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COUGARS PROVE DOUBTERS WRONG TO RULE THE DIVISION II LANDSCAPE

2017 SAN DIEGO CIF DIVISION II CHAMPION STEELE CANYON COUGARS / PHOTO BY DON DEMARS PHOTOGRAPHY

EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS

CIF DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP

By Adam Paul

Chula Vista (12-2-17)

What an amazing season for the Steele Canyon Cougars. The Cougars finally broke the semi-finals curse and now are Champions of Division II.

The Cougars in the preseason were picked to be in the top half of their side of the Grossmont league which they did as they ended up finishing with a third place finish. Due to the fact that they also play a tough schedule besides their league schedule they received a 7-seed in the playoffs.

They received that seed due to the fact that they lost to Granite Hills who received the 6-seed. So their road in the playoffs started at home with a rematch against No. 10-seed Mira Mesa who they once again dispatched. The next opponent would be No 2-seed Bishop’s and highly regarded receiver Mozes Mooney but low and behold the Cougars went in and gut punched them to win.

So after the big win over Bishop’s it was learned they would be playing No 6-seed Granite Hills who had beaten No 3-seed Valley Center. So the rematch was set for the semi-finals the day after Thanksgiving.

The Eagles had previously beaten the Cougars on a last second play in the third week of the season. However this time the tables would be turned as the Cougars went into Valley Stadium and came away with the 28-27 victory to punch their ticket to the Championship.

The No 1-seed Ramona Bulldogs had pretty much steamrolled through their half of the bracket dispatching their opponents by double digits and also scoring 40 points in each victory.

So it was set. The Championship game between the Ramona Bulldogs and the Steele Canyon Cougars.

Ramona got the scoring going early as they would score on a double reverse Tristan Stacy to finish off an 11 play drive to lead 7-0. However that didn’t deter the Cougars as Senior Quarterback Thomas Fishburne worked his magic and was able to air it out to Jordan Anderson who scampered into the end zone for a 42-yard score to tie it 7-7.

Steele Canyon Scores / Photo by Don Demars Photography

In the second quarter the Bulldogs would retake the lead thanks to a fourth-and-1 conversion by Sean McDonald who would then score on a 4-yard run to make it 14-7 with about 9:00 left in the half.  Once again undeterred, Fishburne was calm and cool and used his legs to run for a 34-yard scamper. The long run would set up a TD pass to Kenneth Watson for 22-yards which knotted the score at 14-14 with about 6:00 minutes left.

However Ramona again retook the lead as Casey Buggein would find Stacy for 55-yards and the score to lead 21-14. The score would remain a one touchdown score until about 1;45 in the half when Deontae McKinney would cap a 82-yard 9 play drive with a 5-yard score to tie the score 21-21 which would be the score at the intermission.

The Cougars who had played a lot of close games this season were used to this type of contest. This showed in the second half. Steele Canyon would receive the second half kickoff and promptly march down the field and actually take their first lead of the game on a 36-yard field goal by John Lautner to lead 24-21. The score would remain a three point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter the defense for the Cougars came up big and was able to secure the ball back but unfortunately the offense gave it away as Cameron Necochea picked off a Fishburne pass in the red zone and would get the ball back at the 1-yard line. This really put the pressure on the Bulldogs as Steele Canyon was capable of making the big play and that they did. A couple plays later DE Mikel Oliver burst through O-Line and grabbed McDonald and tackled him for the safety which gave the Cougars a 26-21 lead and also the ball back.

STEELE CANYON COACHING STAFF ALL FIRED UP / PHOTO BY DON DEMARS PHOTOGRAPHY

Steele Canyon took advantage of the opportunity as Fishburne scrambled for a 26-yard gain and McKinney also burst his way for a 26-yard gain. These two big runs would set up the Cougars at the 1-yard line where Fishburne called his own number and found his way into the end zone for the score and a 33-21 lead with 4:20 left in the contest.

However the Bulldogs wouldn’t go down without a fight. They would drive down and answer with a score on a 3-yard run by McDonald. They would attempt the two point conversion and complete it as Stacy found Buggein for the completion. The score was now 33-29 with 1:20 remaining in the game.

Everyone knew what was coming next and that was an onside kick. Ramona set up for the onside kick and kicked it and they thought they had the ball as Michael McCrory recovered it. However the officials had thrown a penalty flag and called the Bulldogs offsides. Once again the teams set up and this time the kick was recovered by Fishburne.

The Cougars couldn’t simply just run out the clock so on fourth down they were forced to punt but the clock ran out and Steele Canyon was able to preserve the victory.

 

 

 

SCORE: #7 Steele Canyon 33, #1 Ramona 29

RECORDS: Steele Canyon (10-4), Ramona (12-1)

PIVOTAL PLAY: Mikel Oliver bursting through the Ramona offensive line and just pouncing on McDonald for the safety which led to a Fishburne 1-yard score.

STATS: For the Cougars, Thomas Fishburne throwing for 163 yards and 2 scores and running for 149 yards and another touchdown. Rushing wise, McKinney ran for 79 yards on 11 carries and a TD, Perry Steele caught 3 balls for 71 yards, Jordan Anderson had a TD and 66 yards on 3 catches. Defensively the monsterous pair of Robert Whitehead and Darin Walton terrorized on defense. Whitehead tallied 11 tackles to lead the bunch and Walton had 10 tackles.

QUOTABLE I: I just felt like since we’ve been in these tight games all season and Ramona hasn’t, that would be an advantage for us,” Fishburne said

NOTES: This was the very first CIF Championship for the Cougars in football.

With the win the Cougars who haven’t lost in over a month and now have won 6 games in a row will move onto the state playoffs where it is projected by CalPreps that they will face the Dos Pueblos of Goleta-Quartz winner in the So Cal Division 2-A Regional Bowl next week.

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