East County Sports

Will Eagles be playoff darlings?

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

CIF SDS DIVISION I – FIRST ROUND
GRANITE HILLS 31, OCEANSIDE 14
By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writerOCEANSIDE —- In the glory days of football at both Granite Hills and Oceanside high schools in the 20th Century, both programs’ motto was to run the football and play notorious defense.Well, someone must’ve reminded the Eagles about their history at halftime during Friday’s (Nov. 5) CIFSDS Division I postseason opener.

Running the ball like there was no tomorrow — considering it was a playoff game — Granite Hills stunned the higher-seeded Pirates, 31-14, to advance to next week’s quarterfinals.

Led by senior linebacker Zach Burton and sophomore defensive back Jordan Glaze, the Eagles’ defense halted Oceanside’s high-caliber running attack.

Meanwhile, the Granite Hills offense line — featuring guard Moshi Tileia and tackle Erick Delgado on the right side, sophomore center Alejandro Tejeda, and the left-side combo of guard Rowdy Williams and tackle Truston Heck — was given one assignment: push forward and keep on pushing. And with great success.

Featuring a record-setting touchdown gallop, the Eagles collected 258 of their 289 rushing yards in the second half to take a wire-to-wire victory.

After Oceanside closed the gap to 10-7 with a touchdown late in the first half, Granite Hills dropped the passing operation by simply running the football.

Eight plays and 65 yards later, Zak Darling carried the ball in from the Pirates-2 for a 17-7 advantage.

But Darling wasn’t through. Two series later, his 17-yard run was followed by a Corey Thompson-Miller burst of 37 tards to the Pirate 2.

Joaquin Thomas capped the last two yards for a score and a 24-7 cushion.

“In the second half, we were much more successful with just running the ball down their throat,” Granite Hills head coach Kellan Cobbs said. “(Patrick) Brady, Darling and Thompson all ran really well. We had to bring up sophomore Rowdy Williams from JV to play left guard due to injuries and the kid just played incredibly. He was moving guys all night.”

But there was more coming from Darling.

Moments following a red zone interception by Eagles safety Davion Green, the next snap saw a handoff to Darling. Starting one yard deep in the end zone, Darling followed behind the block of Tileia at right guard, stepped out of an arm tackle, then out-raced the Oceanside secondary.

The back-breaking, 95-yard touchdown by Darling equaled a school record for longest rush in a postseason contest and cemented the school’s first-ever victory over the Bucs in three meetings. The first pairing came in the 1975 CIFSDS championship finale at old San Diego Stadium –Oceanside’s first large-school division crown.

“This win was the confidence boost we needed going into next week,” Darling said. “Our offense had a good rhythm running the ball and we were able to dominate. Our defense was on fire, as well.

The tone of the first half was quickly dictated by the Granite defenders.

Burton registered stops on the first two plays, but Oceanside was still able to drive to the Eagle 5. However, Thomas made a key, solo tackle on a third-down play, so the Pirates elected to kick a field goal.

However, the kick was blocked by Easton Peterson, who picked up his own deflection rumbled 82 yards to shock the Pirates and quickly allow Granite Hills to assume control.

On the next Oceanside series, Thomas recorded a sack to quickly quell the next drive, then Glaze defended a fourth-down pass on the net series.

The defensive battle finally saw the Eagles’ offense find some light in the second quarter on a 27-yard field goal. Oceanside was gaining yardage, but another turnover cost them when Derrek Ibarra recovered a fumble.

Finally, the Pirates scored on a 9-yard pass to Joseph Soliz from quarterback Max Mullen. For Soliz, he registered 64 yards on 10 receptions.

“Oceanside’s front four were big dudes and their quarterback played great,” Cobbs said.

Burton was credited with eight tackles with a sack for the contest, Thomas made five stops with a sack, and Glaze recorded five solo stops.

Thompson-Miller had an interception for the Eagles.

Granite Hills (5-6 overall) advance to next Friday’s round-of-8 at third-seeded Madison.

The 10th-seeded Pirates, a 16-time San Diego Section titlist, finish the year with a 4-7 record.

“(Oceanside) is a tough place to play,” Cobbs said. “You roll up and you have all those championship banners are right in front of your face.”

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