East County Sports

East County Fearless Forecaster – Week 4

Helix junior Jackson Daniels. / P.J. Panebianco

2022 EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

FEARLESS FORECASTER – Week Four

 

By Ramon Scott

EastCountySports.com

 

LA MESA – While opinions on the result of this week’s top five clash between the Helix Highlanders and Cathedral Catholic Dons vary, there is one statistic about the recent series that is hard to ignore.

The home team has won the last five meetings and usually in dominating fashion.

The Dons rocked the Scotties last year 52-0 a week after Helix had a game canceled against another top-flight opponent, throwing the Highlanders’ schedule for a loop.

Cathedral won the previous meeting, 45-27, at home in 2019 but Helix didn’t get another chance at the Dons when it fell short of the Open Division playoffs, winning the Division I title instead.

Quite frankly, the games over the last 10 years since the Dons had to forfeit the entire season, including a win against Helix, back in 2012 haven’t been very close.

However, in 2016, the Dons captured a pair of thrilling wins over the Scots, including a 35-27 win in the Open Division final, overcoming a 14-point deficit. A year earlier, Helix dumped the Dons, 42-14, in an Open Division semifinal.

The fact that the Dons come in with a 1-2 record to face the 3-0 Highlanders has many thinking Helix could be good for another home win in the series between two of the county’s elite programs.

However, the Dons’ defeats were far from ordinary, losing in back-to-back weeks to very high-quality opponents. Two weeks ago, Cathedral lost to the No. 15 team in the nation, Corona Centennial, 42-7, then fell last week to the No. 8 team nationally, Chandler (Ariz.), 63-7.

The Dons’ win came against now-No. 8 Mater Dei Catholic, a high-caliber local club but a team that has started the season with an 0-3 record against another menacing early schedule.

Helix has garnered attention with its 3-0 start, which has included a slight bump in the rankings. A win over the Dons could solidify their position for the Open Division playoffs. A loss could make qualifying for the top division playoff a fight to the finish with no margin for error. The Highlanders have a tough non-league schedule ahead, including games with Anaheim Servite and Mission Viejo.

The schools first met in 2009, which means they never met when Cathedral was still located in Linda Vista and known as USDHS or better yet, “Uni” High.

CC won the first game, but Helix won the next four (including the forfeit), then they’ve spilt the last 10, so Helix leads 9-6 all-time.

This time around, Helix may have gained slight favoritism with the game being played here at Hart Stadium. Hard to measure is the level of defeat for Cathedral in the losses to those nationally-ranked opponents.

The Highlanders’ schedule has been more reasonable and manageable, sweeping past Mira Mesa and Otay Ranch, before a strong finish against Mountain View (Ariz.), 24-21, at home last week.

Still, the Dons are ranked fourth in the latest media poll, one spot behind the third-ranked Highlanders. The most highly-regarded computer ratings still have the Dons as the county’s No. 1 team despite those lopsided setbacks.

The team the Dons will see on Friday will look different than recent Scottie clubs but only on offense. Helix has transformed into a passing team somewhat by necessity but also by design.

Helix’s three-star quarterback Ryland Jessee has been extremely efficient and nearly mistake-free with nine touchdown passes and no interceptions. The focus on the air, however, has left the Highlanders’ usually potent running game less necessary.

Against the Dons, a balance may prove important, but the Scotties may not have that luxury. The running game has been fine so far as a compliment but the caliber of defense rises this week. Last week, junior Jason Cisneros has an 87-yard touchdown run but Helix finished with just 116 yards on the ground.

So far, Cathedral Catholic is all about the ground game and that isn’t likely to change this week. The Dons rush at a 3-to-1 ratio but don’t have gaudy offensive numbers considering they’ve been stymied by their last two opponents.

The team still will have a strong defense to counter Helix’s new look. It is the backbone of the team this season-to-date.

Although the game has to still be rated extremely close, the Highlanders will feel disappointed with anything less than a victory this time around… HELIX, 24-22.

No. 15 Granite Hills (2-1) at Eastlake (0-3) — The public perception is that the Titans have been a troubled program for the last several seasons and that notion is starting to be confirmed in the team’s results.

