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Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
Titans knock off Mavericks behind strong defense, passing game
CARLSBAD – Three seasons removed from its last Division I championship, Poway has the look of a contender again. Friday night at #6 La Costa Canyon, the 10th-ranked Titans played a mistake-free football game and closed out the Mavericks late for a 28-14 victory.
“Poway is back,” said Titans quarterback Gabriel Isaak.
With 8:23 left in the game, Poway running back Ryan Moreno broke a 14-14 tie with a 4-yard touchdown run. After a La Costa Canyon three-and-out, the Titans took a decisive 28-14 lead on an Isaak 1-yard keeper that came two plays after a third down 43-yard halfback pass from Justin Moyers to Isaiah Gross.
“We’re pretty confident. Our kids play with some swag and they played their butts off,” said Poway head coach Damian Gonzalez.
Poway (2-0) prevented La Costa Canyon from getting a first down on its next drive to seal the victory. After allowing the Mavericks a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, the Titans did not allow LCC (1-1) to get a first down for the final 20 minutes of the game.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Gonzalez said. “We gave up a couple big plays, but our kids bounced back and our second half defense was awesome.”
Poway senior defensive end Brian Guendling spearheaded the Titans’ defensive effort. Lining up across from two Division I prospects on the La Costa Canyon offensive line, Guendling made a number of critical sacks and tackles for losses.
“It didn’t bother me. I knew what I had to do — I had to come out as hard as I could and just make plays,” Guendling said.
Poway led 14-7 at halftime, turning early La Costa Canyon mistakes into points. In the first quarter, Titans senior defensive back Teddy Anderson blocked a punt that Moyers recovered on the Mavericks’ 1-yard line, and on the next play fullback Jimmy Moreno punched it in for the game’s first score.
“We knew this was going to be a tight game, we knew it was going to be close and come down to who made the fewest mistakes,” Gonzalez said.
The Mavericks answered with a four-play, 86-yard drive capped by a Jake Sesti 30-yard touchdown pass to CJ Dimry to take a 7-6 lead. But the next time LCC had the ball, Sesti was intercepted by Poway safety Ryan Moreno and the Titans took advantage of the short field, making it 14-7 on an Isaak 21-yard pass to Derek Babiash with 5:53 to play in the half.
“When you play great teams you can’t shoot yourself in the foot, and we did that way too many times and put ourselves in bad spots,” said La Costa Canyon head coach Sean Sovacool. “We spotted them some points early and that’s avoidable.”
After relying heavily on the running game in their season opener, Poway took to the air to move the ball against La Costa Canyon. The Titans exploited man-to-man coverage by targeting the 6-foot Babiash and the 6-foot-3-inch Gross throughout the game.
“That was part of our game plan coming into this week,” Gonzalez said. “We knew they were going to put everybody in the box and we just wanted to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups on the outside. It worked out tonight.”
Isaak was efficient for Poway, completing 21-of-23 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. The senior was motivated by last year’s 24-7 loss to La Costa Canyon in which he threw four interceptions.
“As a quarterback, you love to throw and it’s your dream to take over a game and throw,” Isaak said. “This was a ‘dream come true’ night.”
It was somewhat the opposite for La Costa Canyon. The Mavericks showed quick strike ability on offense, but could not get key defensive stops nor avoid costly mistakes in their first loss of the season.
“We’re going to find out how resilient we are,” Sovacool said.
Poway is 2-0 for the first time in four seasons, and delivered a statement with its 14-point win over La Costa Canyon. Bolstered by returning players and an undefeated junior varsity team, the Titans were considered a contender before the season started – and they have looked impressive early.
“We’re coming and no one can stop us,” Guendling said. “We’re a hardworking team and this is our year. We’re going to the ‘Q’ this year.”
Pictured: Poway quarterback Gabriel Isaak looks for a receiver while scrambling downfield