East County Sports


El Capitan's Julian May. / Ramon Scott




By Ramon Scott



EL CAJON – Following last week’s dreadful collective performance by the East County’s high school football teams, it’s a good thing we have this week’s matchup between the Santana Sultans and Valhalla Norsemen.

Unlike 11 of the 12 11-man varsity teams that lost last weekend, one of the two teams will leave the field with a victory.

The Sultans and Norsemen come into their Grossmont Valley League opener at Valhalla High on Friday evening with matching 0-4 records.

Santana is the team expected to break into the win column. The Sultans have come close to victory twice, falling to Montgomery on a last-minute touchdown in Week 2, then dropping a 14-13 game to Coronado in overtime a week later.

Valhalla, meanwhile, has been outscored 187-20 this season, including suffering back-to-back shutouts over the last two weeks, outscored by Point Loma and Olympian by a combined 100-0.

Still, the Norsemen have to think that this could possibly be the week.

The reality would still say otherwise.

Santana won last year’s matchup in Santee, 24-0, although last year’s Sultan squad started the season with five-straight wins, including that Week 5 shutout of the Norsemen.

Despite being dramatically down from last year, the Sultans should still hold over on the downtrodden Norsemen.

Santana got a kickoff return for a touchdown last week from junior Trent Taylor and teammate Ramiro Carreno scored a touchdown on a 78-yard reception but the Sultans fell at home to resurgent Fallbrook, 37-12.

The Sultans appear to have some playmakers, however, getting the ball into their hands while in open space appears to be an issue.

The Norsemen have scored three touchdowns this season. Alten Finner, Trevor Dawood, and Dominic Silva are the players that have reached the end zone.

Valhalla leads the all-time series, 19-15-1, but the Sultans have won the last two and should extend that run on Friday… SANTANA, 24-12.

EL CAJON VALLEY (1-3) at EL CAPITAN (2-2) — The El Cajon Valley Braves and El Capitan Vaqueros meet in a Thursday evening Grossmont Valley League opener in Lakeside.

Last season, the teams met for the first time in eight years, also at El Capitan Stadium, but the Vaqueros won, 48-7, which ironically was the same final score as that previous matchup back in 2013.

The Braves have already turned in a historic win this season when they shut out Hoover, 56-0, in Week 2 for one of their most-lopsided wins in the program’s 67-year history.

El Cajon Valley is a serious contender in the San Diego Section’s Division V playoff picture and will look like a solid, well-coached club that is just outmatched physically and depth-wise against a team like the Vaqueros.

El Capitan is one of the two top challengers for the GVL championship again this season, along with defending champion West Hills. The teams meet on the final night of the season.

Sophomore Brandt Barker is a promising prospect at quarterback that is already starting to show his potential. He hasn’t thrown an interception in 54 attempts.

Along with sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Chance LaChappa, the team has some of the best young talents in the conference.

Senior running back Angel Diaz (269 yards this season) can help El Capitan control this game on the ground, as the Vaqueros will hold an edge in the trenches despite the Braves’ unheralded hard-working strong men up front.

El Cap junior Julian May is dangerous when he gets the ball via run, pass, or on returns.

Senior Austin Cordeiro is the Vaqueros’ leading tackler by far and has a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery, as well.

The Braves have one of the East County’s best running backs in Kal-el Gordon. While it could be tough sledding here for the El Cajon offense, Gordon is still a threat to break one against any defense. He scored five touchdowns against Hoover and has 437 yards rushing this season.

El Cajon Valley junior Paris Dixon is one of the top two-way players in the conference, while teammate Yasir Blair, a senior, is an anchor on both sides of the ball and may be one of the most underrated players in the league.

El Capitan leads the all-time series, 42-11-3, winning 11 of the 14 games since the turn of the century. The first-ever meeting was the season final in 1959, won by the Braves, 39-12.

The Braves are big underdogs here but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good club… EL CAPITAN, 45-14.

WEST HILLS (2-2) at MOUNT MIGUEL (2-2) — The Matadors looked like they could be a challenger to West Hills and El Capitan in the Grossmont Valley League after shutting out their first two opponents.

