EASTLAKE WINS 25-10, REVERSES 1-5 START WITH 4-0 METRO-MESA LEAGUE SHOWING
There was never any doubt the Eastlake Titans would be privy to this year’s San Diego Section playoffs. But with a 1-5 start, the team’s seeding position didn’t look too desirable.
But braced by a season-ending four-game winning streak — and Metro-Mesa League championship — the Titans’ postseason fortunes appear much brighter.
Eastlake defeated host Otay Ranch, 25-10, last Friday to capture the team’s second consecutive league title and the eighth in the past 13 years.
The Titans overcame an early 3-0 deficit to lead 18-3 at halftime and deflate a second-half charge by the hosts, after narrowing the score to 18-10, with a game-clinching touchdown.
Paco Silva, who took over as head coach midway through the season after veteran head coach John McFadden was placed on leave, said the team took on the adversity and ran with it.
The Titans not only had to deal with a coaching change at midseason but also fight their way through one of the San Diego’s Section’s most brutal schedules.
Three of Eastlake’s five losses came against teams contending to qualify for this year’s Open Division playoffs. The scores were not necessarily pretty: 44-7 to current No. 1 Cathedral Catholic (8-1), 17-6 to current No. 4 Steele Canyon (9-0) and 47-0 to current No. 5 St. Augustine (7-2).
But last Friday’s win was anything but ugly.
Otay Ranch could have forced a co-championship by winning its final two games. When Manuel Martinez kicked a 24-yard field goal, the prospects looked good for the host Mustangs, buoyed in spirit by a large homecoming crowd.
But the visitors rallied with 18 unanswered points to put a damper on the festivities.
Max Susi blocked a punt in the end zone and teammate Jordan Swan recovered the ball for a defensive touchdown.
The EHS offense, maligned at the start of the season, produced the next two touchdowns.
Jackson Daley scored on a one-yard run to make the score 12-3. Daley’s touchdown was set up by an interception by Anthony St. John Gonzalez and a long run by senior Kalehn Newson.
Sophomore Justin Blondin then caught a 34-yard pass from junior Cole McFarlane to increase the lead to 18-3. Blondin would make two touchdown grabs on the night, both of them spectacular.
Otay Ranch quarterback Paco Puentes hooked up with receiver Miles Brotschi on a 20-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone that was just as spectacular to narrow the score to a touchdown and two-point conversion.
But going the other way, Eastlake senior Mateo La broke off a long run to put the visitors once again in scoring position.
McFarlane threaded a perfectly thrown pass to Blondin at the back of the end zone for the prettiest score of the night.
Both teams battled through a scoreless fourth quarter.
The Eastlake defense, which has played solid all season, continued to make a statement on the field with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Blondin called the team’s latest league championship “amazing.”
“We shut ’em down, coverages, blitzes, sacking the quarterback,” Blondin told a TV news crew on site with obvious emotion in his voice. “We threw the ball, we ran the ball, we shoved it down their throat.”
The Titans (4-0 in league, 5-5 overall) will now enjoy the healing benefits of a bye week before entering the playoffs. Depending on the seeding – Eastlake has moved up to No. 12 among Division I teams – the newly crowned Metro-Mesa League champions could host a first-round playoff game.