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By Derek Carlyon

September 1, 2013 (Rancho San Diego)--The Friday night lights were back on as East County’s Steele Canyon Cougars faced off against the South Bay’s Chula Vista Spartans in the season opener.  The Cougars were favored to win, but the Spartans would be no walk in the park coming off a 6-5 record just a season ago.  The game focused on Steele Canyon’s high powered offense and the Spartans’ efforts to slow it down and stay in the game. 

After exceptional junior Jordan Johnson (who plays both safety and quarterback) led the Cougars deep into Spartan territory, Steele had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by senior kicker Kenneth Bagdasar.  Bagdasar was strong all game, going five of five on point-after-attempts and also booting another 25-yard field goal.  He could easily be one of the best legs in East County this season.

On the ensuing drive, the Spartans capped a 10-play, seventy-four yard-drive with a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Hunter Gotto.  After that, it was all Steele Canyon. 

Johnson engineered five consecutive scoring drives, mostly targeting senior standout Lawrence Dickens, who finished the game with three touchdowns.  The Johnson-to-Dickens combination could be one of the most dangerous ones in the entire county. 

Dickens said of their chemistry, “We have a really good connection. We still have little mistakes to fix up because we have a good opponent this week to test how we really do under different circumstances.  Jordan stepped up a lot and proved to the whole county that he can play quarterback just as good as he plays safety.”

Dickens and Johnson both have received interest from many schools around the nation, including a few Ivy League schools that have shown interest in Dickens.

Markell Lindley added a two-yard touchdown run. But senior receiver Johnny Olivieri provided the play of the night with a 22-yard touchdown reception in which he out-jumped a Spartan defender while keeping his feet inbounds for the score. 

Steele Canyon special teams were also solid as usual, as punt returner Xavier Goodloe provided multiple exciting returns setting up the Cougar offense in great scoring position.  Jordan Verhoeve recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half, and Dickens also had a 57-yard kickoff return. At the end of the day the cougars came out on top 41-14, coasting through the majority of the second half.

On the bright side for the Spartans, next week they will be facing Sweetwater, a team that struggled with a 2-8 record last year.  Also, Hunter Gotto impressed in his first ever varsity start leading two scoring drives against a tough Steele Canyon defense while not throwing any interceptions.  Next up for the Cougars will be Saint Augustine, as the Cougars will be looking to avenge their last minute loss to the Saints from just a year ago.


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