However, following close losses to Montgomery and Crawford, Mount Miguel still appears to be a few notches behind the league favorites.

Still, this is the best opportunity for Mount Miguel to make its statement. West Hills is probably still the league favorite, thanks to a strong defense, and the Wolf Pack will be the expected favorite here on Friday night.

West Hills is vulnerable because they haven’t been as successful moving the ball as in the past few seasons. The Wolf Pack has two good offensive players in Collin Dill and Diego Calderon.

Dill was the quarterback in the first three games and Calderon took the snaps last week. Both guys are probably at their best when they are lined up elsewhere but the Pack doesn’t have that luxury currently after their recent string of solid QBs.

Still, Dill has nearly 550 yards of total offense but West Hills has zero touchdown passes this season.

Fortunately, they have a stout defense that is likely to make the difference here. With reigning GVL Defensive Player of the Year Braden Wilson, and seniors Rye Schultz and Jack Tracy, the Wolf Pack expect that side of the ball to carry them into that likely league championship game at the end of the season.

Mount Miguel has talented players, including junior receiver/defensive back Jeremiah Castillo, receiver/linebacker/return man Chris Akridge, and quarterback Matthew Barton, but this is the toughest defense they’ll have faced this season.

West Hills leads the all-time series, 17-6, and has won five-straight meetings. Last year’s meeting was won by the Pack, 35-6. In 2019, the teams played a memorable game, won by the Wolf Pack, 28-27. It seems like these teams either play a barn-burner or a blowout and not much in between… WEST HILLS 28-14.

No. 5 HELIX (3-1) at ST. AUGUSTINE (2-2) — The Highlanders were wronged on a crucial touchdown ruling that lifted Cathedral Catholic to a 14-13 win at Hart Stadium last Friday night.

Unfortunately, the loss might cost the Scotties a chance at the four-team Open Division playoffs. Combined with the strong starts by Madison, Lincoln, and Carlsbad, Helix is could be looking at a fifth-place finish in the section’s power rankings.

However, there’s no time to dwell on their postseason prospects. Helix will have to take care of the future business at hand, starting with the quickly-improving St. Augustine Saints.

The Saints are destined to return to their rightful spot near the top of the rankings in due time.

While not on the level of the county’s elite at the moment, their young talent and commitment to development under new head coach Ron Gladnick, make it only seem like a matter of time when it comes to St. Augustine returning as an Open Division contender

Saints thumped Grossmont Hills entry Steele Canyon, 45-7, last week. That result certainly will have the Highlanders on notice as they head to face one of their traditional non-league rivals at Mesa College.

The schedule may be too tough in the end for it to look like St. Augustine has made any improvement off of last year’s uncharacteristic losing season but with freshman quarterback Brady Palmer and junior receiver Isaiah Hasten, the former Granite Hills Eagle who had a pair of touchdown receptions last week, Saints have a serious tandem through the air.

St. Augustine plays almost exclusively with underclassmen and that said schedule may end up giving them another sub-par season but the Highlanders have to be on upset alert this week.

Cathedral Catholic obviously closed the gap on its section opponents following its monster out-of-section schedule to start the campaign and last week’s loss by the Highlanders to the Dons was considered by most as an upset.

Helix will find that St. Augustine is no pushover on defense. Freshman end Bronx Letuligasenoa is already a huge talent. He had an interception against the Cougars last week. as did Hasten.

The Scotties’ lack of a pure, dominant running attack like in years past was likely to hurt them against the Dons. Helix finished with just 198 total yards, including 90 on the ground by junior Kevin Allen III, who also scored a critical touchdown.

Helix leads the all-time series 11-4, but three of those were CIF playoff games, including the Highlanders’ 12-7 Open Division championship game win in 2019… HELIX, 21-17.

No. 18 CENTRAL (2-1) at No. 9 GRANITE HILLS (3-1) — Speaking of upset alert, Granite Hills head coach Kellan Cobbs is likely to make sure his Eagles know all about the Central Union Spartans.

