Susan Luzzaro 6:32 p.m., March 16
Division II: Oceanside vs. Helix
Pirates stuff Highlanders in final minute, win fifth section championship in a row
Oceanside and Helix have met in the Division II finals five times in the past eight years. Their most recent edition was by far the most exciting, a 23-19 Oceanside win that was in question until the very end.
With the win, the Pirates have now won five section titles in a row.
“It means a lot. Coach Carroll said nobody’s ever done that before,” said Oceanside senior Rene Siluano. “We practice so hard, and who ever practices the hardest gets what they deserve – and we deserve it.”
But the fifth one looked like it was going to slip away with Helix driving for the game winning score late in the game. The Highlanders got all the way to Oceanside’s one-yard line.
On second and goal with 40 seconds left, Helix quarterback Ty Culver attempted a jump pass. Highlanders tight end Levine Toilolo, the intended receiver, fell down and Siluano intercepted the touch pass in the end zone for a touchback, preserving an Oceanside victory.
“I saw the line in pass set, there obviously no going to run, so you back up and watch where he’s going to throw it,” Siluano said. “He threw it low.”
“Most exciting finish no doubt about it,” said Oceanside head coach John Carroll.
The game was a back-and-forth affair throughout. Oceanside (12-0-1) began the game by recovering an onside kick and jumped out 7-0 less than a minute in when quarterback Jordan Wynn found Demario Coleman on a screen for a 26-yard touchdown. Helix (10-2-1)answered at the end of the quarter with a Ty Culver five-yard touchdown to make it a one-point game.
After trading touchdowns, Oceanside pulled ahead on a Jose Velasquez field goal with 31.8 second left in the half. It was Helix, though, who threw the final punch in the first half, a 25-yard Travon Van touchdown run that put the Highlanders ahead 19-16 at the half.
Oceanside took the opening drive of the second half for a touchdown, a one-yard Jake Fely run. Fely’s score would end up being the game winner, as neither team scored in the final 18 minutes.
The Pirates played the final three quarters without starting linebacker Justin Vaeena and wide receiver Demario Coleman. Both suffered injuries in the first quarter that would sideline them for the rest of the game.
“My heart bleeds for him,” Carroll said of Vaeena. “He’s the heart and soul of our defense. Justin pumped the team up in the second half. He kept the defense going even when he wasn’t out there.”
“For us to be able to survive that is a true credit to every kid on the team,” Carroll said.
Oceanside now waits to see if they will be selected for the state bowl game. The Pirates are the defending Division II state champions.
“All week I said screw the state bowl – I’m going to win the CIF championship because that’s what’s most important,” Siluano said. “State is an honor, but if we don’t go, it was a great season.”
Extending their unbeaten streak 13 more games and winning a fifth section title in a row, that much cannot be disputed.