East County Sports


El Cajon Valley quarterback Darick Dubose. / Vanilla Gorilla



EastCountySports.com staff report


LA MESA – Four East County teams remain alive for a San Diego Section football championship entering tonight’s quarterfinals.

Three of those teams – Helix, Granite Hills, and Christian – will host games in their respective divisions tonight at local venues.

Meanwhile, El Cajon Valley will look to pull off an upset on the road in order to advance to the semifinals.

Also, Foothills Christian will take the field this evening in an 8-man semifinal, trying to win a third-consecutive title in the classification after opting out of the pandemic season, then spending last season playing 11-man football in Division V.

Division I

No. 5 El Camino (8-3) at No. 4 Helix (7-3) — Veteran El Camino players have been placing some emphasis on the fact that Highlanders won last year’s semifinal matchup, 28-17, right here at Hart Stadium.

Helix was having a hard time getting its usual potent ground game going in the first half but the Highlanders took to the air with quarterback Ryland Jessee to pull out the win by throwing touchdown passes on back-to-back possessions to start the third quarter.

Helix always has Open Division playoff aspirations but it seems like the Scotties hardly had a chance to earn a spot in the top four in Division I after falling at home to Cathedral Catholic in Week 3.

El Camino head coach Michael Hobbs vowed after last year’s loss to Helix that the Wildcats would be back this season and here they are.

The Wildcats scored 26 touchdowns on the ground this season but only nine via the pass.

El Camino’s offensive numbers are somewhat modest this season for a championship-caliber team but they are very stout defensively.

Quintin Johnson, a junior, had 6 1/2 sacks this season and was second on the team in tackles.

The perception of the Highlanders was that they were shifting their focus to the air this season, which was pretty much the case early on.

Jessee a junior, has 27 touchdown passes this season, including 11 to versatile end Quincy Herron.

But overlooked by many local experts has been the emergence of junior running back Kevin Allen III.

Allen finished the regular season with 900 yards on the ground and 12 rushing scores. The numbers are impressive if you consider Allen III had just 146 yards and one TD in the first three games of the season.

The Wildcats advanced with a 35-6 win over Scripps Ranch last week as Zuriel Eatmon had two interceptions and also scored a touchdown on the ground for El Camino. The ‘Cats rushed for 210 yards overall.

El Camino leads the series, 6-4-1… HELIX, 22-21.

Division II

No. 8 La Jolla (6-5) at No. 1 Granite Hills (8-2) — The Eagles are knowingly the decisive favorite to win the championship in Division II.

Granite Hills head coach Kellan Hobbs is using that as motivation to keep his team focused on the task at hand.

No reason for the Eagles’ all-time leader in coaching wins to get crafty with a false narrative for his troops.

Two weeks ago, Granite Hills knocked off Helix, 46-44, in four overtimes for the Grossmont Hills League championship.

The Eagles have also easily dispatched other Division II contenders Central Union (the No. 2 seed) and Christian (the No. 4 seed), in resounding fashion by a combined 83-10 count, with a running clock invoked relatively early in both games. The Patriots lost to La Jolla, 20-14, in a regular season matchup.

If anything, it’s too bad Granite Hills has been knocked down a rung to Division II this season. This year’s club would be one of the top contenders for the Division I championship, as well.

The Vikings defeated Sante Fe Christian, 28-21, in the first round last week.

La Jolla junior quarterback Jackson Diehl passed for three touchdowns, including a pair to sophomore Hank Hansen.

Granite Hills has been so good collectively that the individual stars appear to be an afterthought in the county’s postseason awards discussion.

One Eagle that figures to have a legitimate case to be an All-CIF performer this season is defensive back Easton Peterson. The senior had eight interceptions during the regular season, returning three for touchdowns.

The unselfish Eagles have three backs – senior Zak Darling and sophomores Max Turner and Pablo Jackson – that have combined for nearly 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns.

The teams met in a home-and-home series back in 2003-04 with La Jolla winning both meetings… GRANITE HILLS, 38-14.

No. 5 Mira Mesa (8-3) at No. 4 Christian (6-4) (at El Cajon Valley High) The Patriots defeated the Marauders, 21-20, in the most significant game of the Eastern League season back on Oct. 15.

Mira Mesa returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.

The Marauders scored again in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead but the Patriots came back to tie the game at 14-all late in the opening period.

Mira Mesa took a 20-14 lead in the third quarter but Hunter Provience scored on a 79-yard pass play from Jake Davila early in the fourth quarter to take the lead.

Last week, the Mauraders won their third straight game by defeating Otay Ranch, 38-21.

Christian leads the all-time series, 4-1. That one loss came in last year’s Division II quarterfinal round, as Mira Mesa knocked off the visiting Patriots, 34-16.

The regular-season game between the clubs last season was canceled just days following the pandemic-related death of Mira Mesa head coach Chris Thompson.

The Patriots also ride a three-game winning streak coming into this one.

First-year head coach Patrick Bugg guided Christian High to a third Eastern League championship in the last six regular seasons.

The Pats will have to slow Mira Mesa’s do-it-all star Makei Thompson. He’s rushed for over 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns so far this season and also stars on defense and special teams.

Thompson had 148 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the first matchup.

Mira Mesa corner Ravel Cato has eight interceptions this season.

This game is practically a toss-up although the computers rank the Marauders ahead of the Patriots… MIRA MESA, 23-21.

Division V

No. 7 El Cajon Valley (5-6) at No. 2 Escondido Charter (8-2) — The Braves are having one of the finest seasons in school history. An upset win over the second-seeded White Tigers would be over-the-top.

The Braves won last week’s first-round playoff game at Priest Field over Clairemont, 21-14, on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs, including the game-winner with under 30 seconds left in the game, by unheralded quarterback Derick Dubose.

Escondido Charter, the Pacific League champions, beat Clairemont, 37-6, on the road back on Aug. 19.

White Tiger senior quarterback Skylar MacMahon threw for nearly 2,000 yards during the regular season, along with 27 touchdown passes. ECHS has a pair of senior receivers in Aiden Volk and John Scates who combined for 18 TD receptions.

One thing that allows El Cajon Valley to remain in games where they are overmatched is that they are arguably the most-disciplined team in the East County, rarely digging holes for themselves in the face of frustration, a long-time Brave bugaboo.

The Braves’ Kal-El Gordon gets attention for his outstanding running out of the backfield but as the season has progressed, El Cajon Valley’s defense has stood out during the second half of the season.

Senior Yasir Blair led the team with seven sacks, while sophomore Fabian Carmona is one of the fastest-rising defensive standouts in the Grossmont Conference.

This is the first meeting between the programs… ESCONDIDO CHARTER, 42-21.

8-man Division

No. 6 Foothills Christian at (No. 2) St. Joseph Academy — The Knights are gunning for their third-consecutive San Diego Section 8-man division championship.

Foothills Christian crushed Rock Academy, 51-8, in last week’s first-round matchup.

The Crusaders won a matchup against the Knights, 30-22, back on Oct. 14 at Seau Field.

St Joseph rushed for 316 yards and three touchdowns on FCHS’ home field.

Foothills Christian freshman receiver Hunter Hamilton has 10 touchdowns on the season.

St. Joseph Academy has one of the fastest-growing student bodies in the county. In fact, its enrollment is now larger than Christian High School. The former Sierra Madre Academy is located in San Marcos.

The Knights lead all-time 3-1, including an 8-man playoff win over the Crusaders, 44-20, in the 2016 division semifinals… ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY, 28-21.


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