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Santana opens season on a 5-0 streak, best in eight years

The Santana Sultans are in the midst of a possibly historic season.

The Sultans are the top-rated team in the San Diego Section’s Division IV and taking on all comers.

Last Friday night, Santana fought off the traffic then torched Montgomery, which came in ranked second in the division, 35-6, to improve to 5-0, which is the team’s best start in eight years.

This Friday at 7, the Sultans will host the top-ranked team in Division V, undefeated Vincent Memorial (5-0), as a final tune-up for a Grossmont Valley League race that the team has played its way into the role of favorite.

Following a late arrival after taking an arduous route during rush hour to get to the high school off Palm Avenue, the Sultans got off the bus and took care of business as senior wide receiver Randy Smith caught three touchdown passes from quarterback Nathan Temple, including two in the first half.

Santana led just 14-6 at halftime but Brooks Moutaw rushed for a touchdown and Temple threw the other of his four touchdown passes to Nathan Hughes, who also added a pair of interceptions on defense, made seven tackles and booted through all five extra-points.

Temple, meanwhile, is putting up numbers that put him on pace with his proclaimed goal of 40 touchdown passes this season. The senior has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards already this season and 18 touchdowns.

His top target, Smith, whom he combined with on a five-touchdown game in the D-IV playoffs last season, has 11 touchdown receptions this season on just 21 total receptions.

The team is a senior-laden outfit with 27 upperclassmen leading the pursuit of the school’s first-ever section football title. Santana hasn’t won a Grossmont League championship this century but could be considered the team to beat as the highest-rated team currently in the Grossmont Valley League.

The Sultans also have already defeated the current No. 2 team in the division, Serra, which ended defending state division champ San Diego’s 15-game winning streak last Friday night. That should give an indication at the level of success Santana could achieve this fall.

Santana has outscored its opponents, 203-32, this season.

How big are these Sultans in Santee?

Whether by coincidence or on purpose, the coaching staff and boosters decided to do something special for this graduating group, producing a series of life-size banners of the upperclassmen that adorn the light posts in the parking lot just outside Santee Community Stadium.

A fitting tribute to the players you usually see at major sporting events like a bowl game or championship. And that’s where these Sultans are going to get the opportunity to compete in the week’s to come, however, the team’s toughest league tests will be on the road, including an anticipated offensive shootout with Mount Miguel in the opener on Oct. 4.

All of this week’s games are at 7 p.m.

Oaks Christian (2-3) at No. 1 Helix (3-1) – Put all the talk of the Highlanders’ possible 1-4 start to rest. Helix completed the sweep in the “Gauntlet Series” by defeating previous co-No. 1 St. Augustine last Friday night at Mesa College, 44-38.

The Scotties rocketed to a 38-10 lead behind a pair of touchdown receptions by Las Vegas-area transfer Keionte Scott from senior quarterback Kamryn Brown, along with 271 yards and a touchdown from senior Fatto Noa, as Helix staked its claim as the current county best.

Jeremiah Fletcher had the game’s first touchdown with a 25-yard scoop-and-score fumble return, while senior quarterback Delshawn Traylor had a 62-yard rushing touchdown.

The Highlanders get a tough test against the perennial power from Westlake Village this week, but this year’s version of the Lions, which is ranked “just” 31st in the Southern Section, will have to pull a sneak attack against a team riding the wave of beating its top two section rivals in consecutive weeks.

Despite the success, the Scots still rank behind Cathedral Catholic at the top of the section’s computer ratings, but the Dons, Saints, and Helix are solidly in a position to compete for the county’s Open Division title. The Highlanders may trail Cathedral in the rankings but still moved up to No. 13 in the state this week.

Mira Mesa (1-3) at No. 5 Steele Canyon (4-0) – The Cougars’ Antoine Walker recorded three interceptions in a 21-14 win over Otay Ranch last Friday.

Steele Canyon senior quarterback Jeremy Mendez-Gal, whose production has increased with each game, passed for a career-high 234 yards, while senior Chris Carter caught a touchdown pass and ran for another.

The Marauders have been a good matchup for Steele over the past several years but there’s a sizeable advantage for the Cougs this time around. Senior running back Elijah Thomas gets more than 50 percent of Mira Mesa’s touches.

No. 12 Madison (2-2) at No. 9 Grossmont (4-0) – The Foothillers had a Homecoming pep rally on morning local television then defeated Valley View, of Moreno Valley, 38-0, with a 38-point first half last Friday.

Grossmont now gets its toughest opponent of the season in a rematch of a playoff game last November when the Hillers upset the Warhawks thanks to a late touchdown pass by James Odom to Brody Schicker. The duo has already connected for five scores this season, as Odom has thrown for 14 scores and over 1,200 yards in four games.