The Spartans are probably in the Imperial Valley’s best team and if their previous games against Granite Hills are any indication, the scoreboard operator should also be on high-alert on Friday night.

Granite Hills leads the series, 4-0, with those games taking place over a six-year span between 2009-14. However, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that this one won’t follow the same script.

Central’s wins have come against good clubs in Mt. Carmel (48-20) and Point Loma (30-14). The Spartans’ loss two weeks ago was to closely-rated out-of-section opponent Palm Desert, 28-26, at home in overtime. They come into this one off a un-scheduled bye after their game against University City was scrapped due to weather and busing issues.

Senior quarterback Damian Rodriguez has thrown for 700 yards and eight touchdowns. Receivers Sergio Garcia and Arturo Estrada have combined for 29 receptions and four TDs.

The Spartans also have a top back in senior Charlie Sullivan, who has rushed for over 500 yards and scored seven touchdowns.

Central’s defense is averaging three sacks per game and senior Skylar Cook has three interceptions on the season.

Granite Hills got a nice performance last week from senior quarterback Parlan Sanders. Replacing the Eagles’ injured starter, Sanders passed for 144 yards and a touchdown to senior Colin Riley in a 38-9 road win over the Eastlake Titans. The victory lifted the Eagles to its highest ranking in the county media poll this season.

The Eagles rushed for 218 yards against Eastlake, averaging nearly seven yards per carry in wet, rainy conditions. Defensively, Granite racked up four sacks versus the Titans and senior Joaquin Thomas had a pair of interceptions.

The average final score of the four meetings between these teams has been 43-24 and this one could be even closer… GRANITE HILLS, 34-27.

STEELE CANYON (1-3) at No. 2 LINCOLN (3-1) — This game features two of the top running backs in the county in Lincoln’s Roderick Robinson and Steele Canyon’s Major Givens.

That’s probably where the comparisons end.

Robinson scored eight touchdowns last week in a win over No. 7 Mater Dei Catholic. The UCLA commit already has over 1,000 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.

The Hornets won last season, 43-10, over the Cougars and this one might not be that close.

Steele Canyon will still give the ball to Givens, who has 742 yards and seven touchdowns, but it will be tough sledding for the Cougar offense this week… LINCOLN, 49-7.

CHRISTIAN (2-2) at POINT LOMA (3-1) — The Pointers are already 3-0 against the Grossmont Conference. They will be favored to defeat another East County team on Friday night when the Patriots visit.

The teams met here last season with the Pointers taking a 35-9 decision. Christian took a pair of meetings back in 2016-17.

Point Loma dropped West Hills last week in Santee, 43-14, knocking off the defending Grossmont Valley League champions on their home field.

The Pointers also dumped Valhalla, 52-0, in El Cajon, and opened the season with a 48-10 win over the visiting Santana Sultans.

Point Loma’s lone loss came to the Central Union Spartans, 30-14, in El Centro.

Christian was stunned at home against Santa Fe Christian last week, 20-14, although the Eagles seem to currently have the Patriots number, particularly at Valley Stadium.

The Patriots opened the season with a loss at Ramona but bounced back with wins over Bishop’s and St. Margaret’s, of San Juan Capistrano.

Last week’s loss, however, was unexpected at Christian High.

The Eagles ran for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns against the Patriots.

The Pointers have a pretty serious running game with over 900 yards this season and a pair of backs over 200 yards in Chase Lowary and Noah Turbeville. Pt. Loma also has a steady hand at quarterback in senior Jackson Emerson, who had seven touchdown passes and just one interception in a modest 42 attempts.

The Christian High running game appears sufficient, averaging about five yards per carry. In fact, the Pats are running at a 2-to-1 ratio this season with seniors Brady Bingham and Aiden Hypes.

The Pats also have a lethal passing combination with seniors Jake Davila and Joey Merritt. Merritt has 19 receptions this season in four games. Senior Hunter Provience has a team-high three TD receptions.

The Patriots did play well against the Eagles, but both teams played solid and SFC was just able to earn the victory. Christian has an above-average defense by the program’s standards but will need a very clean game from an execution standpoint to compete here.

