Week 1: Steele Canyon Cougars 17, Eastlake Titans 6
In John McFadden’s previous stint as head coach of the Eastlake Titans, his teams beat Steele Canyon for six straight seasons, usually with a faster team than the Cougars.
Now in his second season with the Titans following a four-year hiatus, it was Steele Canyon that had the speed, particularly on defense, that allowed the Cougars to finally beat Eastlake and its venerable coach.
The 10th-ranked Cougars had five sacks, two fumble recoveries, and about a half-dozen pass breakups, in a 17-6 win over the visiting 12th-ranked Titans on Friday.
The Titans had opportunities, but Steele Canyon literally took them away.
For Steele, senior lineman Viliamu-Ah-You Morse had three sacks and forced a fumble, senior Junior Akintunde linebacker had two fumble recoveries, senior Antoine Walker had four pass breakups, senior Cameron Ewert had two sacks and senior Chance Johnson had an interception and pass breakup as part of a dominating defensive effort.
Eastlake led 6-0 with 1:43 left in the first quarter on a 1-yard sweep by Jordan Swan following a 67-yard reception by Holden Stevens.
The Titans’ Maximus Susi had a fumble recovery on the next series.
Steele Canyon engineered the game’s best drive of the evening before halftime, covering 55 yards in nine plays.
Steele Canyon senior quarterback Jeremy Mendez-Gal completed a series of short passes that resulted in a 10-yard score to Walker, who went down to his knees to secure the accurate pass, upping the Cougs’ advantage to 14-6 at halftime.
The Cougars limited the Titans to just two series in the game that were longer than a three-and-out.
Steele Canyon sophomore David Martinez booted a 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to seal the final margin.
A pair of the county’s top teams square off in one of the best matchups in the section on the opening night of the prep football season this Friday on Campo Road.
The 12th-ranked Eastlake Titans will face the 10th-ranked Steele Canyon Cougars as a pair of veteran coaches get an early strength test against a fellow San Diego Division I opponent.
John McFadden’s Titan teams win an over a 75 percent clip. Eastlake’s program picked up where it left off before the coach’s return to the head spot last season after four years.
Scott Longerbone’s Cougars have won 21 of their last 28 ballgames, including a state division championship in 2017. Steele Canyon shared the Grossmont Hills League championship last season with Helix and Granite Hills.
Steele Canyon has a bevy of skill unheralded skill players that makes the Cougars an instant scoring threat in all three aspects of the game.
Senior running back Wesley Neely is a shifty, speedy runner that can dart to the outside and sprint down the sideline.
Chance Johnson is an all-section team candidate at safety coming into the season. Whether it be a pick-six, breakaway reception or a return on special teams, such as his decisive punt run back in Steele’s upset win at Helix last season, the senior may end up scoring in several different ways this season.
Senior Chris Carter is a rushing and receiving threat that also can play in the secondary, while Steele’s offensive front is led by Ulolo Samoata, a 300-pounder.
On defense, seniors Cameron Ewert and junior Colton Guerrero are one of the county’s best linebacking duos. Cougar senior Antoine Walker is a next-level prospect at cornerback.
The defending Metro Mesa League champion Titans lost two dozen players to graduation and a pair of top producers last season to transfers, but return running back Mateo La, who rushed for 334 yards last season.
Always staunch in the trenches, Eastlake’s linemen this year include standouts Jackson Daley, Josh Concepcion, and Nick Pultorak (OL-DL),
The Titans have their own exceptional linebacking combo in Maximus Susi and Gabriel Acosta, while Holden Stephens, Jerwin Novicio, and Josiah McGuire hold down the skill and defensive back positions.
Given the preseason poll and the home-field edge, the Cougars would appear to have the slight advantage in this nonleague matchup, however, the initial computer rankings have the Titans with a strong enough rating to overcome the trip up to Canyon Country.
That’s what makes this season-opener so intriguing and too close to call.
Tune in to KUSI’s PREP PIGSKIN REPORT on Friday night following the game to get the low down from Cougar Town.