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Fumblievable ending

Vaqueros in scoring range in last minute, but Campolindo gets 90-yard scoop 'n score for State championship

By Jim Lindgren

CARSON (12-21-14) — Twelve yards from paydirt. Twelve stinking yards from history!

With one minute to play in the state championship game, SAM MELERO took a reverse handoff and raced around left end for a 22-yard pickup and a first down at the 12-yard line. 

A touchdown would likely have given El Capitan its first state championship. A field goal would probably have done it as well.

Instead, the unthinkable happened.

Oh, brother, did it ever.

ISAIAH CAPOOCIA, one of the best all-around players in San Diego County, lined up at tailback, took a handoff from BRAD CAGLE, was hit hard in the thighs at the 10-yard line and … agonizingly … coughed up the ball.

Campolindo’s Adam Remotto, already a thorn in the Vaqueros’ side with two touchdown receptions in the second-half comeback, scooped up the ball and thundered untouched 90 yards for the game-winning score with 0:52 left.

Instead of a magical end to a wonderful season, El Capitan had to swallow a 35-28 defeat against Campolindo in the State Bowl Championship Division III title game Saturday afternoon (Dec. 20) at the StubHubCenter.

Instead of El Cap rocking and rolling back to Lakeside, Campolindo got the storybook ending it was wishing to tell all the folks back in Moraga about.

“They made a helluva play,” said El Capitan head coach RON BURNER, who obviously was hoping for a different result to help celebrate his 57th birthday. “It’s a great win for them.

“But it doesn’t dampen our season. It’s by far the best team ever at El Cap. By far the best.”

Indeed. El Capitan (14-1) already had won the first San Diego Section title in school history, and the Vaqueros punched their ticket to this game with a 41-0 shutout of Paso Robles in the Southern California Regional championship last week before the biggest crowd ever at El Capitan.

Campolindo (15-0) won its first state title, having lost its first shot in 2011.

“They made more plays,” El Capitan two-way star D.J. SMITH said. “That’s what it comes down to. They made more plays.”

Tied 7-7 at halftime, El Capitan scored three touchdowns over a 4:00 span in the third quarter to take what appeared to be a commanding 28-7 lead with 2:32 left in the quarter.

Campolindo scored the final four touchdowns to stun the thousands of El Capitan faithful who made the 120-mile trip from Lakeside.

Remotto had three of those scores, and he obviously enjoyed the last one best.

“The scoop and score,” he said. “That sealed the deal. It felt like I was on a spaceship. Out of this world.”

The only guy with any hope of catching Remotto also played the entire second half with a possible broken foot or ankle or both.

BRAD CAGLE, among the all-time passing leaders in San Diego Section history, suffered the injury near the end of the first half, one play before tossing a 3-yard touchdown pass to JOEY LaCHAPPA to tie the game with 4:32 before intermission.

Immediately afterward, Cagle was administered to on the sideline and had to be carried off the field and into the locker room. RYAN SMITH took over at quarterback and completed 3-of-4 passes for 12 yards.

Moments into the second half, Cagle came running onto the field. He was limited in mobility but not in sheer guts. 

“I wasn’t going to let myself sit out” he said. “They said it might be a small bone chip. They wrapped it up a lot at halftime. I wasn’t about to not play the second half.” 

Cagle’s first pass of the second half was a perfectly placed 24-yard touchdown toss to FRANKIE LIMA as the Vaqueros began their third-quarter charge. Lima, blanketed by a Cougar cornerback along the left sideline, juggled the ball a bit before snaring it and falling into the end zone.

Minutes later, Campolindo was lined up for a 36-yard field-goal attempt, but the kick was blocked by Capoocia, and the ball bounded out to the 20-yard line where Melero scooped it up and raced 80 yards for the score and a 21-7 lead.

One minute later, Campolindo had a bad snap on a punt attempt, and Melero tackled the punter at the 13-yard line. One play later, Capoocia scored on a sweep to the right to make it 28-7 with 2:32 to play in the third quarter.

