Poway Titans 51, Del Norte 6

On Friday night, the Poway Titans (5-0) made their homecoming crowd proud by obliterating the visiting Del Norte Nighthawks (3-2) by a score of 51-6.

Despite dressing starting QB Jake Moore, the Nighthawks decided to play running back Robbie Hauck in Moore’s place as the regular starting quarterback is recovering from a shoulder injury.

To Del Norte’s chagrin, Moore’s absence was felt all over the offense as the Nighthawks failed to get on the board until the last part of the fourth quarter.

The game started out nicely for the Titans with wide receiver Matt Blackburn returning a punt 52 yards to the house. The Nighthawks could not get anything going on the offensive side of the ball as the Titan defense forced multiple three-and-outs.

Jared Adelman, the game’s MVP tonight, rushed for touchdowns of 20, 4, 54 and 8 yards in a Poway slaughter of Del Norte.

Without QB Jake Moore, the offense was forced to gain yardage without any attack through the air.

For Poway fans, however, they had very easy time rooting for a team which scored 41 unanswered in the first half.

Ryan Hernandez’s 13-yard run and Blackburn’s second punt return touchdown (this time, for 47 yards) showcased the best from the green and black. All night the Poway offense was able to move the ball on the ground thanks to yet another 100-yard game for Adelman. QB Tristan Hughes, who threw for multiple touchdowns against LCC, was not as active through the air. I don’t blame Hughes, however, considering that Poway was leading by such a large margin early on in the game.

Del Norte goes into next game against Vista to take on the lowly Panthers, while Poway takes on a much more powerful opponent in the Mt. Carmel Sun Devils.


With nearly a third of the high school regular season already in the books, week five is when the contenders distance themselves from the contenders. This Friday will see the first ever contest between the Poway Titans (4-0) and Del Norte Nighthawks (3-1) in the first full week of Palomar League action.

Albeit eight miles apart, the Poway and Del Norte High Schools have never played football in regular or postseason play due to Del Norte and Poway being in separate leagues for the past six seasons.

With both teams now in the same league, a potential rivalry could be brewing.

Coming into the game with an unblemished 4-0 record, the Titans bring momentum similar to that of 2011 when they won their second CIF title.

For the seven-year program out of Del Norte, a CIF title could be closer than they think and it all starts with their defense.

Against the former CIF Champion Bonita Vista Barons, the Titans owned both sides of the ball in a 33-14 victory. Although most of this win came because a lack of talent on a winless Bonita Vista squad, Poway’s defensive talent held the Barons scoreless in the first half.

Without former running back Greg Bell, BV was impotent on offense, unable to put together drives or put up points on the board. Four-year starter Anthony Posada completed just 55 percent of his passes for 202 yards and a touchdown, while the running game was held to just 30 yards on 12 carries (2.5 yards per carry).

On offense, the Titans were effective in the redzone. Poway’s senior running back Jared Adelman scored from three and six yards out, while senior QB Robbie Sullivan threw three touchdown passes to Chris Butler (19 yards), Padraig Madden (12) and Chasen Cowling (16).

While Sullivan was responsible for nearly all of Poway’s touchdowns, Adelman was responsible for all of Poway’s yards, rushing 45 times for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Thanks to the senior running back’s contributions on the ground, Sullivan was able to then open up the secondary with precision play action passing.

Poway’s special teams suffered in coverage, allowing burner Keenan Ellis to average 33 yards per return, including a 95-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Overall, the win was a great showcase of Poway’s ability to put the ball into the end zone and keep it there. Week two was more of the same against recent the cellar dwellars from Mt. Miguel.

Against one of the worst-ranked teams in San Diego, the Poway Titans dominated once again. On the road, Poway’s defense held the Matadors to 19 points overall, while limiting Mt. Miguel’s passing attack to 102 yards, three interceptions and 57 percent completion. Even wide receiver-defensive back Chris Butler returned one of those interceptions back for a 36-yard touchdown. Butler, a versatile two-way player, has received attention from collegiate scouts.

A dark spot for the Titans, however, came on the defensive line as Mt. Miguel, with their dual-threat QB Benny Valadez, rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns off of 35 rushes (5.7 yards per rush). Had their passing offense been more efficient and safe with the ball, Mt. Miguel could have challenged Poway down the stretch.

Thankfully for Poway, their defense forced four Matador turnovers and turned those added possessions into 43 first-half points. While allowing just two sacks and one tackle for loss, the offensive line opened up holes for Adelman to rush for three touchdowns of two, seven and 17 yards, respectively.