Eastlake has a local loss to sixth-ranked Poway, 14-6, sandwiched by out-of-section losses at home to Apple Valley and La Habra. This is the Titans’ fourth-straight home game to open the season.

Granite Hills also suffered a defeat on the road against Poway, 31-19, in the season opener. Since then, the Eagles crushed former rival Valhalla for the fourth straight season and shutout Oceanside, 28-0 at home last Friday.

This is the second meeting between the teams but the Titans shook that recent stigma and won big, 31-0, at Valley Stadium last season. It was the first shutout suffered by the Eagles since Helix bounced them, 48-0, in 2012, a span of 97 games without suffering a goose egg on the scoreboard.

The Eagles are plentiful of talent but don’t necessarily have to feature their top stars. The team is deep in quality with some new names coming to the forefront, including Isaiah Jackson, who had two touchdowns last week, and Nokoi Maddox, who caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from ever-improving quarterback Nico Tomasello.

Eastlake isn’t going to drop off the local football map but they are looking for confidence and that will make them a dangerous and tricky opponent for Granite Hills considering last year’s result.

Junior quarterback Fabian Gerbella is the team’s leading rusher. He has 284 yards of total offense, but has thrown for just one touchdown and run for another. The team once again can compete the rest of the way because of its fabled stingy defense, this year led by seniors Tyler Bourke, Anthony Rodriguez, and Marquise Lucy.

Despite the winless record, the Titans will see have the eye of the Eagles squarely in their sights because of last year’s shutout, but the game still rates close… GRANITE HILLS, 24-21.

 

No. 14 Rancho Buena Vista (3-0) at El Capitan (2-1) — Look out Lakeside, here come the Longhorns.

The Vaqueros will need all their rustlers in action to wrangle up star running back Gino Trapasso and the red-hot Rancho Buena Vista running game.

Trapasso has been one of the county’s top backs so far with 783 yards and 12 touchdowns in three wins. RBV might actually be underrated at this point.

There aren’t a lot of surprises here, Trapasso gets the ball on almost 60 percent of the snaps and RBV runs at a 5-to-1 ratio.

The Longhorns ripped rival Vista, 48-8, last Friday. RBV started the season rated near the bottom of the Division III ratings but that rating has flipped dramatically.

Last season was the first-ever meeting with the cowboys taking down the cattle, 21-12, in Vista.

El Capitan’s Angel Diaz scored a rushing touchdown in last year’s contest, as did Trapasso. The game was clinched when Austin Cordeiro had an interception at the goal line as RBV tried to get back into the game late.

The Vaqueros stumbled last week in La Jolla, 32-7, as Diaz rushed for 110 yards but the Vikings countered with four touchdown passes from junior Jackson Diehl.

El Capitan sophomore Chance LaChappa may have already been seen as a breakout performer but that notion was solidified in his five reception, 104-yard game last week.

The Longhorns are gaining a lot of steam and attention and are favored to win on Friday night… RANCHO BUENA VISTA, 24-19.

St. Augustine (1-2) at Steele Canyon (1-2) — If anything, this meeting between the teams is very closely rated. Usually ranked higher and often with above-par records, the Saints and Cougars are looking to get back on their usual path to success.

The Saints, unfortunately, were assigned a forfeit loss last week when their program’s rosters were depleted of healthy players, forcing them to back out of a home game with Santa Margarita.

Before that, the Saints played a couple of common opponents of other Grossmont Hills League teams when it opened with a home loss against El Camino (which defeated Grossmont), 29-13, and followed that up with a 27-24 double-overtime win at Oceanside (which lost to Granite Hills).

The Saints feature a balanced attack on offense statistically but run about 65 percent of the time. They are admittedly in a youth movement, opting to play developing younger players in hopes of returning to the ranks of the county’s elite under new head coach Ron Gladnick, the former Torrey Pines coach.

The Cougar show is mostly about Major Givens and that’s not a slight on the attention the star running back receives but simply the facts.

As expected, Givens is one of the top backs in the county. Even with defenses keying on the Montana State-bound star, he averages 213 yards per game, and can “house it” on any carry. He’s arrived in the end zone six times so far.

Steele Canyon has lost back-to-back games – to top-ranked Madison (35-7) and 16th-ranked San Marcos (41-18) last week.

