Matthew Lickona 4 p.m., May 26
Game of the Week: Torrey Pines at Eastlake
Titans race to complete victory over Falcons in quarterfinals
CHULA VISTA – One of the fastest teams in the section appears to have reached its top speed at the right time. Second-seeded Eastlake used its speed to run past 10th-seeded Torrey Pines on Friday night in a 28-10 victory in the Division I quarterfinals.
“Nothing is going to stop us from going to CIF this year, because that’s the legacy that the seniors want to leave behind,” said Eastlake senior running back Aaron Baltazar. “We made more plays than they did. We wanted it more and we came out with tenacity.”
From the outset, Eastlake (8-3) displayed its quickness on both sides of the ball. After stopping Torrey Pines (6-6) on the opening series, the Titans drove 76 yards for the game’s first score – a 13-yard touchdown run by Baltazar.
“They were there – I just had to make one guy miss,” Baltazar said.
Twenty-two seconds into the second quarter, Torrey Pines got on the board with a 35-yard field goal by senior Spencer Brewster. With less than two minutes left in the first half Baltazar scored on an 11-yard run to put Eastlake ahead 14-3 headed into the break, a drive that included a Baltazar 41-yard carry on fourth-and-short near midfield.
“I knew I had to do something big for my team. I’m the best player on this team, so I have to be able to make those plays,” said Baltazar, a Boise State commit. “It was a very important score. We practiced the two-minute drill during the week, so we were prepared for that.”
After Torrey Pines stopped Eastlake on the first drive of the second half, the Falcons had the ball at their own 13-yard line with a chance to get back in the game. But the Titans defense drove Torrey Pines back toward its own end zone, and following a sack by junior linebacker Keifer Graham the Falcons elected to punt on third down.
“They had a couple big guys out there, but we’re tough players and our defense has been in big games before – it’s not our first time through this and we know how to step up to the challenge,” said Eastlake senior linebacker Blake Wilson.
Eastlake started the ensuing drive in Torrey Pines territory, and added to its lead with a 12-yard run by Baltazar that made it 21-3 with 3:16 left in the third quarter. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, senior running back Tavarus Green sealed the Titans victory by weaving 46 yards through the Falcons defense for a touchdown.
“Baltazar is a beast and Green is the fastest kid I know – once those guys get in the open field you’re not going to catch them,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely good to have those guys on your team.”
Eastlake relied on its offense to win games during the regular season, and late in the season its defense is starting to make an impact. For the second straight game, the Titans delivered a complete performance.
“We’re just hitting our peak. We moved some guys around when league started, and you can see it all starting to come together,” Wilson said. “We’re playing our best defense and best football we have all year – we’re looking to keep that going in the semis.”
Eastlake advances to the Division I semifinals for the seventh straight year, where they will meet third-seeded Grossmont. In the past two seasons, the Titans have fallen at home one game short of the section finals.
“This is where we wanted to be – we knew we were going to come back here,” Baltazar said. “The seniors have been through two losses in the semifinals, so we’re going to use that to stop the legacy that we always lose there. We’re going to take it all the way.”
For Torrey Pines, the loss brings an end to an up-and-down season that included high-profile victories over rivals Cathedral Catholic and La Costa Canyon. The Falcons ultimately weren’t fast enough to keep up with Eastlake and avoid elimination.
“Our players learned how to face adversity, look it in the eye and overcome it,” said Torrey Pines head coach Scott Ashby. “This class of graduating seniors is one of the greatest classes of people I’ve ever been around in 22 years of coaching high school football.”