East County Sports

East County Fearless Forecaster – Quarterfinals

West Hills seniors Braden Oberg and Dylan Snyder. / P.J. Panebianco




EastCountySports.com staff report

LA MESA —- Really, the Helix Highlanders rarely think twice about the perpetual trophy – the “Campbell Musket” – when it comes to the rivalry between themselves and the Grossmont Foothillers.

After 30 years and 26 games, it has to be an afterthought when you’re in search of section championships year-in-and-year-out.

But what about the actual thought of what would happen should the Hillers upset the top-seeded and seventh-ranked Scotties in their San Diego CIF Division I quarterfinal game on Friday night at Hart Stadium.

After all, Helix retained the trophy, or at the least, just kept it up on the wall in the library after knocking off Grossmont once again on the way to winning the Grossmont Hills League championship last month.

The interesting matchup could spark a debate at whether the Highlanders would relinquish the relic if Grossmont was able to stun just about everybody not wearing blue and gold.

In most cases, schools usually only compete for a perpetual trophy in scheduled rivalry games.

There really hasn’t been a need to consider such a postseason transfer as Helix defeated Grossmont in 2008, 2014, and 2018 in playoff pairings.

The attention for East County fans, however, finds Grossmont, brimming with confidence fresh off its mild upset over Steele Canyon on the road in last week’s opening round, getting another shot at the Division I top seed.

Helix, a section power since capturing its first CIFSDS division title in 1978, has been known not to run up the score on overmatched opponents in the regular season.

But come playoff time, especially in rematches of regular-season meetings, it seems anything goes for the Highlanders’ accelerator.

In 2018, Helix defeated Grossmont, 27-0, in the regular season, but a month later, the Scotties posted the second-highest scoring total in school history, humbling the big brother Hillers, 68-7, with Elelyon Noa scoring five touchdowns and rushing for 362 yards in just the first half.

In 2001, the Highlanders did a similar number on conference foe Monte Vista, knocking off the steady Monarchs, 52-21, in then-league play, while three weeks later, Helix established its record scoring mark, 71-32, in the division semifinal game held at Southwestern College.

The Highlanders haven’t won all their regular-season rematches that have occurred in the postseason but they have had plenty of success.

And they’ll have a big-time running game set to match whatever the Grossmont passing game has to offer.

Senior Christian Washington rushed for over 200 yards and scored three touchdowns on runs of 37, 36, and 33 yards in the first meeting.

Meanwhile, the Foothillers right now can’t run the ball at all against elite defenses but are finding a way around the dilemma with heady star Trenton Giles at quarterback.

Grossmont’s defense has been strong and consistent against a rigorous schedule.

In last week’s 17-14 last-minute victory over the Cougars, however, the Foothillers allowed over 250 yards rushing.

Helix senior Xavier Van had a pair of interceptions in the first meeting.

Grossmont has a pair of serious pass-catching threats Ryan Rodieck and Gio Burns, who is coming off his best receiving performance of his career last week.

The schools probably wouldn’t even bother to reach out regarding what might happen in the event of an upset. If Helix were to lose, the Highlanders probably would feel obligated to hand the gun over… HELIX, 42-21.

Helix in Rematches
How the Helix Highlanders do when meeting an opponent for the second time in a season (21st Century):
Game 1     Game 2
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
Cathedra Cath.
H 29-14
H 44-37
H 27-0
H 35-14
C 35-28
H 12-7
H 68-7
St 21-20
C 35-27

Cathedral Cath.

Cathedral Cath.
Steele Canyon
H 37-7
H 42-0

C 9-7
H 46-10
V 31-14
H 42-14
H 58-35
H 27-5
H 48-21
H 24-20
Monte Vista
Monte Vista
Monte Vista
O 27-0
H 12-9
H 42-21
H 43-35
MV 38-27
O 14-7
MV 20-3
H 71-32
O 42-12
H 61-28

(10) GRANITE HILLS at (2) No. 6 MADISON The Granite Hills Eagles were superb in their first-round Division I victory at Oceanside last Friday, taking home a 31-14 victory with a terrific performance in the second half.

The Eagles will have to go four quarters for sure with the sixth-ranked Madison Warhawks in the quarterfinals this week.

Madison dispatched Granite Hills, 33-14, in a Week 3 matchup at Valley Stadium.