Foothiller junior running back Robert Tucker has 10 touchdowns, including his fifth rushing touchdown of the season in the win last week.

The shutout was Grossmont’s first in two years, as Chris Alba and Cam Sanderlin both had nine tackles, while Matt Mellinger finished with seven tackles.

It should be noted that Steele Canyon defeated Madison on the road earlier this season but fellow Grossmont Hills League contender Granite Hills lost at the Warhawks’ field a week later. Grossmont is currently rated between those two conference rivals, although the Hillers will enjoy a distinct home-field edge, playing its fifth-straight at Lt. Adams Field.

Junior quarterback Justus McComb rushed for 115 yards two touchdowns and senior wide receiver James Johnson had 10 receptions for 114 yards in the contest. Johnson has 32 catches for over 400 yards this season.

The Southwest Eagles lost at West Hills, 34-14, in the season opener but come in with a two-game winning streak, however, this one should be one-sided in Granite’s favor.

Following this game, Granite Hills will host Steele Canyon and Grossmont to open the Grossmont Hills League and can make a statement right away at home.

West Hills (2-2) at El Capitan (0-4) – These two rivals have kept this series alive and added a shining new flame last season with the creation of the Tony Burner Memorial Trophy and accompanying dual-school scholarship program.

Burner, the son of long-time El Capitan coach Ron Burner, passed away in June of 2017. He was a quarterback at West Hills High and an assistant football coach with his dad with the Vaqueros.

West Hills leads the all-time series 16-15 but the overall setting for the first game of the new award’s series may have helped lead to El Cap’s 31-21 upset of the Wolf Pack last year in Santee.

Quarterback Wick Hauser, now a senior, passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, while another returnee, Donny Green, had a strong rushing game in the win. Jacobo Willa, another returning senior this season, clinched the win with a sack.

Wolf Pack receivers Kole Klingerman and Steven Cristini combined for five receptions and 70 yards in the game and look to take advantage of a defense that is allowing a mind-boggling 48 points-per-game. West Hills, with two-way start Jake Maheu, is allowing just under 15 points-per-contest.

This time around, the Vaqueros may be winless but are far from underdogs against the Pack. The two teams sit right next to each other, just outside the Division III playoff bubble, adding further significance to the renewal.

Kearny (2-2) at Valhalla (2-2) – The Komets and Norsemen are just ahead of West Hills and El Capitan just inside the section’s Division III playoff picture, putting major significance on this non-league matchup as well.

Valhalla junior Hussein Bakir did his best impersonation of senior teammate Keegan Baker, busting off a 58-yard touchdown on the second play of the game last Friday to help the team to a 14-0 lead, however, host Mount Miguel overcame the deficit with a 33-12 second half and handed the Norsemen their second-straight defeat, 46-28.

Baker rushed for nearly 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including his own long run, a 70-yard score which gave Valhalla a 21-19 lead just over a minute-and-a-half into the third quarter. Baker has nearly 800 yards rushing on the season with 11 touchdowns.

The Komets defeated visiting University City last Friday night, 49-27, while the Norsemen defeated those same Centurions, 34-20, in the season opener in southeastern El Cajon.

Kearny junior running back Nico Estrada is averaging nearly 200 yards per game on the ground, as well, while senior quarterback Mario Alves has eight touchdown passes and over 750 yards so far this season.

The computer ratings would suggest that the Komets are sure favorites here but Valhalla’s improvement may have not found the measure of the analytics just yet.

Mount Miguel (2-2) at Sweetwater (1-3) – Matador quarterback J.D. Laverdiere accounted for seven touchdowns in the win over the Norsemen last Friday, including four rushing scores.

Laverdiere is putting up 300-yard games like Dan Fouts, as he passed for 351 yards in the win. The junior has over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns already this season.

Wide receiver Jahiem Allen-Pompey had 10 receptions in the contest, good for 246 yards. The senior now had 10 touchdown receptions and nearly 800 yards receiving from Laverdiere this season, making up one of the county’s most prolific pass combos.

The Matadors may have moved into top contention for the Valley League title, along with the Sultans. They are just a couple of spots ahead of Sweetwater in the final four spots of the Division IV playoff picture so they can’t afford a slip up here.

Julian (1-2) at Foothills Christian (5-0) (at Seau Field) – The Knights won on the road, 60-8, over the Borrego Springs Rams in an Ocean League game last Friday and are the 13th-ranked 8-man team in the state.

Foothills led just 8-0 after one quarter but scored 52 points in the second and third quarters combined to lead 60-0 heading into the fourth. Senior Carter Hallahan had 17 tackles (6 solo) and an interception to lead the Knights.

Senior quarterback Tony Mroz had over 200 yards of total offense and accounted for five touchdowns, including three on the ground, in the win, which improved FCHS to 2-0 in league play.

Source: East County Californian

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