The 2020 high school football season has been late in coming but it certainly has to be satisfying now that the prep pigskin campaign has finally kicked off.
The Granite Hills Eagles have to be especially proud of what they have accomplished this spring after earning honors as the first team in the San Diego Section to post four wins.
The Eagles improved to 4-0 after defeating the host Steele Canyon Cougars, 40-33, in dramatic comeback fashion on April 1. But the victory was no April’s Fool joke.
The Eagles are very much for real and will play for rights to at least a share of this year’s Grossmont Hills League championship when they host the defending league champion Helix Highlanders this Friday at Valley Stadium.
Both Granite Hills and Helix are 2-0 in league play. The Highlanders kept their hopes alive of repeating as league champions after claiming an equally intrepid 49-35 win over the visiting Grossmont Foothillers last Friday.
The head coaches of both Granite Hills and Helix learned a lot about the character their respective teams possess after posting their latest victories.
The Eagles trailed by 12 points at halftime before engineering a second-half comeback to stay unbeaten.
The Scotties came back from a pair of one-touchdown deficits to out-gun the Foothillers 35-21 in the second half en route to claiming the trophy in the schools’ annual Battle for The Musket rivalry game.
Steele Canyon senior quarterback Elia Kirisimasi completed nine of 14 passing attempts for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception while sophomore Major Givens rushed 25 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns while also adding a 95-yard kickoff return for another score.
Senior Manny Lovering caught a two-yard scoring pass five minutes into the game to cap an 11-play, 67-drive to put the hosts ahead 7-0.
The Cougars kept up the early pressure when sophomore Keanu Pettiford recovered a Granite Hills fumble at the 19-yard line. A few players later and Kirisimasi was in the end zone on a quarterback sneak to extend the lead to 13-0.
Granite Hills started to generate its own momentum when senior Joseph Holt recovered a fumble at the 42-yard line. The change of possession led to a two-yard rushing touchdown by Eagles sophomore Joaquin Thomas to trim the score to 13-7.
But the Cougars weren’t finished in the first half. After recording another fumble recovery, Givens scored on a one-yard run to make the score 19-7 following an unsuccessful two-point try.
The fireworks were only getting started, however, as McComb capped a 75-yard scoring march with a laser to senior Matt Keeley in the end zone to narrow the score to 19-14 with 52 seconds to play in the first half. Steele Canyon had an answer for that as Givens returned the ensuing kick-off 95 yards for a touchdown.
26-14 Cougars at the half.
The Eagles opened the second half with an 80-yard scoring run that featured a 45-yard run by McComb and concluded with a five-yard touchdown pass to freshman Josh Zander.
Still down by six points at 26-20, Granite Hills recovered the ensuing on-side kick to get another crack at the end zone. Keeley scored his second touchdown of the game on a seven-yard strike from McComb to end another successful scoring drive to tie the game 26-all. The score remained tied following a blocked extra-point attempt by Steele Canyon sophomore Adrien Chargualaf.
Givens scored his third touchdown of the game on a six-yard sweep to allow the hosts to regain the lead at 33-26. But the Eagles weren’t done.
McComb hit junior tight end Zach Burton for a massive 39-yard gain up the center of the field. McComb capped the drive with a 19-yard scoring pass to Zander that made the score 33-32 after the PAT conversion sailed wide of the goalpost.
Steele Canyon still led by one point on the scoreboard with three minutes to play in the game.
But all that changed when senior Titus Darling intercepted a pass deep in the Eagles defensive zone and returned the ball 79 yards to the Cougar one-yard line.
Following the long interception return, McComb scored on a one-yard run, then scampered into the end zone for the successful two-point conversion to push the visitors in front by seven points at 40-33 to polish off the epic victory.
Zander and Keeley both caught two touchdown passes in the game for Granite Hills. Zander picked up his game following an injury to teammate Angel Almazon, who had to exit the contest.
McComb had a big game in the second half to finish with 175 rushing yards to go with 250 passing yards and four touchdowns.
The senior signal-caller, who is bound for Southwest Minnesota State University, has now thrown for 12 touchdowns in four games.
Givens finished the game with 229 all-purpose yards by tacking on 95 kick return yards and 32 receiving yards.
The Cougars racked up 270 total offensive yards — 139 rushing yards and 131 passing yards.
Chargualaf topped the Cougars with 14 tackles while sophomore Finley O’Gorman and senior Cannon Kanzius both recorded one sack. Junior Temo Rangel and Pettiford both recovered fumbles.
Kirisimasi also punted once for 48 yards.
Granite Hills junior Chandler Boyer had eight catches for 89 yards while Steele Canyon senior Joshua Tendvahl had three catches for 90 yards.
Steele Canyon (1-3) hosts Grossmont (1-2) this Friday. Both teams possess rather deceiving 0-2 league records.
The young Cougars committed seven turnovers while dropping a 14-0 decision to visiting Helix in the teams’ league opener on March 26.