It’s time to prep ahead for 2021 East County football season

Photo by Phillip Brents After leading Monte Vista to the 2017 San Diego Section Division IV title, Jahmon McClendon has enrolled at UCLA.

Area high school football teams are starting to fill in their schedules for the upcoming 2020-21 season.

Monte Vista High School recently released its 2021 schedule with a regular season start date of Jan. 8 against visiting Rancho Buena Vista High School.

The Monarchs remain at home for another non-league game against Patrick Henry on Jan. 15 before hitting the road for a Jan. 22 non-league game at Granite Hills High School.

It’s back home for a non-league game against Imperial on Jan. 29 before kicking off Grossmont Valley League play on Feb. 5 with a home game against El Cajon Valley.

The Grossmont Valley League features seven teams this season. Joining the Monarchs and the Braves in the league lineup are the Mount Miguel Matadors, Santana Sultans, West Hills Wolf Pack, El Capitan Vaqueros and Valhalla Norsemen.

It looks to be a highly competitive slate for all member teams.

Monte Vista plays its first league road game at Mount Miguel on Feb. 22, followed by home games against Santana (Feb. 19) and West Hills (Feb. 26). The Monarchs close out regular season play with road games at El Capitan (March 5) and Valhalla (March 12).

The San Diego Section playoffs follow for qualified teams.

Monte Vista finished 4-0 in league play, 6-5 overall, last season with an appearance in the Division II playoffs.

Santana finished as the GVL runner-up with a 3-1 league record, followed by West Hills (2-2), Mount Miguel (1-3) and El Cajon Valley (0-4) in the standings.

Santana (11-2 overall) advanced the farthest of the group in postseason play by recording a runner-up finish in the Division IV championship game. West Hills (7-5) advanced to the Division III quarterfinals while El Cajon Valley (4-8) advanced as far as the Division V quarterfinals.

Mount Miguel finished its season 5-6 overall with an appearance in the opening round of the Division IV playoffs.

El Cajon Valley’s home schedule for the upcoming season includes dates against Clairemont (Jan. 22), El Capitan (Jan. 29), West Hills (Feb. 19), Francis Parker (March 5) and Santana (March 12).

The Braves will be on the road against Hoover (Jan. 8), Vincent Memorial (Jan. 15), Monte Vista (Feb. 5), Valhalla (Feb. 12) and Mount Miguel (Feb. 26).

Many schools have scheduled scrimmage games Dec. 30-31 to end the 2020 calendar year.

Next level

Jahmon McClendon, who scored eight touchdowns to tie a single-game section record as a junior in the Monarchs’ 71-48 win over the San Diego Cavers in the 2017 San Diego Section Division IV championship game, enrolled at UCLA in June 2019 but did not see any game action in his first year in the program.

McClendon rushed 31 times for 383 yards in the history-making night against the Cavers. Overall that season, he rushed for 2,492 yards and 40 touchdowns. As a senior, he rushed 245 times for 2,638 yards and 41 touchdowns.

The Bruins finished 4-8 last season, including a 23-14 loss to visiting San Diego State University.

UCLA kicks off its 2020 season Nov. 7 at Colorado as the Pac-12 has elected to return to play for the fall semester.

Rankings roulette

Helix is the section’s top-ranked team, followed by No. 2 Mission Hills, No. 3 Lincoln, No. 4. Oceanside, No. 5 Carlsbad, No. 6 Cathedral Catholic, No. 7 Steele Canyon, No. 8 St. Augustine, No. 9 El Camino, No. 10 Torrey Pines, No. 11 Bishop’s, No. 12 La Jolla, No. 13 Scripps Ranch, Vista and Madison in a tie for No. 14, No. 16 La Costa Canyon, No. 17. Eastlake, No. 18 Serra, No. 19 San Marcos and No. 20 Granite Hills.

Mater Dei Catholic (21st), Grossmont (22nd), Christian (23rd), Otay Ranch (24th) and San Pasqual (25th) round out the section’s top 25-ranked teams, according to MaxPreps.

Thirteen East County teams qualified for last year’s section playoffs: Helix in the Open Division; Grossmont, Granite Hills and Steele Canyon in Division I; Monte Vista and Christian in Division II; West Hills and Valhalla in Division III; Santana and Mount Miguel in Division IV: El Cajon Valley and Mountain Empire in Division V; and Foothills Christian in Division VI (8-Man).

Grossmont, Steele Canyon, Christian, West Hills and El Cajon Valley all advanced as far as the quarterfinal round while Helix and Foothills Christian won division championships.

There was an abundance of shockers in last year’s section finals.

Ninth-seeded Oceanside defeated second-seeded Lincoln, 28-10, to win last year’s Division I championship while seventh-seeded El Camino stunned top-seeded Bishop’s, 75-59, to claim the Division II title.

In a trio of other upsets, third-seeded La Jolla edged top-seeded Scripps Ranch, 17-10, to capture the Division III banner, second-seeded Serra man-handled top-seeded Santana, 37-7, in the Division IV final while fourth-seeded Francis Parker slipped past second-seeded Castle Park 24-21.

In non-upsets, top-seeded Helix topped third-seeded Carlsbad, 28-21, to win the Open Division while top-seeded Foothills Christian overwhelmed second-seeded San Diego Jewish Academy, 62-0, to win the 8-Man championship.

Helix pulled out a 12-7 win over fourth-seeded St. Augustine in the semifinals while Foothills Christian defeated fourth-seeded Ocean View Christian Academy 61-14, in the semifinals.

Foothills Christian finished the 2019 season with an 11-0 record.