John Brandi 9 p.m., Sept. 17
Game of the Week: Vista at La Costa Canyon
Top-seeded Mavericks run through Panthers
In a game that featured two of the best defenses in the section, it was La Costa Canyon’s offense that ran all over Vista on Friday night. The top-seeded Mavericks uncharacteristically relied on the run in a 38-18 quarterfinal win over No. 8 Vista.
“We knew coming in that when we play mistake free football we can’t be stopped,” said La Costa Canyon running back Seth Hanson.
As a team, La Costa Canyon rushed for 321 yards and averaged eight yards per carry. Mavericks head coach Darrin Brown said having healthy backs was a big reason why.
“We had our top two running backs out for a couple weeks – they both were back full speed this week and it showed,” Brown said. We wore them down and were able to pound it.”
The first quarter featured a flurry of action – and very little defense. Both teams combined for 24 points in the opening 12 minutes.
La Costa Canyon suffered a huge loss late in the first quarter when starting middle linebacker Jacob Driver was ejected. Referees ruled that Driver punched a Vista player.
“He was trying to strip the ball and that’s what they catch. It’s unfortunate because he’s a great football player,” Brown said.
In the second quarter, both teams settled in defensively. With 2:35 left in the half, La Costa Canyon running back Matt S. Williams scored from five yards out to give the hosts a 21-10 lead.
The Mavericks kept that lead at 11 going into halftime thanks to a huge goal line stand. With 19 seconds left, Vista had the ball at the one-yard line and Panthers running back Jordan Alexander tried to get in the endzone by leaping over the pile.
The ball was knocked loose in midair and recovered by Mavericks linebacker Tucker Toolson in the endzone. That stop kept the Panthers two scores down and gave La Costa Canyon momentum at the break.
“It was a great defensive stand for us. It gave us good life going into the locker room,” Brown said. “They dropped their heads down and it fired us up.”
The Mavericks defense picked up where it left off to start the third quarter, forcing a Vista three-and-out. La Costa Canyon’s offense took the ensuing drive 75 yards for a score to go ahead 28-10 five minutes into the second half.
After a David Fisher one-yard scoring run narrowed the gap to 10 and Vista’s defense held La Costa Canyon to a field goal, the Panthers had possession down by 13 early in the fourth. But La Costa Canyon’s defense forced a punt after three downs and the Mavericks ground game – little used during the year – sealed the victory.
“I was surprised,” said Vista head coach Dan Williams. “We didn’t think they would be able to run with us and they did some good things. They did a good job of getting up on our linebackers.”
With 3:54 left, Hanson iced the game with a 38-yard touchdown run, one of a handful of long runs he had in the second half. Hansen finished the game with 207 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and caught four passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
“I just ran hard,” Hanson said. “It’s really the line – the line did it all.”
La Costa Canyon (9-2) will host No. 5 Carlsbad (7-5) next Friday in the Division I semifinals. It is rematch of the Sept. 12 meeting when the Mavericks beat the Lancers 52-3 at home.