Saints are 5-0 in the series, including the 2018 CIF Division I playoff game when Saints were the top seed and won 28-20.

The Cougars are expected to win this game despite the teams’ close proximity in the computer ratings… STEELE CANYON, 28-21.

Point Loma (2-1) at West Hills (2-1) – The first-ever meeting between the teams figures to be a good one with the Wolf Pack hosting the Pointers, who look even better than their current computer ranking.

Point Loma is already 2-0 against Grossmont Valley League competition with wins over Santana (48-10) and Valhalla (52-0) but West Hills is one of the two main championship contenders in the local league. The Pointers’ lone loss came against No. 17 Central Union, 30-14, in El Centro.

The Pack also dropped a trip to the desert, against another good Imperial Valley team in the Imperial Tigers, 21-3, two weeks ago.

West Hills bounced back last week here at home with a 24-0 shutout of the Olympian Eagles.

Senior quarterback Collin Dill has handled the bulk of the offense with nearly 350 yards of total offense, including 257 yards rushing. Diego Calderon is the lead back with 161 yards in three contests.

West Hills senior Jack Tracy recorded three sacks last week against Olympian in an impact performance.

The Pointers poise a bigger challenge.

Jackson Emerson is one of the county’s more solid quarterbacks with a 66 percent completion rate and five touchdowns so far.

The Pointers go running back by committee with three backs going over 100 total yards each thus far this season.

Senior Chase Lowary is one of the county’s top linebackers with 28 tackles this season including 16 solo.

It figures to go down when these two teams clash and the Wolf Pack might be considered the underdogs here if the ratings are any indication… WEST HILLS, 20-19.

Santa Fe Christian (2-1) vs. Christian (2-1), at Valley Stadium – The Patriots host another of their long-time small school rivals but can feel confident that they are likely the stronger team heading into the 33rd all-time varsity meeting between the programs.

After a shutout loss at now-No. 9 Ramona, the Patriots have answered with back-to-back wins over Bishop’s (27-0) and St. Margaret’s (29-7).

In last week’s win over the Tartans, the Patriots trailed 7-0 but dominated from there, leading 20-7 at halftime.

Christian High senior quarterback Jake Davila passed for three touchdowns to three different receivers.

Brady Dierkop, a senior, had three of the Pats’ four sacks and senior Aaron Shebloski had an interception.

The Eagles won 33-13 last win at Parker. SFC also opened the season with a road win at Valley Center. Their loss came at home to resurgent Fallbrook, 21-0.

SFC runs at about a 4-to-1 ratio and mostly are a running back by committee type of team. The Eagles’ defense has four interceptions so far in three games.

Christian leads the all-time series, 16-15-1, but the Patriots were great to start the series (8-0, then the tie in 1997). In the 21st Century, SFC leads 11-7.

In 2011, Christian won a memorable division title game, 32-29, at Mesa College, while back in 2002, Christian grabbed a 21-19 division semifinal win played at Westview High.

In 2001, SFC won 42-26 in a division final at the now-demolished Qualcomm Stadium.

The Patriots lost this one at home last year, 28-15, and also dropped the 2019 opener at home, 28-20, to the Eagles, who have won the last three trips into Valley Stadium so the Pats need to be on alert despite their favoritism here… CHRISTIAN, 27-17.

Crawford (1-1) at Mount Miguel (2-1) — Mount Miguel had its shutout streak ended in the second quarter of last week’s tough loss to Montgomery.

The Aztecs ended up earning a 12-7 win over the Matadors, who went nearly quarters before allowing their first points of the season.

The Matadors might have another chance at a shutout against the visiting Colts on Friday night.

Crawford did score 35 points in a season-opening win over Mar Vista by 14 points. The Colts lost to La Jolla Country Day in Week 2, 33-14, before having their bye last week.

The Colts don’t mind throwing the ball with senior Gavin Nguyen but they also average eight yards per carry on the ground, led by sophomore Kent Armstrong, who has rushed for 227 yards.

The Matadors have the talent to cover that and figure to have less of a struggle against the Crawford defense.

Junior quarterback Matthew Barton had passed for six touchdowns with no interceptions this season. His top target is junior Jeremiah Castillo, who has four of the scores.

