East County Sports

Cougars, Foothillers close regular season

Grossmont junior Isaac Aceves. / Vic Marano



EastCountySports.com staff report


EL CAJON — The winless Grossmont Foothillers could be just one win away from qualifying for the San Diego CIF Division II playoffs when they host the one-win Steele Canyon Cougars on Thursday night.

Both teams will also be looking for their only Grossmont Valley League victory of the season after losing to championship contenders Helix and Granite Hills, respectively.

The 0-9 Foothillers are reportedly less than one-quarter of a point behind 12th-ranked Otay Ranch in the section’s division playoff formula heading into the season’s final weekend.

A victory over the Division I playoff-bound Steele Canyon Cougars (1-8) would earn the Hillers 44 points in the section’s power rating system to accrue to their final regular season average which currently is reported as 42.67.

A Grossmont loss to Steele Cayon would garner the Foothillers just 38 points to factor into their final ranking points.

Should Otay Ranch (3-5) lose their season finale against Division III entrant Bonita Vista on Friday night, the Falcons would only receive 39 points to their average, which currently is reported as 42.88.

Even a win would only garner 44 points for the Falcons, making the final calculation too close to call since the section’s published ratings could be inaccurate if not all teams’ win-loss data isn’t correctly entered, as had been the case practically every week since the season ratings debuted.

However, the section has made it a priority to get the results as close to 100 percent accurate as possible heading into the finals nights of the season so that teams have an accurate assessment of their chances to qualify for the postseason.

The Cougars, meanwhile, are locked into postseason play as an entrant in Division I and will be on the road against one of a handful of teams that likely include La Costa Canyon (5-4), El Camino (6-3), or Torrey Pines (3-6).

A Grossmont loss to Steele Canyon would garner the Foothillers just 38 points to factor into their final ranking points. Otay Ranch is projected to win their Metro Mesa League game against the Barons at Southwestern College on Friday night and finish with approximately 42.78 points.

While the Hillers are about a touchdown underdog tonight against the visiting Cougars, Grossmont won a CIF Division I playoff game on a last-minute field goal, 17-14, at Steele last season just one week after SC knocked off Grossmont, 23-10, on the same field.

While the Cougars certainly had ambition on their side when facing Helix and Steele Canyon, that loss to Grossmont may have forced Steele Canyon to circle this game early as their rugged regular season progressed.

It could be a big night for Steele Canyon senior Major Givens, who piled up 242 yards in the playoff game. Givens was “limited” to 158 yards in the regular season win over the Foothillers.

While the Foothillers hope to avoid adding to their list of winless seasons — 1998 (0-10), 1953 (0-8), 1944 (0-5-2), and 1920 (0-4, going scoreless in the school’s first season) — the Cougars seek to avoid making history, too.

The poorest season since Steele Canyon started varsity football in 2002 — this is the school’s 20th season if not counting the unofficial 2019-20 spring campaign — was just two victories in 2013 (2-9) and the debut 2002 ledger (2-8).

This pairing also met twice in a pair of “instant classics” in 2015, with Steele Canyon sweeping, 39-36 and 39-35 (in a CIF Division I quarterfinal.

The Cougars lead the all-time series, 13-9, including 7-4 on the road.

One thing the Foothillers did this season was looked crisp in their new gold uniforms (and blue road jerseys, as well), which are on-point and have to rank as the current No. 1 outfit of all East County teams… STEELE CANYON 28-14.


Open/Division I

Helix will earn a first-round bye in the Division I playoffs with a victory over visiting Granite Hills in the Grossmont Hills League championship game on Friday night, but a loss (which would earn the Highlanders just 43 rating points) could drop them from the top four, or possibly make them the No. 4-seed.

As it stands, the Highlanders appear headed to a No. 3-seed – if they beat the Eagles – unless there is an upset by Granite Hills lowering their seeding, or of a team above them, which would raise their position. The top four seeds receive first-round byes.

A home victory over Granite Hills is no guarantee this season, even at home.

In fact, the widely-recognized computer ratings have the Eagles favored by about a touchdown on the road, however, another lesser-referred projection website has the Highlanders nearly two-TD favorites on Friday night.

Regardless, the game is solidly-billed as the East County Game of the Year.

Despite a season that would seem worthy of an Open Division berth, the Poway Titans appear to be headed to the playoffs as the top-seeded team in Division I, with 6-3 Mission Hills earning a likely bid into the four-team field.

The Open Division championship game will be held at Snapdragon Stadium, while the Division I title contest will be held at Escondido High.

Carlsbad, Lincoln, Madison and Mission Hills figure to make up the four-team bracket in the Open Division barring a major upset this week.

Division II

Granite Hills and Christian are tied for the top seed in Division II, according to the latest release of the playoff rankings.

