Darrin DuFord 3:30 p.m., Dec. 26
Game of the Week: Steele Canyon at Eastlake
Titans steal last-second victory in thriller
CHULA VISTA – In a game between unbeatens, not much separated No. 4 Eastlake and No. 7 Steele Canyon on Friday night. The Titans escaped with a 20-17 Homecoming victory after a Cougars field goal attempt fell just short as time expired.
“They had us there for a while,” Eastlake quarterback/receiver Jordan Hines said, “but we stepped up in the end and made the plays and made the adjustments that we needed to make to win.”
With 15 seconds left, Hines caught a 28-yard fade pass from quarterback Josh Palet for the go-ahead score. Hines started the game at quarterback but moved to receiver – where he played last year – at the beginning of the fourth quarter try and jump start the passing game.
“We had that package in for a while. Josh has a great arm and we knew that but I’ve always been the starter because I can run the offense a little better,” Hines said. “When it came to it, we needed somebody who can throw the ball and Josh is the guy to do that.”
Following the Hines touchdown, Steele Canyon (3-1) had the ball at the Eastlake 32-yard line with seven seconds left. After an incomplete pass left one second on the clock, the Cougars sent out their field goal unit and a 50-yard attempt from Daniel Uribe fell a few feet short.
“That was a heartbreaker,” Steele Canyon coach Ron Boehmke said. “But it’s one you hope the kids will learn from.”
Both teams came flying out of the gates on the ground, with the game’s first four drives going for touchdowns. Running back Jude Isbell scored on runs of found and 80 yards for Eastlake (4-0) while backs Jake Wragg and Brandon Watson found the endzone for Steele Canyon.
“They matched our speed and size,” Hines said. “Their O-line and D-line got off the ball well.”
Things slowed down in a second quarter that featured only two drives. Steele Canyon started the quarter with a nearly eight-minute scoring drive capped by a Uribe 38-yard field goal and the Cougars closed it by blocking an Eastlake field goal attempt of 28 yards just before the half.
While halftime Homecoming festivities included fireworks, neither defense allowed sparks to fly after the break. A scoreless third quarter left both teams searching for answers offensively.
“They forced us to throw the ball and that’s something that we hadn’t been used to doing in games,” Hines said. “We have been used to relying on our run game and Jude has been carrying us all season.”
With 5:36 left in the game and Eastlake facing a fourth-and-one at the Steele Canyon 4-yard line, Titans running back John Fletcher was stuffed by Cougars defensive back Chancellor James. Steele Canyon had the ball, a four-point lead and the clock on their side.
Eastlake eventually stopped Steele Canyon, and got the ball back on their 28-yard line with 1:15 left. After three straight incomplete passes and facing a fourth-and-10, Palet connected with Fletcher on a 53-yard pass play to keep the Titans’ game-winning drive alive.
“It was that high-caliber of a game,” Boehmke said. “You play these kinds of games in the preseason and then when you get into the playoffs you kind of know already what it’s going to feel like.”
With the win, Eastlake is still undefeated defending their Division I title. The Titans are one of the best teams in the section despite losing lots of talent from last year.
“It shows that we can fight through adversity. During the offseason we did a lot of preparing, a lot a fighting when you’re down to keep us mentally tough,” Hines said. “When you go down you have to stay up and keep fighting harder.”
Steele Canyon will go back to the drawing board after narrowly being knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten. Boehmke said the Cougars need to evaluate their running and passing game.
“When you play teams like Eastlake early you find your weaknesses a lot faster than if you just run people over – you don’t learn much,” Boehmke said. “You develop a mental and physical toughness when you play those good teams.”
Eastlake quarterback Jordan Hines drops back to pass against Steele Canyon