You would think this could be a regular matchup but last year was the first meeting, as the Matadors blanked the Colts, 27-0, at Crawford… MOUNT MIGUEL, 28-14.

Rancho Bernardo (0-3) at Grossmont (0-3) – Stepping out of a time machine, you would have to do a double take when looking at the records of the Foothillers and Broncos.

The sudden slump by the programs gives this closely-rated contest a must-win feel in order for one of these teams to gain confidence moving forward. The Broncos are the higher-rated club but the home field could certainly equalize the Hillers’ chances against the visitors.

Last season was the first meeting between the clubs and RB took a 32-6 win as the Broncos blitzed the Foothillers 26-0 in the first quarter to lead 32-0 at halftime behind five rushing touchdowns.

Grossmont’s offense has been held to just two last-minute touchdowns in the first three games. Last week, the Hillers were up against it facing five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava in a 56-0 loss at Warren, of Downey.

Rancho Bernardo hasn’t exactly lit the lamp over the last two weeks losing to No. 11 Torrey Pines, 35-0, last week, and dropping a 34-6 decision at home against Ramona in Week 2. The Broncos did manage to put up some points in a 52-34 loss versus San Marcos in their opener at home.

The losing team in this one will likely think this was one got away… RANCHO BERNARDO, 21-14.

San Ysidro (1-2) at Monte Vista (1-1) – This will be the first meeting between the clubs and it comes at a good time for both programs. The Monarchs and Cougars will fancy their chances in a close matchup.

The Monarchs are coming off a bye week following a loss to 18th-ranked Kearny, 35-21. Monte Vista opened with a 42-21 win over Maranatha Christian to snap a 12-game losing streak.

Monte Vista sat five players to start the game against the Komets for missing practice and that resulted in a 21-0 deficit. Despite trailing in the second half, 35-0, he Monarchs outscored the Komets, 21-14, after halftime.

The Monarchs have their usual running game but also have an unheralded back in senior Uziel Avalos. Avalos had the second-longest touchdown run in school history with a 98-yard score against Kearny. Monte Vista also counters with back Daniel Renteria, a junior.

The Cougars were hyped up entering the season with hopes of an improved team and program. The results are mixed so far but they rocked Tri-City Christian, 31-0.

San Ysidro also played Kearny, earning a 35-30 win, which could bolster their confidence coming in as the road team here.

The Cougars were suffocated by Fallbrook, 67-0, last week, although the Warriors are dramatically improved this season.

San Ysidro senior Tahirik Garcia has nearly 300 yards rushing and four touchdowns to lead the team this season. Junior receiver Johnny Castro has nine receptions for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Senior junior Gutierrez leads the Cougs’ defense with 24 tackles, including 13 solo.

The ratings might have the Cougars favored but the Monarchs’ improvement might not have triggered the computer’s algorithm just yet… MONTE VISTA 23, SAN YSIDRO 22.

Valhalla (0-3) at Olympian (1-2) – This will be the first meeting between the schools as the Norsemen continue to search for their first win of the season.

Olympian came up with a “0” last week against West Hills in a 24-0 loss in Santee. The Eagles opened with a 21-9 road win at Westview before a Week 2 loss at San Pasqual, 44-12.

Valhalla was no match for Point Loma last week in a 52-0 loss at home. Valhalla has been outscored 111-6 over the last two contests following a 28-14 season-opening defeat at Hilltop.

Olympian sophomore Kristian Noriega has thrown for 430 yards and three touchdowns this season. The Eagles are balanced on offense with their play-calling.

Valhalla defensive star Giovanni Alejo stripped a ball loose for a fumble recovery which he returned 57 yards last week before he was tackled a lost the ball back to the Pointers. That’s the way it’s been going for the Norsemen over the last two seasons… OLYMPIAN, 35-7.

THURSDAY

Montgomery (2-1) at El Cajon Valley (1-2)  – Is Monty considering a move to the Grossmont Valley League? This is the Aztecs’ third-straight game again a GVL opponent, and they are 2-0 so far with last-minute wins over Santana and Mount Miguel.

The Braves fell to a good Vincent Memorial team at home last Friday. They’ll host their third-straight home game when the Aztecs visit Priest Field.

