coastal League, including a bad loss this season to Orange Glen.

This is the first-ever meeting between these programs. The winner will advance to play top-seeded Patrick Henry. MMHS is 2-7 in playoffs this decade and just 5-12 this century.

Over their last four playoff appearances, the Torreys have allowed a combined 219 points (54.75 avg), including a 76-55 loss at Santana in 2018… LJCD, 41-38.

(11) VALHALLA (3-7) at (6) SWEETWATER (7-2) – The Valhalla Norsemen earned their way into the Division IV playoffs with a season-ending 35-12 win at Monte Vista.

Senior quarterback Tommy Logan passed for three touchdowns in the victory, including a 78-yard connection with big-play threat A.J. Cornthwaite.

The struggle here for the Norsemen will be slowing a swirling “Sweeties” run game.

The Red Devils won the championship of the South Bay League and went undefeated in league play, although they lost the season opener at Grossmont, and also lost, 28-21, at home against Santana.

How often does Sweetwater pass? Maybe just a couple of times per game, so when they do, it’s always a surprise.

Last week, the Norsemen allowed some pretty big chunks of yardage to winless Monte Vista’s hard-trying rushing attack.

This is the first-ever meeting between the two schools, which could come as a surprise considering the over 45 years of Valhalla football.

The last Valhalla playoff win was in 2015 when the Norsemen defeated Christian, 48-17.

The last Valhalla road playoff win was in 2012 at La Costa Canyon in a 34-33 quarterfinal under current head coach Charles Bussey, who is in his second stint with the program.

The Norsemen scored the final 10 points for that win behind quarterback Ramsey Romano and Nehemiah Brown.

SuHi last won a postseason game in the 2013 playoffs, defeating Clairemont and Central Union before falling in the Division IV final to Monte Vista, 7-0, at Mesa College.

Including that loss, SuHi has lost three straight CIF games with their other losses coming in 2014 & ’18… SWEETWATER, 28-21.

(10) EL CAJON VALLEY (2-8) at (7) ARMY-NAVY ACADEMY (6-4) – The El Cajon Valley Braves have a 1,000-yard rusher in Kal-el Gordon after the junior star rushed for over 100 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown, last Friday in the season finale against Santana.

Senior quarterback Daniel Jacobs has 10 touchdown passes this season for the Braves.

The Warriors run at about a 3-to-1 ratio and have two pretty good backs who can find the end zone.

Defensively, the Braves have forced 23 turnovers this season, which would seem like a recipe for success.

Against the Warriors, ECVHS may find the turnovers more to their benefit than usual against the similarly-matched opponent.

ANA was second in the Pacific League, beating Foothills Christian twice.

This is the first meeting between these teams. The winner will face Mission Bay in the quarterfinals.

The Braves defeated Mountain Empire in the 2019 postseason for their first playoff win since 2012.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have a horrible record in the playoffs and are currently on an eight-game postseason losing streak.

In their first postseason contest back in 1920 — more than a century ago – Army and Navy Academy lost to the San Diego High School “Hilltoppers” (not the present-day named Cavers) by the massive score of 130-to-7 (still the county record for points scored).

Among ANA’s current 8-game playoff losing string was a setback to Foothills Christian in 2009. The most recent ANA win came in 2008 against La Jolla Country Day School… ARMY-NAVY, 31-28.

(9) MOUNTAIN EMPIRE (4-6) at (8) CRAWFORD (3-7) –  Crawford finished third in the Central League after the Colts won 8-0 at Mountain Empire in a Week 4 non-league game to take a 7-0 all-time series lead.

Can the RedHawks snap that dominance by the Colts in this Division V first-round matchup?

“We hope to get sweet revenge against them,” Mountain Empire’s Mannix Gonzalez said.

The Colts run a little more than 75 percent of the time between three guys specifically, who all get around 8-9 carries per game. The team averages over 200 yards rushing per game.

The RedHawks have had to revamp their game after their starting quarterback went down early in the season, however, signal-caller Corey Vann could be nearing a return either here, or in the next round, should they advance.

In last week’s season finale against Desert League champion Palo Verde, MEHS senior star Larry Clark had 11 solo tackles and scored a touchdown, but the RedHawks fell 34-21.

Cody Whitehead rushed for 92 yards and two touchdowns for MEHS in the finale.

Crawford has won five-straight home playoff games… CRAWFORD, 15-14.


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