Junior Zak Darling, who had a pair of touchdown runs in the second half last week, including a 95-yarder in the fourth quarter, rushed for over 100 yards and scored both touchdowns for Granite Hills in the first matchup with the Warhawks.

The Eagles employed a pass-first attitude that night, putting the ball in the air 40 times, suffering three interceptions.

That ratio could be much different this time around with Granite Hills’ running game in strong form.

The issue, however, will be Madison’s defense, which has held La Jolla, Lincoln, and Mira Mesa to a combined 37 points over the last three weeks.

It can be noted that the Eagles actually won the yardage battle with Madison in Round 1, 327-294.

“I was watching the (first) Madison game on the bus ride home and we are a much different team but so are they,” Granite Hills head coach Kellan Cobbs said. “They now pass a lot more than our first meeting and playing much better. Their defense is still very good. We made a lot of costly mistakes against them.”

Madison is extremely balanced on offense but Granite can start by focusing on receiver Jake Jackson.

And when the Warhawks get close to the goal line, sophomore James Tivao, already one of the county’s best players, is the man to carry the ball.

That pair has combined for over 20 touchdowns this season. Tivao had two touchdowns and eight solo tackles in the Sept. 3 meeting.

Before this season, the only other meeting was the Eagles’ win over the Warhawks in a CIF Division AA (the higher of the two divisions at the time) quarterfinal game in 1975… MADISON, 27-21.


(9) CHRISTIAN (6-4) at (1) No. 14 MIRA MESA (6-3) – The Patriots, unfortunately, didn’t get to face the eventual Eastern League champion Marauders in the regularly scheduled league opener in Week 8.

Just a little more than a month after Mira Mesa’s popular and successful head coach Chris Thompson passed away after contracting COVID-19, Christian High head coach Danny Mitchell had to call the Marauders and tell them that their football program had suffered an outbreak.

In the midst of the terrible tragedy, the Marauders have really been the county’s most inspiring team this season.

Mira Mesa had a five-game winning streak and won the biggest game of the league campaign, knocking off then-unbeaten Scripps Ranch, 38-35, on the road.

The first meeting was expected to be rated very close between the clubs although Christian has defeated the Marauders in each of the last three seasons.

Now, however, Christian High is coming into the Division II quarterfinal as a bit of an underdog. The Marauders have several offensive players that need accounting for.

There’s no doubt the Patriots are explosive, and often can score on a moment’s notice, sometimes when absolutely necessary as proven in last week’s first-round victory over San Diego High.

Junior quarterback Jake Davila hit buddy Joey Merritt three times for touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 42 seconds left, as Christian overcame a 400-yard rushing night by the Cavers.

Christian won in 2018, 54-25, then captured the 2019 contest, 28-10. The Patriots won in the spring against the Marauders, 30-14… MIRA MESA, 27-24.


(8) SANTANA (8-2) at (1) No. 11 MT. CARMEL (9-1) – Santana, coming off a three-overtime victory over Imperial in the first round, will match up with top-seeded and 11th-ranked Mt. Carmel, the champions of the Palomar League, in Rancho Penasquitos.

It’s the first-ever meeting in football between the two schools.

Mt. Camel has never won a football championship but they have the right man for the job in head coach Drew Westling, who already has four league titles to his resume, including three at Hilltop High, before taking over the Sundevils’ program.

The Sundevils won their first seven games before losing at home to Rancho Bernardo. Still, Mt. Carmel was able to capture the league crown.

Senior quarterback Cayden Gent leads an offense that has well over 2,000 yards through the air this season for Mt. Carmel.

Senior receiver Luke Sevier, whose late grandfather Wayne Sevier coached with the Chargers and, like Westling, was a quarterback at San Diego State, caught 68 passes for the Sundevils.

Mt. Carmel also features Fresno State-bound superstar Jayden Virgen, who can do many things on both sides but is never overworked because of the bevy of talent on the club.

Santana quarterback Alex Rico looked more comfortable last week as he gains varsity experience, throwing a touchdown to star Dylan Anderson.

Logan Jorden had a big play on a defense that has been full of big plays all year. He returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown in the victory over Imperial.

The computer algorithm previously used by the section has the Sultans getting shut out here. C’mon, man… MT. CARMEL, 33-17.

(5) No. 12 WEST HILLS (12-0) at (4) RAMONA (7-3) – The Wolf Pack certainly pass the eye test.

Unfortunately, despite the media’s affinity for the Pack, undefeated league champion West Hills has to play its quarterfinal on the road against the Valley League champ.