In the passing game, Sullivan and backup Tristan Hughes combined for two touchdowns to Noah Araujo (20-yarder) and Adelman (49-yarder). What impresses me about the Titans’ five offensive scores is not the fact that they scored that many touchdowns, but the fact that they scored that many times in the span of 30 minutes.

By halftime, Poway had absolutely controlled the game on offense, winning 43-7 thanks to a bevy of turnovers and offensive efficiency. A clutch 47-yard field goal by Shane Gurule wasn’t such a bad thing, either.

By the end of the game, two more touchdowns from Mt. Miguel did not matter much towards the final score.

And although the game was and should have been characterized as an utter blowout, there are some places in which Poway could have improved.

On special teams, the return team was steadfast in certain places, shutting down Richard Moore and Eddie Marquez for just 52 yards on four returns (13 yards per return), but then allowing a 38-yard return from Santino Pacheco. Pacheco’s return and subsequent 42-yard rushing touchdown highlighted holes in the Poway defense.

While Poway can hurt opposing teams from inside the 20 on offense, they cannot stop opposing offenses from scoring touchdowns outside the 20. On their three touchdowns, the Matadors averaged 37.3 yards per touchdown with a 49-yarder from Richard Moore highlighting the bunch.

In a week three game that featured dozens of penalties, 10 fumbles, five muffed punts, four interceptions and bad snaps, neither the Titans nor visiting Olympian Eagles truly deserved to win.

The Titans, who averaged 38 points in their first two games, failed to move the ball, nor get on the board in the first half. Thankfully, backup QB Tristan Hughes connected with Cody Slawson for a 28-yard touchdown midway through the third.

Hughes’ lone touchdown symbolized a lack of offensive poise from the Titans as the Eagles registered three sacks, nine tackles for loss, four QB pressures, multiple forced fumbles and an interception. Hughes, taking the place of week one starter Robbie Sullivan, threw for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Had Olympian’s offense not imploded, the Eagles would have been the ones walking out undefeated.

The usually powerful running back Jared Adelman was limited to 87 yards on 21 carries with no touchdowns, while Poway allowed Olympian to convert a fumbled punt into a 26-yard field goal, pick up an aborted snap on Poway’s own 9 and recover an onside kick late in the fourth with a chance to tie the game.

Thankfully for Poway, Olympian QB Nick Mendoza was awfully inaccurate, completing just five of his 19 passes with three interceptions and just 42 yards. All of Mendoza’s interceptions came at the most inopportune times. Poway LB Donovan Bercasio returned a Mendoza pass for the game-winning 22-yard touchdown, putting Poway on top for good. On a potential game-tying drive, Mendoza threw yet another interception.

Despite all of the mistakes, the Poway secondary stepped up big and provided stops when they needed to. Holding a team with a big offensive line like Olympian to just 10 points is an accomplishment in its own right.

Last week, Poway came into La Costa Canyon as one of many undefeated top-20 teams and left–after a 41-26 drubbing that featured a pick six and six offensive touchdowns–as one of few with a perfect record still intact.

In a top-10 matchup, the Titans (4-0) rebounded from their lackluster performance in week three with an offensive onslaught.

LCC (2-2) on the other hand was not as lucky as the Mavericks came within seven points of Poway, but never could gain the lead in a back-and-forth battle.

The game started out in Poway’s favor as they forced multiple LCC three-and-outs to start the game as the Titans scored 20 unanswered points off of a one-yard touchdown run from Jared Adelman, a 53-yard interception return from Seimon Georgaria and a 10-yard touchdown catch from Noah Araujo.

LCC got on the board via a 66-yard touchdown grab from Jaquan Carrol and then a Karson Lippert 3-yard rush to make the score 20-13.

Poway answered with another touchdown run from Jared Adelman, this time from two yards out to put Poway up 27-13.

The Mavericks, participating in the back-and-forth dance, scored yet another touchdown on the legs of QB Jake Neufeld. The play, a three-yard touchdown run, was set up via a 76-yard carry from Zach Goodkin that nearly resulted in points.

The Titans, however, were shaken, but not stirred. On the very next play from their own 37, Adelman took a handoff 63 yards for another Poway touchdown.

Three possessions later, Poway converted a Neufeld interception into a 20-yard touchdown pass to Araujo to seal the game at 41-20. The Mavericks would get another chance thanks to an expertly-performed hook-and-ladder play that Zach Goodkin took 69 yards for a touchdown to make the game 41-26. With little under three minutes remaining and the Mavericks facing a fourth-and-goal from the Poway five, QB Jake Neufeld squandered a key red zone opportunity, throwing his third interception of the game to give Poway the victory.

As the game progressed, it appeared that LCC’s offense was never truly on the same page.

