Scotties, Cougars played for state football championships

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The high school football season finally came to an end this weekend with state bowl championship games.

Title contests were played throughout the state in 13 sub-divisions.

Of the six San Diego Section divisional champions that qualified for the regional playoffs, four played for state bowl championships.

The high school football season finally came to an end this weekend with state bowl championship games.

Title contests were played throughout the state in 13 sub-divisions.

Of the six San Diego Section divisional champions that qualified for the regional playoffs, four played for state bowl championships.

The Helix Highlanders (13-1) played the Folsom Bulldogs (15-0) in the Division 1-AA championship game Dec. 15, at Sacramento State University’s Hornet Stadium. The Steele Canyon Cougars (11-4) hosted the Half Moon Bay Cougars (14-0) in the 3-A state championship game Dec. 16 at Southwestern College.The Southwest El Centro Eagles (14-0) hosted Milpitas (13-1) in the Division 4-A state championship game Dec. 16. The Vincent Memorial Scots (12-2) hosted San Francisco Gallileo (10-2) in the Division 6-A state championship game Dec. 16 at Calexico High School.

Cougar country

Steele Canyon (11-4) finished regular season play with a 6-4 record after placing third in the Grossmont Hills League standings with a 3-2 league record.

The Cougars received the seventh seed in the section’s Division II playoffs and defeated 10th-seeded Mira Mesa, 36-22, in the opening round. From there, Steele Canyon has recorded upset victories in its next four elimination contests.

The Cougars upset the second-seeded (and previously undefeated) Bishop’s Knights, 61-52, in a quarterfinal-round matchup. Steele Canyon then slipped past the sixth-seeded Granite Hills Eagles, 28-27, in an all East County semifinal game.

The Cougars pulled off the biggest shocker in this year’s section finals by defeating the top-seeded (and previously undefeated) Ramona Bulldogs, 33-29, in the Division II final Dec. 2 at Southwestern College.

Steele Canyon defeated host El Modena, 28-26, in last Saturday’s Southern California regional playoff game. The Cougars entered Saturday’s state championship game riding the momentum of a seven-game winning streak. Steele Canyon toppled yet another undefeated team when they tangled with Half Moon Bay, which sported a 14-0 record.

Half Moon Bay topped Sutter, 28-7, in the Northern California regional playoff game.

Touchdown runs by Perry Steele and DeOnte McKinney staked the San Diego Section champions to a 14-6 halftime lead over El Modena. Steele Canyon upped its lead to 21-12 on a 12-yard scoring pass from quarterback Thomas Fishburne to Jordan Anderson in the third quarter.

Kenneth Watson scored on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter to put the Rancho San Diego team ahead 28-19.

Fishburne rushed for 102 yards and passed for 116 yards.

Half Moon Bay senior quarterback Gavin Tomberlin has thrown for 1,744 yards with 21 touchdowns and zero interceptions, while senior running back Chase Hoffman has rushed for 1,212 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Senior Hayden von Almen (32 catches, 587 yards) caught eight touchdown passes while senior Dylan Williams (21 catches, 412 yards) caught six touchdown passes.

Hoffman leads Half Moon Bay with 1,605 all-purpose yards.

This year’s San Diego Section football title is the first for Steele Canyon, which opened in 2000. The Cougars rallied with 12 second-half points to snap a 21-all halftime tie against Ramona, which carried an unscathed 13-0 record into the game. John Lautner kicked a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter and Fishburne scored on a one-yard sneak following a two-point safety in the fourth quarter.

Playing the role of underdog only inspired the Cougars, according to Fishburne, who rushed for 149 yards and passed for 163 yards in the game.

“People were rooting against us nine times during the season,” the Steele Canyon signal-caller recounted. “It’s an incredible feeling to come out here with my guys and make history.”

“We worked hard all season to get here,” Cougars head coach Scott Longerbone said. “It was a tough game. Everyone played hard; we came through.

“Down toward the end of the game, I felt myself about to cry. I’ve cried only once — when my son was born.”

Beasts in the East

Three East County teams captured section titles: Helix (Open Division), Steele Canyon (Division II) and Monte Vista (Division IV). That’s half of the six championship games played at SWC’s DeVore Stadium.