This year’s version of the Pointers, coached by former Christian High star Joel Allen, has a pretty strong team this year and Christian is showing inconsistency early… POINT LOMA, 27-17.

SWEETWATER (2-2) at MONTE VISTA (1-2) — The Red Devils need to be on the bus back home by 9 p.m. on Thursday night. The way these teams run the ball, that won’t be a problem.

Just to be safe, the kickoff has been pushed back to 6:30 p.m., with the junior varsity game kicking off at 4.

Sweetwater has somewhat recovered from a 42-0 blitzing by the Mount Miguel Matadors in the season opener.

Sweetwater has wins over Coronado and Canyon Hills by a combined three points. Last week, the Red Devils lost at home to Mission Bay, 34-14.

The Red Devils run the ball at a 4-to-1 clip and have four backs with over 100 yards this season.

Monte Vista ran the ball with Daniel Renteria and Matthew Felix for a combined 203 yards last week against San Ysidro in a 33-26 loss that was decided with 40 seconds left in the game.

However, the Monarchs’ Adrian Gonzalez also threw a pair of touchdown passes, including one that Alexander Villanueva turned into a 70-yard score.

The teams first met in 1957 but Monte Vista leads the all-time series just 4-2, with the other five meetings coming in this century.

The Red Devils won a CIF Division IV championship game over Monte Vista, 7-0, on a short pass to Antonio Garcia with three minutes left in the game back in 2013. Expect more scoring here… SWEETWATER, 21-14.

GROSSMONT (0-4) at CAJON (2-1) — The Cowboys came to Grossmont High last season and left with a 39-7 victory. This year’s matchup figures to be another one-sided game in San Bernardino.

That Cajon team finished 10-1, while the year’s club is off to a 2-1 start, including a 13-12 loss at Williams Field (Ariz.), the No. 6 team in Arizona. The Cowboys are currently ranked around the top 30 in the state, which puts them in the same company as Carlsbad and Helix.

That doesn’t bode well for the struggling Foothillers’ chances.

Cajon doesn’t have much to show in the ground game but they could run here if it so chooses. Instead, the Cowboys run three quarterbacks in a short, consistent pass game.

The real threat is the defense.

Against St. Thomas Aquinas last week, Tojuan Terrell had six sacks, including one for a safety.

Grossmont has been outscored in its four losses, 154-34. A stat that is very un-Hiller like.

Last week’s 33-21 loss against visiting Rancho Bernardo is something the Foothillers can build on.

Former El Cajon Valley player Shane Hopson scored on a deep pass from Hudson Herber for an 81-yard touchdown. Justin Brown added a 14-yard TD reception for the QB.

Grossmont doesn’t really start poorly, ever. They had 1-5 starts in 1999 and 2000. However, they are sure to be 0-5 after this trip… CAJON, 56-7.

TRI-CITY CHRISTIAN (0-4) at MOUNTAIN EMPIRE (1-2) — The RedHawks should be able to send Tri-City Christian back home with a fifth-consecutive defeat to start the season.

The RedHawks were up against it last week in a 45-0 loss at Bishop’s, Mountain Empire’s second-straight loss following a 13-7 loss to Southwest (SD) in Week 2. MEHS opened with a 20-14 win over Hoover.

Southwest (SD) was a common opponent for the Eagles, who lost to the Raiders, 20-18 in the South Bay, which might indicate this could be another close one.

Needless to say, Mountain Empire is looking to build confidence against a beatable opponent. This matchup is rated closely but is a winnable game for the RedHawks.

Mountain Empire quarterback Corey Vann is very efficient with a 19-for-33 completion mark thus far, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Freshman running back Isaac Gonzalez could end up with school records when his career is over if he continues to tote the rock as frequently as he has this season.

Tri-City got rocked by a pretty good Escondido Charter team, 70-0 two weeks. Before that, San Ysidro shut out the Eagles, 31-0. Last week, the Eagles lost at home 28-0 to Arrowhead Christian, suffering a third-straight shutout defeat.

The Eagles lead the all-time series, 6-2… MOUNTAIN EMPIRE, 14-8.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *