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Granite Hills soars to history-making CIF football championship

The seeding for this year’s San Diego Section football playoffs took on a decidedly different flavor with such teams as Cathedral Catholic left out of the elite Open Division and other teams such as Crawford receiving high seeds in the lower divisions.

But it all added up to one of the most exciting playoffs in recent memory. Last weekend’s second round of championship games underscored that.

In last Friday’s two games at Southwestern College, the Division III final was decided in the final minute as top seeded University City shaded second seeded Point Loma, 33-28, while the Division I championship game went down to the last 3.5 seconds showing on the clock as third-seeded Mater Dei Catholic pulled off a stunning 34-29 shocker against top seeded Mission Hills.

The 2022 playoffs kicked off with the Open Division championship game at Snapdragon Stadium on Nov. 18. The match-up between top-seeded Carlsbad and second-seeded Lincoln did not disappoint the large crowd in attendance as the Hornets rallied from a 21-6 deficit with 22 points in the fourth quarter to post a 28-24 upset victory.

The Division VI (8-Man) final took place the next night at Escondido High School with Chula Vista’s Victory Christian Academy recording a 39-12 win over second-seeded St. Joseph Academy. The top-seeded Knights finished with an 11-0 undefeated season.

Last Friday’s Division IV final at Escondido High School featured top-seeded Fallbrook and seventh-seeded Palo Verde Valley. The Yellow Jackets proved to be this year’s bracket buster with a 33-14 victory.

Saturday’s twin-bill at Escondido High School wrapped up sectional play as third-seeded Classical Academy defeated top-seeded Crawford, 33-14, to win the Division V title and top-seeded Granite Hills out-scored third-seeded Ramona, 48-12, to claim the Division II championship

All section division winners advance to this weekend’s Southern California regional playoffs. State bowl championship games are slated Dec. 9-10 at sites across the state.

Of the seven section divisional championship games, only three top-seeded teams came out victorious while one second-seeded team, two third-seeded teams and one seventh-seeded team claimed division titles.

“There’s been great parity, great excitement,” San Diego Section commissioner Joe Heinz said. “There’s been great representation in the stands. It’s been great.”

Soaring Eagles

Granite Hills had previously advanced to Class 3A championship game in 1979. The Eagles finished runner-up to the John Shacklett-coached Morse Tigers by a score of 28-7.

It’s been 43 years since Granite Hills managed to make a return to a CIF championship game, and the Eagles (11-2) made that long-awaited return stand up.

Granite Hills scored first on a 46-yard run by senior Zak Darling to take the early advantage on the scoreboard.

But the Bulldogs (8-5) responded with two scores to take a one score lead. Junior Dillon Day scored a rushing touchdown to narrow the score to 7-6 while senior Jonny Cohen intercepted a pass from Eagle senior signal caller Nico Tomasello and raced 56 yards for a pick-six touchdown.

12-7 Ramona.

The rest of the scoring belonged to Granite Hills on this
historic night.

Sophomore Maxwell Turner scored on a six-yard run set up a 54-yard breakaway by Darling to put the Eagles back in front 13-12 on the scoreboard while sophomore Isaiah Jackson followed with a two-yard scoring run to up the score to 20-12. Maxwell scored on an 18-yard run to push the Grossmont Hills League champions to a 27-12 halftime lead.

Granite Hills shut out Ramona 21-0 in the second half.

Tomasello made up for his earlier miscue with a 50-yard pass downfield to senior Easton Peterson. Senior Parlan Sanders later took the ball into the end zone on a 38-yard run while senior Joaquin Thomas Jr. iced the Granite Hills victory with a 28-yard pick six of his own.

Darling close out scoring with his second rushing touchdown of the night on a 10-yard run. At the conclusion of the game, which ended with a running clock, the Eagles celebrated en-masse at the center of the field.

The long wait was finally over.

Darling and Turner both finished the game with a pair of touchdowns while junior Robert Petrich finished the contest with six extra-point conversions.

Peterson and Ramona quarterback Colin Lester represented their respective teams as the game’s sportsmanship award winners.

The Eagles’ flight is not over as they will host Etiwanda (9-5) in a Division 2-A Southern California regional playoff game on Saturday. Kick-off is 6 p.m.

Almost famous

Granite Hills and Helix represented the Grossmont Hills League in the CIF semifinal playoffs. The Eagles broke through to the championship game with a 45-8 win over fifth seeded Mira Mesa while fourth seeded Helix was upset, 19-14, by fifth-seeded El Camino.

The Scotties finished the season 7-4 overall.

“Obviously, we are disappointed that we lost our final game — we didn’t make enough plays to win and give credit to El Camino for making the necessary plays to win,” Highlanders coach Damaja Jones said. “ Next year we will be a senior heavy team and I’m looking forward to our off-season and attacking the weight room.”

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Source: East County Californian

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