Two of those three teams played for state titles.

Helix met a formidable opponent in Folsom, which won state championships in 2010 and 2014. The 2014 team finished ranked fourth in the nation. But the Highlanders proved to be a formidable foe themselves.

Elelyon Noa rushed for 188 yards to lead Helix to its 12th consecutive win this season. Noa scored on a 61-yard run to provide the insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Carson Baker rushed for one touchdown and passed for another while Rashaad Scott scored on a 27-yard interception return to lead the San Diego Section Open Division champions.

Monarch Nation
Monte Vista saw its season end in an unkind way after surrendering a 28-point lead to fall short, 36-35, to host Anaheim Katella in last weekend’s regional playoffs.

The Monarchs (8-6) built a 35-7 lead as Jahmon McClendon scored four touchdowns — three rushing and one on a 93-yard interception return — and Elshadai Levi scored on a 60-yard touchdown run.

But it wasn’t enough as the Knights (14-1) scored the final four touchdowns in the game and tacked on a successful two-point conversion run to spirit away the win.

McClendon, who set a section playoff record with eight touchdowns in Monte Vista’s 71-48 win over San Diego in the Division IV title game, finished the regional playoff contest with 139 yards on 27 carries.

The Monarchs set records for most points (71) in a section championship game while McClendon set a new section record with eight touchdowns in a CIF title game and tied the all-time section record set in the opening round of the Division III playoffs by Rancho Buena Vista’s Dorian Richardson in a 62-43 win over 11th-seeded Santana.

McClendon proved to be unstoppable in the section playoffs. He scored two touchdowns in the Monarchs’ 29-28 quarterfinal-round playoff win over fifth-seeded Chula Vista; he had two touchdowns and an interception in a 30-20 upset win over top-seeded University City in the division semifinals.

McClendon staked Monte Vista to a quick 14-0 lead in the Division IV championship game on runs of four and 42 yards. His footwork would later prove fortuitous to the Monarchs’ championship cause after he scored on a 44-yard romp to put the Spring Valley team up 21-14.

McClendon scored on a breakaway run from 32 yards out with 30 seconds left in the half to propel the Monarchs to a 29-22 lead.

McClendon didn’t stop there. He scored his fifth touchdown of the game on a 49-yard run with 7:14 left in the third quarter that made the score 36-22.

McClendon scored his sixth touchdown with 4:41 left in the third quarter to put the Monarchs up 43-28.

When McClendon scored his seventh touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run to put his team up 57-28, many began wondering if he would get the ball again to score a record-setting eighth TD.

McClendon, in fact, was not done. He took a handoff and sprinted 48 yards with 2:47 left in the game to put an exclamation mark on his team’s 23-point victory.

McClendon carried the ball 31 times for 383 yards — two yards short of the record for most yards in a championship game.

The Monarchs amassed 574 rushing yards in running over the Cavers, scoring 10 touchdowns.

The section title was the second for Monte Vista head coach Ron Hamamoto in five trips to the finals. His Monte Vista team lost, 7-0, to Sweetwater in its last visit to the CIF championship round in 2013. He last won a division title in 1994 with University of San Diego High School (now Cathedral Catholic).

Monarch QB Emmil Henderson attempted just three passes in the championship game, completing one for 22 yards to Blake Schmidt.

It was Schmidt, who, while lying on his stomach, tripped up Chula Vista’s Kajahan Duncan to break up Chula Vista’s potential game-winning two-point conversion attempt in overtime in the teams’ CIF playoff matchup.

“You’ve got to stay motivated because there’s always another play,” Schmidt said in reference to not becoming too complacent on the field.

Drawing a crowd

The five division section championship games attracted 31,000 fans to DeVore Stadium the weekend of Dec. 1-2. More than 11,000 attended the double-header pitting Monte Vista and San Diego and Eastlake and El Camino. The trio of games on the second day drew just under 20,000.

Five teams posted undefeated records in the section during the regular season and four teams carried undefeated records into the CIF finals. However, Southwest El Centro was the only one to escape unscathed with a perfect record.

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