Along with multiple false starts and delay of game penalties, starting QB Jake Neufeld failed to complete key passes down the stretch despite open receivers. Although some of those passes were dropped by Maverick receivers, his lack of accuracy and three interceptions were detrimental to a Mavericks offense that has playmakers all over the field.

In the end, the Poway offense seemed to be too much for LCC as they stayed undefeated with a big 41-26 win.

So considering these four different wins, Poway comes into Friday night at home with a lot of confidence.

On the other hand, the Del Norte Nighthawks come in after a shaky start to their 2016 campaign.

Against Carlsbad, Del Norte looked much like last year’s 1-10 team that allowed nearly four times as many points as they scored (376 allowed, 101 scored). What was surprising was that Carlsbad didn’t score more points against a Nighthawk offense which not only failed to score, but also failed to protect starting senior quarterback Jake Moore (Moore was sacked seven times).

Del Norte allowed Carlsbad to block a punt and field goal, and rack up 10 tackles for loss, stunting potential scoring drives. Even with the Lancers turning the ball over multiple times, the Nighthawks somehow found a way to squander their opportunities as two of Jake Moore’s passes were intercepted, leading to Carlsbad touchdowns.

At the end of the night, Carlsbad totaled 325 yards thanks to Isaiah Ramos’ (10-13 for 146 yards passing, 15 yards rushing) and the Carlsbad running game (34 carries by six different ball carriers for 179 yards and three touchdowns).

Due to a Carlsbad forfeit, however, Del Norte was able to come out of week one with a victory despite being outscored 28-0. 

And while it may not have looked pretty, the visiting Del Norte Nighthawks won a tight game over the Fallbrook Warriors on Fallbrook’s own Pop Warner Night 20-13 in week two.

In a game which was not decided until the final seconds, both the Nighthawks and Warriors had moments of promise.

Del Norte got on the board first with a 95-yard touchdown catch-and-run from wide receiver Ty Anderson who put the Nighthawks up 7-0. The Warriors came back, however, scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive on a 19-yard pass from Jack Grantham to wide out Kobie Stallings. The point after was blocked, as Del Norte still hung onto a slim one-point lead.

Through a series of field goals and a two-yard Jack Grantham touchdown rush, the game was knotted at 13 going into the fourth quarter.

A 45-yard interception return by Del Norte’s Scott McKirdy proved to be the difference as the Nighthawks put up their first "W" of the season while sending Bob Burt’s Warriors to their second straight loss.

The Nighthawks offense, lead by senior QB Jake Moore, was inefficient at times with starting running back Robby Hauck going for minimal gains early on. Once Moore found speedy wide receiver Ty Anderson, however, the Nighthawks offense was on the path towards a victory. Scott McKirdy, starting punter, fullback and linebacker for Del Norte, was outstanding in the seven-point win. By providing key rushing yards, blocks and the game-winning pick six, he was easily the player of the game.

In their week three contest against San Marcos, the Knights crushed the Nighthawks 47-14 thanks to excellent special teams and a great rushing attack.

San Marcos wide receiver Tylee Hodson took back an 88-yard kickoff for a touchdown, leaving multiple Del Norte defenders in his wake. A Del Norte fumble on the next drive led to another Knights score, making the score 14-0.

San Marcos running back Tyler Rogers torched the Del Norte defense for three rushing touchdowns in the first half as the Knights–thanks to cornerback Ethan Cline’s pick six–lead 41-0 at the half. The Nighthawks were able to score two more touchdowns, but could not comeback against a far superior San Marcos team.

Week four saw Del Norte return to their winning ways against Westview, shutting out the Wolverines 12-0.

In Jake Moore’s best start of the year, the Nighthawks were effective when they needed to be. Moore, with 136 yards off of 15-of-24 passing, managed to move the ball down the field on a decent Westview defense that was able to limit Fallbrook and Rancho Buena Vista to just six combined points.

The defense, which earned its first shutout of the year, was steadfast against a potent Westview running game.

As for Del Norte’s running game, the Nighthawks combined for 92 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. And while their 3.4 yards-per-carry average against Westview could have been improved upon, senior bruiser Scott McKirdy scored the game’s only touchdown on a two-yard touchdown dive.

Overall, the game showcased the best that Del Norte had to offer and gives some Nighthawk fans reason to believe in a potential upset against Poway.

However, looking at both of these teams, it is easy to write off Del Norte early on. However, after scouting their film and watching their two wins, I would ask you to reconsider.