In the 12 previous meetings, ECV leads 7-5, with three Braves wins by shutout, including blankings in the teams’ last two meetings (40-0 in 0216, and 28-0 in 2015).

The Braves have what it takes to beat the Aztecs but this one figures to be a toss-up.

The Aztecs will have to stop El Cajon Valley’s running game, led by senior Kal-el Gordon, one of the county’s most unheralded backs. He has 335 yards and eight touchdowns so far this season, including five scores in a 56-0 win over Hoover in Week 2. He’s also the team’s leading tackler from his linebacker spot.

Junior quarterback Darick Dubose has 382 yards of total offense for ECVHS, He’s thrown 40 passes without an interception thus far.

El Cajon’s Paris Dixon, a junior, is one of the county’s most underrated defensive backs. He is also a dangerous return man.

The Aztecs have proven to be clutch with their late wins in back-to-back weeks. Senior Nate Ong has stepped in at quarterback and made big plays in the clutch.

Isaac Cervantes is the top back for the Aztecs, while Gideon Baraka is a top defender for Montgomery.

This certainly looks like it could come down to the final minutes, as well… MONTGOMERY, 22-21.

Fallbrook (2-1) at Santana (0-3) – The Sultans have to find more ways to get the ball into the hands of their not-so-secret anymore secret weapon.

When Santana needed a miracle touchdown last Friday night, quarterback Alex Rico found a way to pass the ball to Michael Valenzuela and all Valenzuela did what get the ball into the end zone with a couple of clutch catch-and-run plays to keep the Sultans in stride with the Coronado Islanders, once near the end of the fourth quarter and again in overtime.

The Sultans failed on a two-point conversion pass attempt in a 14-13 home loss to Coronado but a Sultan star may have emerged out of the three-game losing streak to start the season.

Thursday night’s game against the resurgent Fallbrook Warriors will not be easy. What looks like it could’ve been a good matchup when it was made, the Warriors are one of the surprise teams in the county, while Santana certainly can admit it is having a disappointing start.

The Sultans opened with losses to a good Point Loma team and an equally-matched Montgomery club in a game where they were shutout, 6-0.

Fallbrook features one of the county’s leading rushers in junior Chris Bausch, who has gained 455 yards and scored four touchdowns this season.

Warrior sophomore quarterback Evan Thomas has passed for 400 yards and four touchdowns in three starts.

Even when the CIF-San Diego Section was created, Fallbrook was a large-enrollment division school and elected to remain in the Southern Section back in the early 1060s.

Then for some reason, the schools agreed to meet in the 1983 season opener in Fallbrook, with the Warriors winning, 26-7. Fallbrook went on to a 10-0 regular season and was ranked at the top of the rankings, but then lost to Mira Mesa in the playoff opener, 24-21 when there were eight-team brackets with no byes.

This is the first meeting since that first clash, just a span of 39 years… FALLBROOK, 28-7.

SATURDAY

 

Mountain Empire (1-1) vs. The Bishop’s (2-1), at La Jolla – The RedHawks make another road trip out west, this time to face the Knights at La Jolla High on Saturday.

TBS leads the series, 7-0, including the last meeting in 2006, which was won by TBS, 61-20, at LJHS.

The Knights figure to be a considerable favorite here but the RedHawks are always up for a challenge. Even when up against stronger opposition, the RedHawks often make few mistakes and make teams earn their points.

The RedHawks defeated Hoover, 20-14, in their season opener before falling to the Southwest Raiders, 13-7, in Week 2. Mountain Empire had a bye last week.

Mountain Empire junior quarterback Corey Vann has three touchdown passes with no interceptions. Freshman Isaac Gonzalez looks like he’ll be a bell-cow back for years to come at MEHS. He’s carried the ball 35 times in two games for 138 yards.

The Bishop’s School has wins over La Jolla, 28-7, in the season opener, and Beverly Hills, 69-0, last week. In Week 2, the Knights suffered their first shutout in 145 regular season games at the hands of the Christian Patriots, 27-0.

Mountain Empire will be traveling west for most of its schedule in the future, so these trips are routine already, this is just a tough matchup… BISHOP’S, 31-14.

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