by Christopher Mohr
(SAN DIEGO) December 15 - On a good day, it is difficult to beat Oceanside High School in a CIF championship football game. Prior to Friday's Division II championship game, the Pirates had appeared in 16 championship games and won 11 of them. They had also won the last five championship games, including three against Helix.
On a bad day, beating the Pirates in a championship game is almost impossible. Helix found that out after committing six turnovers in a 26-10 loss to Oceanside Friday night at Qualcomm Stadium. The opportunistic Pirates scored all 26 of their points from four of the turnovers. It likely left many Highlander fans wondering how the game would have ended if their team protected the ball better.
Initially not all was bad for the Highlander offense. On their first drive of the game, they systematically moved down the field and scored first. Brandon Lewis hit Sean Linton on a 10 yard slant pass for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Four of the six plays on the drive were for 10 yards or more.
Unfortunately for Helix, the game did not stop there. On their next drive, they resorted to some trickery in their play calling only to have it backfire. Cameron Lee, normally a wide receiver, took a pitch and dropped back to pass. As he threw the ball deep, crowd noise on the Helix side of the stadium came to a crescendo in anticipation of a big play.
A new crescendo erupted on the Pirates' side of the stadium when Jerry Whittaker intercepted the pass. He continued to make big plays for the offense on the next drive when he had a 28-yard pass reception and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven. This would be the only touchdown in the game scored by Oceanside's offense.
"Football is a game of momentum. It's simply a game of momentum. Whoever has the momentum, it's going to carry over more," Whittaker said about the Pirates' defense scoring so many points.
The turnover bug spread to Helix' special teams. In the second quarter, a bad snap sailed over punter Vann Sabin's head and into the end zone. Devin Taverna fell on the ball in the end zone for an Oceanside touchdown. Early in the fourth quarter, Sam Niu blocked a punt by Sabin and fell on the loose ball for another Oceanside touchdown.
"Coach put us in the right spot, we came out and made the right play" said Taverna, who was almost a one man wrecking crew for the Pirates' defense. In addition to his fumble recovery for a touchdown, he intercepted two passes, including one that he returned 46 yards for a touchdown.
To be fair, a lot of credit goes to the entire Oceanside defense for a game well played. Lots of their players made big plays, including Tokio Markis, who had a big sack of Helix quarterback Brandon Lewis.
"Pirates are Pirates and we all stick together," Markis said about the teamwork on defense, "Defense is the heart of our team and it came through in the CIF. Defense wins championships."
Add one more win to the Pirates' championship totals. They have appeared in 17 championship games, winning 12 of them. They extend their streak of championship titles to six. Four of those championship games have come at the Highlanders' expense, and this one has to be especially frustrating for the team from La Mesa.
With the loss, Helix finishes the season with a record of 9-5. The team should be promising in 2010 as many key players like Lee, Lewis and running back Darrien Hancock return with the experience of their latest playoff run.
"We had a lot of chances, but we had six turnovers, that's what killed us on the special teams, we had a chance, we came in confident, it just didn't turn out the way we wanted it to," Lewis said about the Highlanders' performance.
Oceanside improves their record to 13-0 and is a strong candidate to be selected to play in the CIF State Football Championship Bowl Game for Division I.
UPDATE (Sunday, December 13) Oceanside has been chosen to play in the CIF State Football Championship Bowl Game for Division I. They face Bellarmine Prep from San Jose next Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Another San Diego area team, Francis Parker, will face Modesto Christian in the CIF State Football Championship Bowl Game for the Small Schools Division, also next Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
Christopher Mohr is a freelance writer in the San Diego area and is an avid Chargers, Padres and Detroit Red Wings fan
H - Linton 10 pass from Lewis (Sabin kick)
O - Whittaker 5 run (Velasquez kick)
O - Taverna fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed)
O - Taverna 46 interception return (run failed)
H - FG Sabin 29
O - Niu recovered blocked punt in end zone (Velasquez kick)