The interesting part about Del Norte is their size and strength of their personnel. In total, the Nighthawks have 18 players above six feet and 10 above 200 pounds.  Behind an offensive line which includes six players of those over six feet, dual-threat quarterback Jake Moore stands tall at 6-4, 185. Anthony Jimenez, who anchors the offensive line, is a behemoth at 6-0, 285 and can move some guys around.

In terms of production, starting running back Robby Hauck (36 carries for 117 yards with 12 receptions for 91 yards) comes back and joins a collection of Danny Woodhead-esque backs in junior Jelani McCall (five carries for 38 yards, seven catches for 59 yards), Will Carpenter (18 carries for 104 yards, three catches for 29 yards) and Scott McKirdy (17 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns, four catches for 30 yards) who can take the ball up the gut, but also block and slip out the back for a quick check-down reception. McKirdy, who happens to also punt the ball extremely well (as we saw against Fallbrook), is a massive athlete that can sent players five yards asunder with massive hits. If Del Norte wants any chance of upsetting Poway, look for McKirdy to have his number called. Not to mention, his receivers Anthony Ullrich (5-11), D’Angelo Gunter (6-2) and Alex Moore (6-3) have plenty height and skill, too.

Head coach Patrick Coleman, former defensive coordinator and four-time CIF champion coach at Oceanside, has over a decade of experience on the offensive and defensive ends, along with head coaching experience at University City.

For a team which returns 15 starters the problem is not a lack of size or strength–or even coaching for that matter–but a lack of overall talent and execution. The departure of senior kicker Grayson Farnham (41.5 yards per punt, 46.5 yards per kickoff with 23 touchbacks) does not help matters.

The Nighthawks run a five-receiver set most of the time, which helps to spread out the defense and score long yardage. Against Poway, however, Jake Moore, who has completed 56 of 100 passes for 691 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, will have to utilize his legs instead of his arms. He does have 14 carries for 66 yards, but mainly likes to utilize his legs on rollout bootleg passes.

As well, because of Del Norte’s versatile backs, if the running game starts to get stale, Moore knows he has great receiving options out of the backfield.

Jake Moore should be able to produce against Poway given his physical abilities and particularly strong field vision.

Statistically, Del Norte thrives through the run and passing off of play-action. The Nighthawks, with McCall, Hauck, McKirdy and Carpenter, have runners who can all go for big yardage without taking up a lot of carries. McCall and Carpenter give the Nighthawks an edge in the sense that head coach Patrick Coleman can insert them on first, second or third down and they can give Del Norte a solid six or seven yards. All of Del Norte’s backs–albeit underutilized–have turned games around with a breakaway runs.

One area which will need to be tightened up is the passing defense. Against Carlsbad and San Marcos, opposing offenses combined for 352 passing yards, three touchdowns and an 80 percent completion. If DNHS is even going to think about stopping Poway, they’re going to have to tighten down in the secondary.

Looking at the film, the Nighthawks are incredibly raw, but they have the personnel to win ball games. (Imagine the kids from “The Sandlot,” but instead of a suburban California baseball diamond behind some old guy’s house, it’s a beautiful football field overlooking the canyon next to Carmel Valley). Their defense can sometimes grab the occasional fumble or interception, stop a momentous drive and even get pressure on the quarterback. Don’t think that their lack of defensive success is a product of a lack of effort, because they are one tenacious ball club. Instead of teams relying on their talent to win games, Del Norte plays with reckless abandon on the defensive side of the ball. Oftentimes their talent may not match with their intentions (which often lead to big gains or scores), but at least there will never be a play where every man is hustling.

And while the offense isn’t quite as inexperienced, there are still some areas that could be tweaked. Starting QB Jake Moore has the size and arm strength to be successful, but his mechanics and tendency to give away plays prevent big plays. While Moore rolls out, he can overcommit to the play and allow the middle linebacker to track him down and pull him down for a sack.

The problem with Del Norte isn’t with Moore and his incompetencies, but rather the scheme that Coleman runs. The Nighthawks often will go into a 5-WR set and run plays out of the gun instead of going with their competent backs as they should. Ty Anderson, the team’s leading receiver, is a speedy and sure-handed wideout with a lot of potential streaking down the sidelines. If Del Norte potentially uses a two receiver set with two backs in the backfield and runs an option style system, then perhaps they could give Poway a reason to be scared. Until their schematics and use of their running backs change, the Titans have a huge advantage in this game.

Unless you’re a fan of underdog stories, don’t expect a Nighthawk victory. Poway should take this game handily and improve to 5-0 on the year.

Categories: 2014 PPR Archive, 2015 PPR Archive, 2016 PPR Features Part 1, 2016 PPR Features Part 2, Week 5: September 23, 2016