Brandon Hernández 1 p.m., March 28
Titans race to blowout win over Spartans in Metro Mesa opener
CHULA VISTA – When Eastlake’s Wing-T offense appears unstoppable for stretches like it did against Chula Vista on Friday night, senior running back Tavarus Green refers to it as both a machine and a monster. After falling behind early, the ninth-ranked Titans scored touchdowns on seven straight offensive possessions to rout the host Spartans 49-21.
“We feel like we’re a threat that can’t be stopped,” Green said. “We had some tough losses, but we feel that we’re at the top of our game and nobody can stop us.”
Prior to kickoff, Chula Vista (4-2, 0-1 Metro Mesa) performed a haka dance on its sideline that turned up the intensity for both teams. The Spartans rode that emotion to a defensive score on the game’s first possession – a 30-yard interception return touchdown by sophomore linebacker Jaylon Candler that quickly made it 7-0.
“There is a lot of tension between the players,” said Eastlake senior running back Aaron Baltazar. “There was lot of talking throughout the season and offseason, so that’s what brought the intensity to this game.”
Eastlake (4-2, 1-0) answered with a four-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Green four-yard touchdown run. Both teams traded scores on the next two possessions, and Chula Vista led 14-13 after the first quarter.
“Every time they did something big, we didn’t let it phase us,” Baltazar said. “We picked each other up and moved on to the next play.”
In the second quarter Eastlake’s offense kept rolling, and Chula Vista couldn’t keep up. The Titans scored touchdowns on each of their three drives in the quarter – including touchdown runs of 26 and 19 yards by Green – and took a 34-21 lead into halftime.
“We were battling and then it just got a little too far out of reach,” said Chula Vista head coach Judd Rachow. “We knew it was going to be one of those games where we were going to have to answer each score, and we didn’t do that.”
Green’s three first-half touchdowns all had a similar look – outside runs along the right side of the field. The speedy junior made it to the sideline faster than the Chula Vista defense on each of the scoring runs.
“I knew I needed to take advantage of every single look I got,” Green said. “They were playing me kind of weak on the outside, so I just decided I was going to take it – they left it there a few times. I’ve been waiting for a breakout game.”
Chula Vista was still within striking distance as they methodically moved the ball on the opening drive of the second half. The Spartans drove deep into Eastlake territory but had to settle for a 24-yard field goal attempt – a kick blocked by Titans junior Isiah Olave and returned by teammate Keifer Graham 85 yards for a touchdown that made it 42-21.
“I didn’t even know that he blocked it – I just saw the ball in front of me, scooped it up and ran as fast as I could,” said Graham, a junior linebacker. “Every second I was running, I was just hoping I wouldn’t get caught. I tried not to look back.”
Late in the third quarter, Baltazar delivered the knockout blow to Chula Vista with a 51-yard touchdown run that put Eastlake ahead by 28. The Boise State-bound back made one cut in the backfield and ran by the Spartans’ defense for the game-icing touchdown.
“Everybody thinks because I’m big that I’m not that fast, but in the offseason I’ve been working on my speed and my quickness – that was a big thing for me,” Baltazar said.
With its sixth straight victory over Chula Vista, Eastlake made a decisive statement in its Metro Mesa opener. After having a streak of five consecutive league titles snapped last season, Eastlake is aiming to return to the top of the South Bay.
“This is a good starter, and hopefully we can keep pushing and win a Mesa League title and win CIF,” Green said. “We needed this win – this is a win we’ve been waiting for.”