Matthew Lickona 4 p.m., May 26
Division I: Eastlake vs Vista
Eastlake linebacker Matt Cellery and coach John McFadden celebrate the Titans' Division I championship
Titans represent South Bay with first ever title
Making their first appearance in the CIF finals, Eastlake had dreams of a section title in the nightcap Friday night at Qualcomm Stadium. The Titans did beat Vista 21-14 to win the Division I championship, but they had to survive the nightmare of an injury to their star player coupled with a furious Panthers comeback.
“We didn’t let it happen,” said Titans defensive back Eddie Vega. “Our team fights and we’re taught to fight everyday in practice.”
For the first half of the game, Eastlake (11-0-2) looked like they would cruise to their first section title. The Titans led 14-0 at the half and extended that lead on the opening drive of the second half when quarterback D’Angelo Barksdale connected with receiver Jordan Hines for a 52-yard touchdown.
Then Eastlake’s Tony Jefferson went out of the game with a shoulder injury. And Vista (10-3) took the ensuing drive 80 yards for a touchdown, capped by a 46 one-yard score.
“We had to do it for my boy Tony. He got hurt and he’s led us all the way. We had to pull through for him,” Vega said.
With 9:32 left in the game, Vista made it a seven-point game when quarterback Christian Gallardi found receiver Troy Ware over the middle for a touchdown on fourth down. With Jefferson out and Eastlake suddenly reeling, Titans coach John McFadden didn’t panic – he just counted on his team to make plays.
“You just got to kind of let it go through the flow and understand that’s going to happen,” McFadden said. “I just kept on saying, ‘Finish.’”
Subbing for Jefferson at safety, Titans defensive back Daniel Johnson answered the call twice in the final four minutes with a pair of interceptions in the endzone to end potential game-tying drives for the Panthers.
“Nobody ever hears about Daniel Johnson,” McFadden said. “And all he does is his job every single time.”
Johnson’s second pick came with three seconds left to seal the win for the Titans. With the victory, Eastlake captures the first section title in the 17-year history of the school.
“These kids deserve it and the South Bay deserves it.” McFadden said. “We don’t always get a lot of respect down there and that’s our job to take that respect and I think this is a big step to that.”