East County players take SDSU to Poinsettia Bowl

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The San Diego State University football team will be represented by 25 homegrown San Diego County players, including four with East County ties, when the Aztecs take on Brigham Young University in the eighth annual

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 20, at Qualcomm Stadium.
Kick-off is set for 5 p.m.

The Aztecs enter the game 9-3 on the season after winning a share of this year’s Mountain West Conference championship title with a 7-1 conference record.

BYU is 7-5.

The San Diego State University football team will be represented by 25 homegrown San Diego County players, including four with East County ties, when the Aztecs take on Brigham Young University in the eighth annual

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 20, at Qualcomm Stadium.
Kick-off is set for 5 p.m.

The Aztecs enter the game 9-3 on the season after winning a share of this year’s Mountain West Conference championship title with a 7-1 conference record.

BYU is 7-5.

SDSU’s East County tie-ins include sophomore punter Joel Alesi (Christian High School), freshman defensive lineman Robert Craighead (El Capitan High School), freshman defensive lineman Malcolm Jackson (Mt. Miguel High School) and sophomore defensive lineman Sam Meredith (Helix High School).
Meredith has received the most playing time this season among the four players.

An honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference selection, Meredith chalked up 31 tackles, including 16 unassisted stops, 4.5 sacks, one pass deflection and one fumble recovery. He led all Aztec defensive linemen in tackles and received honors at the team’s recent awards banquet as SDSU’s Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Craighead appeared in eight games with three tackles, including two unassisted stops, while Alesi appeared in six games with a 43.5-yard punting average, including a longest punt of 56 yards.
SDSU enters this year’s Poinsettia Bowl game with a seven-game winning streak.

The Aztecs are making their second trip to the Poinsettia Bowl after defeating Navy, 35-14, in 2010.
Overall, SDSU will be making its third consecutive bowl game appearance after the Aztecs finished runner-up by a 32-30 score to Louisiana-Lafayette on a last-second 50-yard field goal in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.

The three consecutive bowl game appearances are a first for SDSU.

“It’s a great reward for the team and the season we’ve had,” Meredith said. “We’re going to have a lot of fans on our side. Last year in New Orleans, we had a small section while the rest of the stadium was full of their fans.”

Meredith is among several local San Diego County prep recruits who have made a major impact on the Aztec football program. Oceanside’s Jake Fely, a junior linebacker, was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year while Bonita Vista’s D.J. Shields, a senior tight end, received the President’s Award for High Academic Achievement at the team’s awards banquet.

Also, kicker/punter Seamus McMorrow (St. Augustine) received the team’s outstanding freshman award.
Fely, a second team All-MWC selection, was one of 10 Aztecs named to this year’s all-conference team.
Meredith said his biggest adjustment in making the jump from the high school to collegiate ranks was in the speed of the game.

“It’s much faster (in college),” said Meredith, who earned accolades as the 2010 Grossmont Hills League Defensive Player of the Year. “Playing in my first game as a freshman, it was a shock how fast the game was. I had to adjust to it by playing faster.

SDSU’s first team All-MWC picks included senior offensive lineman Nik Embernate (the team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year), junior tight end Gavin Escobar and senior defensive back Leon McFadden.
Joining Fely on the all-conference second team were junior safety Nat Berhe, senior center Alec Johnson and sophomore running back Adam Muema.

Joining Meredith as All-MWC honorable mentions were sophomore linebacker Derek Largent and junior offensive lineman Bryce Quigley.

Embernate, Escobar, Johnson and Quigley all had a part in helping the Aztecs set a single-season school record with 2,750 rushing yards this season.

Muema earned honors as the team’s Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,391 yards and scoring a team-best 17 touchdowns while McFadden was named the team’s overall Most Valuable Player.

“This is a great day for college football in San Diego,” 2012 Poinsettia Bowl President John Wertz said in a prepared statement. “We’re excited to renew a longtime rivalry between the Aztecs and Cougars in this year’s bowl. This most certainly will be a game to remember for many years to come.”

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