Brandon Hernández 9 a.m., Aug. 21
Eagles shake up South Bay with landmark victory over Titans
CHULA VISTA – On a rain-soaked night, Olympian took the South Bay by storm. The Eagles knocked off fifth-ranked Eastlake 16-7 at Stan Canaris Stadium on Friday night in a landmark victory for the fifth-year program.
“We’ve had some big wins in our history and this is one of them,” said Olympian head coach Gil Warren. “They have such a great program and great coaching staff that this is a real accomplishment for our kids.”
After forcing an Eastlake punt on the game’s opening drive, Olympian (6-3, 3-0 Metro Mesa) struck first to provide an early shock. With 9:49 left in the opening quarter, running back Asante Gibson carried the ball for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a quick 7-0 lead.
“That play never usually works for me and I wasn’t psyched about it, but I went up the middle, saw the opening and cut,” Gibson said. “I’ve been working on my leg power, so I was running and the defenders just came off my legs.”
Both defenses dominated a first half that featured intermittent rain and a combined stretch of seven straight drives that ended with a punt or turnover. Olympian ended the offensive drought with 17 seconds left in the second quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Christopher Humphery to twin brother Christein Humphery, which Christein hauled in midair in the end zone between two Eastlake defenders.
“Some people thought that we couldn’t play with Eastlake because we’re a small new school,” Gibson said. “Eastlake is a good team, but we did what we had to do tonight.”
Olympian had a 14-0 at halftime and held the same advantage throughout a third quarter marked by a driving, swirling rain. Late in the quarter, however, the Eagles fumbled the ball and gave life to Eastlake (6-3, 2-1).
“We started making some mistakes in the second half,” Warren said. “The rain was tough on both sides.”
After the fumble, Eastlake put together its only scoring drive – capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Josh Palet to Darran Hall – to make it 14-7 with 10:49 to play in the game. The Titans had the momentum, and got the ball back just two minutes later after an Olympian punt.
“Being defensive captain, I told my team don’t worry about the rain and play ball – it’s just water,” Gibson said. “It was a little slippery, so we had to wrap up fully and gang tackle so there wasn’t any slipping.”
With the game in the balance Olympian stopped Eastlake twice in the final eight minutes. The last stop forced Eastlake to punt from its own end zone, and on the snap the ball sailed over the head of punter Ty Stevens for a safety that sealed the Eagles’ victory.
“We were definitely not expected to win,” Gibson said. “We’re the underdogs in the South Bay and we don’t take too kindly to that.”
With the upset victory, Olympian clinches at least a share of the Metro Mesa League title. The Eagles won the South Bay League in 2009, the Metro Pacific League last season, and are now one win away from ousting four-time defending Mesa champion and area power Eastlake.
“They’ve won the league consistently, and we finally took it away from them,” Gibson said. “We’ve been talking about this eighth grade. We were never in each other’s league, but we knew one of these days we were going to play each other.”
In a Division III field that appears stronger than in years past, Olympian is a legitimate contender for the section title. And after upsetting Eastlake, the Eagles aren’t going to sneak up on any opponents.
“It means we have to work. We have eyes on us now and other teams are going to study us up really well,” Gibson said. “That’s what we signed up for and hopefully we finish the season with CIF.”
Eastlake suffered its league loss since 2006, ending a 23-game winning streak. The first ever matchup between the local rivals was played with high intensity, but also with shared admiration.
“We know each other really well, and that’s why there is a lot of respect on the field,” Gibson said. “We have a mutual respect for each other.”
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