Scotties, Hillers stave off upset bids to post clutch wins in Grossmont Hills League openers

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Christian Washington

Grossmont Hills League play looks to be filled with plenty of intrigue if the results of last Friday’s league opening games are any indication.

The Steele Canyon Cougars were poised for an upset win at Helix before senior Christian Washington scored on a 43-yard pass to rescue the host Scotties from a 22-21 deficit to post a crowd-pleasing 27-22 victory.

A few miles away, the host Grossmont Foothillers overcame a 14-7 deficit against the Granite Hills Eagles — the de facto 2021 spring season champions — to record a 24-14 win to snap a nagging five-game losing streak.

The teams are playing each other once for a total of just three league games in the standings, making each encounter a championship game almost in itself.

Helix and Grossmont take 1-0 league records into this Friday’s pair of games.

Helix will host Grossmont in a match-up of league unbeatens while Steele Canyon will host Granite Hills as both teams search for their first league win.

Helix 27, Steele Canyon 22

Washington finished the game with 264 all-purpose yards — 119 rushing, 43 receiving and 102 yards on kick returns — as the host Highlanders (1-0, 4-3) were forced to erase two deficits against the Cougars (0-1, 1-7).

Washington scored twice in fourth quarter to rescue the Scotties from a potential upset loss. He rushed for a 70-yard touchdown to push the hosts in front, 21-16, after Steele Canyon had taken a 16-15 lead on a 25-yard scoop-and-score fumble recovery by senior Temo Rangel.

Washington’s second touchdown of the final quarter — coming on a screen pass from sophomore quarterback Ryland Jessee — stood up as the game-winner after the Cougars had inched ahead 22-21 on a quarterback sneak by senior Jacob Manzo.

Manzo’s go-ahead score from two yards out was set up by a 39-yard run by junior Major Givens.

Givens nearly matched Washington’s exploits on the night with 246 all-purpose yards — 154 rushing, 22 receiving and 70 yards on kick returns.

Jessee finished the game with 155 passing yards and two touchdowns as the Scotties claimed the hard-fought victory.

Senior Noah Horvath put the Highlanders on the scoreboard first with a 30-yard field goal. The Cougars tied the game, 3-3, on a 22-yard field goal by senior David Martinez.

Helix recorded a two-point safety on a sack by senior Cameron Faiai in the end zone to take a 5-3 lead, then added a 14-yard touchdown catch by senior Xavier Van (two catches, 26 yards) to increase the lead to 12-3

Givens scored on a touchdown run to trim the Helix lead to 12-10 but Horvath split the uprights from 26 yards to give the hosts a 15-10 edge at halftime.

Defensively for Steele Canyon, senior Spencer Campillo had two sacks and eight tackles, junior Adrian Chargualaf had one sack and eight tackles and senior Nathaniel Gillis had eight tackles.

Junior Quincey Herron had four catches for 85 yards for Helix while junior Isaiah Gonzalez had a fumble recovery.

Grossmont 24, Granite Hills 14

The visiting Eagles (0-1, 4-4) scored the only touchdown in the first half and later added another in the third quarter to take a 14-7 lead on the hosts. Joaquin Thomas Jr. scored both touchdowns for Granite Hills — the first on an eight-yard run and the second on a four-yard run.

Senior Thomas Warsaw scored the opening points of the game for Grossmont (1-0, 3-5) on an eight-yard run to kick-start a run of 17 points in the quarter. Senior Ryan Rodieck scored the go-ahead touchdown and Joe Garcia kicked a 32-yard field goal to push the hosts ahead 17-14 on the scoreboard.

Senior Trenton Giles passed eight yards to Gio Burns for the only score of the fourth quarter – and a final 24-14 victory.

Giles threw for 332 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while the Eagles grounded the Grossmont rushing game for just 36 yards. Rodieck (eight catches, 177 yards) and senior Jawad Rivera (three catches, 93 yards) keyed the Hillers’ receiving corps.

“Friday’s win over Granite was definitely a big one and it is the most important win of the season for our team,” Foothillers coach Chris Holmes said. “This is because it is the first game in the league and our goal is to win the Grossmont Hills. The team played with tremendous effort. Week-in and week-out we put high emphasis on maximum effort, believing in one another, and finishing each individual play.

“We have struggled in games to finish each individual play. Friday night after trailing at the half and stalling out in the red zone a couple of times, we put it together and finished plays in the second half. Defensively, we brought the game to Granite and simply overwhelmed their offense. That the defense produced six turnovers gave a strong indication that our defense played stellar.

“Our youngster sophomore cornerback, Jojo Benavente, made big-time plays producing two interceptions and senior linebacker Brennan Sanders came up clutch with an interception and a forced fumble. Offensively, we sustained drives in the second half and were able to get points inside the red zone. An absolute perfectly placed ball from Trenton Giles to ‘Pudge’ Ryan Rodieck for a 65-yard strike was the momentum we needed to gain control of the football game.”

The Hillers, braced by a new sense of confidence, have now shifted their focus to the perennial power Highlanders.  The teams will be battling for control of the Musket rivalry trophy that has remained in Helix’s possession for 24 years.

“We respect the talent and athleticism of Helix, but we are entering this game with a chip on our shoulders,” Holmes said. “We believe if we can bring the fight to Helix, minimize their big playmaking abilities, and make plays offensively, we can finally top them.

“This is a gotta-have game if we want to continue our quest to rule the Grossmont Hills League.”

Scotties, Hillers stave off upset bids to post clutch wins in Grossmont Hills League openers