The Eagles dominated the Patriots, 41-3, putting a running clock on them in the first half just three weeks ago.

However, Christian High is the Eastern League champion while Granite Hills may, or may not, win its league banner.

Part of the equation is that the teams – which share the same home field and had never met until this season – could meet again in the postseason (and possibly in a championship game), which certainly shows a flaw in the CIF’s current formula.

Despite the Patriots’ awesome late-season run to the league title, there is little evidence they would be able to compete in a rematch.

The Eagles look like a clear-cut favorite to win the Division II championship to anyone who has seen them play this season.

Still, Granite Hills is expected to finish as the No. 2 seed behind another team that it also quickly dispatched in the regular season – the Central Union Spartans.

The Eagles clobbered the Imperial Valley’s best team, 42-7, back in mid-Sept. in Valley Stadium by rushing for 424 yards.

Central’s possible leap-frog to the top seed is no certainty, however, with a final night championship game showdown in the Imperial Valley League with host Brawley looming in a game that has to rate extremely close.

Other contenders to challenge the Eagles that actually could pose a threat are Ramona, a likely top-four seed, or Mira Mesa, which lost to Christian, 21-20, also a Valley Stadium.

Sante Fe Christian is also part of the Division II field. The Eagles defeated Christian, 20-14, in a regular season game at Valley Stadium.

Division III

The El Capitan Vaqueros would likely earn a first-round home game with a win over visiting West Hills in Friday night’s Grossmont Valley League championship game.

A win by West Hills would cause a three-way tie in the Valley League and could force all three GVL teams to play on the road in the opening round of the Division III playoffs.

The CIF often grants league champions a home game by adjusting the seedings via a committee of league representatives the morning after the regular season. An exception might be if they lost to a team they would supplant (such as the Vaqueros’ 42-14 home loss to higher-ranked Rancho Buena Vista), or if the ranking disparity is just too great to warrant a ‘switch-a-roo.’

But with tri-champions and all three GVL contenders entering the final night just eighth or lower in the latest published rankings, the committee may just go with the status-quo in regards to where our local teams fall.

Nonetheless, all three Grossmont Valley League qualifiers figure to be in exciting games in the first round with possible opponents including Morse, San Pasqual, or Patrick Henry. Also in the mix is RBV, but the Longhorns are underdogs in their season finale at Fallbrook, which further adds to the division chaos.

The committee could also elect to adjust one of the Grossmont Valley League qualifiers’ ranking to avoid a rematch of league foes in the first round of the postseason unless deemed “unavoidable.”

The top four ranked teams receive first-round byes. At the moment, those clubs figure to be University City, Point Loma, Del Norte, and Bishop’s.

Christian defeated Bishop’s, 27-0 in La Jolla in late Aug.

Division IV

The Mount Miguel Matadors (4-6) aren’t necessarily the underdog you want to be facing in your first-round home game in the Division IV playoffs.

The Matadors’ regular season is over but they figure to sneak into the postseason as the No. 12 seed. That will put a team like Palo Verde Valley, Coronado, or Mission Bay on upset alert.

Mount Miguel has one of the county’s most potent passing games, especially in this division. However, the Matadors have shown some defensive liabilities against playoff-caliber clubs.

Still, if the Matadors go down, they figure to go out firing.

Monte Vista (1-8) and Valhalla (0-9) are virtually eliminated, and we really mean virtually, but the teams will square off in a playoff game of their own on Friday as the winner will walk away with their only Grossmont Valley League victory of the season.

Division V

The El Cajon Valley Braves (4-5) can likely secure a first-round bye if they were to upset Santana (4-5) in the team’s unofficial “measuring stick” Grossmont Valley League game in Santee on Friday night.

Should the Braves lose, a likely tumble to a Division V road game would likely be the end result.

El Cajon Valley enters the final week reportedly ranked fourth in the current division points battle.

A loss to the Sultans, who have to be at least a firm touchdown favorite over the Braves, could see ECV finish as the No. 9 seed entering the postseason.

No worries for the experienced Braves, they won a first-round road game last season, stunning Army-Navy, 21-14.

In other words, watch out for El Cajon Valley in the playoffs.

The top seeds are likely to include Army-Navy and Vincent Memorial, a team to which the Braves fell to in early Sept., 35-21, at Preist Field.

If the Braves don’t qualify for a bye in the first round, then a likely matchup could come against the likes of Southwest (El Centro) or Clairemont.

Mountain Empire (2-7) should qualify for the final seed with a home win over winless Orange Glen, then hit the road west for a first-round playoff game.


Not much is known about this year’s Knights, but they are live to be competitive against any opponent in the division considering the team’s championship history in the division.


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