Pretty much everyone, especially Ramona’s frenzied fans, have long said “It’s tough climbing the mountain,” but that isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to the postseason.

The famed Bulldogs have managed just an 8-10 record this century on its usually one-sided home-field advantage.

Included in that record are losses in consecutive years (2006-09) to Grossmont Conference programs Valhalla, Mount Miguel, then two straight to Steele Canyon.

And the Wolf Pack has that intimidating “0” in the loss column.

As the season has progressed, so has the West Hills on offense.

Not ever necessarily a work in progress to start the season, it was just a matter of utilizing the right parts.

Players who were battling for playing time with teammates ended up in starting roles, then became additional stars on a team with more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Braden Oberg has to be the county’s most overlooked star. He has over 2,000 yards of total offense on an undefeated team. Plus, he still just has one interception in 120 in 120 attempts.
West Hills junior linebacker Braden Wilson is one of the top underclassmen defenders in the East County.

The Bulldogs are considerable favorites by the computers but they certainly won’t have their usual success against this defense.

The last time West Hills traveled to Ramona, led by Wolf Pack defensive line star Jordan Arnold, the Bulldogs claimed a 41-14 win. This one is much closer… RAMONA, 26-24.

(7) EL CAPITAN (9-2) at (2) No. 4 MATER DEI CATHOLIC (8-0) In any other year, the El Capitan Vaqueros would have as good of a chance at this division championship as many of the other contenders vying for the title.

In facing the second-seeded Crusaders in the quarterfinals, El Capitan faces an opponent that has put together a generational-type team at the school formerly known as Marian Catholic.

Mater Dei Catholic has quietly become one of the county heavyweights despite its Division III status. Even with this type of rare elite talent, the program appears headed for the upper tier of the county divisions and could be there for a number of years to come.

What fans are starting to realize about Vaquero senior Savigon Yokley is that his talent transcends the level of competition, much like the host of Crusader stars that will take the field on Friday night.

There’s should be no doubt that Yokley’s hands, height, speed, and elusiveness should be able to carry over to the college-level of play, probably as a receiver.

But with Mater Dei bringing the heat, Yokley will have to decide to keep it or distribute it without much deliberation.

Senior Jason Harden had eight of the team’s 29 sacks in the Crusaders’ shortened eight-game campaign.

Still, Mater Dei won the Mesa League, handling championship rival Eastlake, 28-14, during the regular season.

Crusader quarterback Dominic Nankill, a junior, has nearly 2,500 yards passing this season. By Comparison, Yokley has just over 2,000 total yards.

Mater Dei has won five straight in the series after El Cap won initial meetings of 35-0 and 44-0 in 2012-13. The Crusaders won close games in 2017 (26-23) and ’18 (37-35), before blowing out the Vaqueros, 32-6, in 2019.

Yokley had the type of performance last week that made everybody forget about what happened in the Grossmont Valley League championship game and re-established himself as a player of the year finalist in practically everyone’s opinion.

However, each and every Vaquero will need a player of the year-like performance to help their captain lead them to a win against this new juggernaut… MATER DEI CATHOLIC, 36-18.


(10) EL CAJON VALLEY at (2) MISSION BAY – The Braves have won playoff games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. They also are coming off their first road playoff victory in 16 years.

That’s worth saluting.

It’s a huge credit to the players after El Cajon Valley opened the season with a 48-0 loss on its home field to these high-flying Bucs.

But head coach Nick Osborn and his staff can’t dodge – or out-run – the accolades for the accomplishment.

El Cajon Valley forced five turnovers to win at Army-Navy Academy, 21-14, in a Division V first-round matchup.

The Braves are going to be underdogs by more than a couple of touchdowns on Friday night but they are surely in good shape to compete considering the lopsided opener against Mission Bay.

Clash Orsborn connected with his top target Jacob Sloan for four touchdowns in the first half against the Braves back on Aug. 20 but the El Cajon Valley secondary made huge strides over the season to become one of the strengths of the team.

Sophomore Paris Dixon led the East County with a reported five interceptions this season.

The Braves and Buccaneers met in a first-round CIF playoff game in El Cajon back in 1974, which was won by Mission Bay, 26-8. The Bucs lead the all-time series, 12-3.

These teams used to always be season-opening opponents in the late ’80s through the 90s, just like this season… MISSION BAY, 33-22.


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