by Christopher Mohr
October 2, 2009 (El Cajon)-- After twenty minutes of game time had elapsed, it seemed that Friday night's game between Granite Hills and Central High would be closely contested, with a final score in the 20s. Fortunately for the Granite Hills Eagles, that trend did not continue.
After a slow start by both teams, Granite Hills took control of the momentum and the game to cruise to a 38-13 win over visiting Central High's Spartans of El Centro. Both teams played a scoreless first quarter, and were able to move the ball on some plays, but not consistently enough to be a scoring threat.
Granite Hills' first scoring opportunity was not what they hoped for. Instead of a touchdown for the Eagles, the drive resulted in a touchback and the ball going to the Spartans when Brandon Andrews intercepted a pass from Cory Lockman in the end zone.
"We came off a bye week and I think just needed a little warmup time," Lockman said about the slow start, referring to the fact that the Eagles' last previous game was two weeks ago on September 18 against El Cajon Valley.
The Spartans responded by covering 80 yards in 10 plays, scoring first on a one-yard touchdown run by Cody Johnson. Johnson's ball carrying and a 39 yard pass play from J.T. Adams to Sam Castro highlighted the scoring drive and Central led 7-0 in the second quarter.
Good teams answer the call when challenged, and after the Spartans took the lead, the Eagles stormed back with a drive of their own. Frantz Laroque scored on a 34 yard run to tie the game at seven. Fifty-four of the 69 yards on this scoring drive came from Laroque running the ball.
On the following possession for Central, it seemed initially like the game could turn into a see-saw battle. Johnson continued his early success running the ball with a 20-yard run, giving the Spartans great field position on their own 40-yard line. On the next play, however, Johnson was stuffed for no gain, and two incomplete passes later, the Spartans were forced to punt.
From that point on, the Eagles would never turn back. They took a 14-7 lead on a six-yard touchdown pass from Lockman to Jonathan Valencia. After the interception, Lockman seemed to find his groove, completing three passes on this drive.
The Eagles' defense seemed to find a groove of their own. They sacked Adams on one play and again forced the Spartans to punt, but even that did not go well for Central. An errant snap on the punt play to Andrews (also a punter) sailed over his head. He chased down the loose ball and fell on it at his own 21-yard line, giving the Eagles excellent field position. Long snapping on punts proved to be challenging for Central throughout the game.
With only 32 seconds left before halftime, the Eagles were unable to get another touchdown, settling instead for a 20 yard field goal by Tyler Strickland and a 17-7 lead at the break. So far, Granite Hills had scored 17 unanswered points, and they would add to that total in the second half.
Bad luck continued for the Spartans on their opening drive in the second half. J.T. Adams was sacked by Alex Beepath, losing the ball on the hard hit. Joe Cardona picked up the loose ball and just missed running it back for a touchdown, returning it instead to the two-yard line.
"I just saw one of my teammates come in and get a sack, picked the ball, ran as hard as I could, came up a little short," Cardona said about the play. He was blitzing on the play and left unblocked.
On the next play, Lockman punched it in from two yards out to extend the Eagles' lead to 24-7. Football trivia enthusiasts will be hard pressed to find a shorter drive at any level of football than this one: one play, two yards and one second of elapsed game time.
Central's ball-handling problems continued on their next possession when Zach Guizar fumbled and the Eagles recovered on their own 33-yard line. It ended what had been a promising drive for the Spartans up to that point that covered 35 yards in the previous four plays. Laroque scored later on an 18-yard run to make the score 31-7, Eagles.
"In the beginning it was kinda weird, it was like they knew what we were doing, coming hard down on the outside, so what we did was hit them with the play action, and then our O-line executed on their blocks and I just found my way," said Laroque about the running game opening up later in the game for the Eagles. He added another touchdown run to extend the Eagles' lead to 38-7.
Although the game had long been decided, Central had an impressive 12-play drive that ended on a two-yard touchdown run by Johnson to close out the scoring at 38-13.
The win improved Granite Hills' record to 3-1. They will visit West Hills (2-3) next week. Central dropped to 3-2 with the loss and will face Imperial (1-4) at home.
Christopher Mohr is a freelance writer in the San Diego area and is a huge Chargers, Padres and Detroit Red Wings fan.
Central (El Centro) 0 7 0 6 -13
Granite Hills 0 17 14 7 -38
C - Johnson 1 run (Bustos kick)
GH - Laroque 34 run (Strickland kick)
GH - Valencia 17 pass from Lockman (Strickland kick)
GH - FG Strickland 20
GH - Lockman 2 run (Strickland kick)
GH - Laroque 18 run (Strickland kick)
GH - Laroque 37 run (Strickland kick)
C - Johnson 1 run (kick failed)
Other East County scores (East County teams in caps)
VALHALLA 47, WEST HILLS 7
EL CAPITAN 27, MONTE VISTA 13
MT. MIGUEL 49, GROSSMONT 20
STEELE CANYON 42, SANTANA 0
HELIX 41, EL CAJON VALLEY 12
FOOTHILLS CHRISTIAN 34, Midway Baptist 24
Otay Ranch 30, CHRISTIAN 7