Late in the third, Campolindo started its comeback as Remotto caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jack Stephens.

Those two connected again three minutes into the fourth quarter, this one a 13-yarder that capped a 7-play, 79-yard drive to make it 28-21.

After a three-and-out El Cap possession, Campolindo tied it up, 28-28, with 4:30 left as Stephens connected with Max Flower on a 14-yard touchdown pass that capped a 6-play, 69-yard drive.

After Remotto’s stunning fumble return, El Capitan had 0:52 left but fumbled on the kick return, and all Campolindo had to do was watch Stephens take a knee for the final two plays.   

Stephens finished with 291 passing yards and four touchdowns on 19-of-32 passing attempts that included an interception by Melero. Stephens also broke the state championship Division III game record of 264 passing yards set by his brother Brett in 2011.

El Capitan started its final drive on its own 45-yard line after a 20-yard kick return by Melero.

Capoocia ran twice for 4 yards each, and D.J. Smith rushed for 4 yards and a first down. Capoocia then had consecutive runs of 6, 3 and 1 yards for another first down before Melero’s 22-yarder put the ball on the 12-yard line.

Capoocia’s fumble was so uncharacteristic for the all-section performer.

“There’s no one to blame in this game,” Cagle said. “It’s a total team effort. We’ve been like a family all season. We all love each other.

“Everyone’s worked so hard to get here. Things happen, and life goes on.”

Of the fumble, Cagle said, “It happens. You never know which way the ball’s going to bounce. That’s why they shape the ball the way it is.”

Cagle finished with 89 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-13 passing without an interception. D.J. Smith had 81 yards on 17 carries, and Capoocia added 46 on 10 touches as the Vaqueros posted 259 total yards.

Capoocia also led the Vaqueros with 37 receiving yards on two catches, plus the blocked punt and a fumble recovery. Lima caught three balls for 31 yards and Joey LaChappa three for 19. LaChappa also teamed on a sack with ROBBY CALLAWAY.

Despite the disappointing loss, Burner and his staff took the high road in defeat.

“Keep your heads up,” they kept telling the players as they walked off the field, defeated for the first time in over a year.

“You guys are my heroes,” Burner told his troops after the game. “You’re the best. You know what you did this season, and no one can take that away from you.”

El Capitan, Campolindo to square off in Carson for the California State title

By Jim Lindgren
© East County Sports.com
CARSON (12-19-14) — Having won its first San Diego Section title and now playing in its first state championship game, El Capitan (14-0) faces a stern test against Campolindo (15-0) when these two gunslingers meet at high noon Saturday in the Division III State Bowl Championship game at the StubHub Center in Carson.

Campolindo is the North Coast Section Division III title winner from Moraga in San Francisco’s East Bay area and is playing for a state title for the second time in four season, having lost to Washington Union, 21-16, in 2011.

Enjoying their finest season in school history this fall under coach Kevin Macy, the Cougars rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat undefeated Sutter, 35-14, in the Northern California Regionals Division III final last Saturday.

Campolindo averages 46.7 points per game while yielding 19.4. The Cougars’ closest game was a 27-21 win over Marin Catholic in the section championship. In three previous playoff games, the Cougars won 62-46, 56-14, and 52-14. They have scored more than 50 points six times this season and 40 or more points 11 times. They have a 15-game winning streak. Quarterback Jack Stephens threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns last week. He has 3,273 passing yards with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 games. His favorite targets are good ones. Max Flowers has 51 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11 TDs, though he is nursing a sore shoulder. Conner McNally has 75 catches for 550 yards and seven TDs, though he is nursing a pulled groin. Running back Nick Fadelli has rushed for 1,814 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Also enjoying its finest season, El Capitan will counter with quarterback BRAD CAGLE (2,769 yards, 30 touchdowns) leading an offense averaging 38.0 points per game. D.J. SMITH has rushed for 1,280 yards and 19 touchdowns. Receivers ISAIAH CAPOOCIA (59 catches, 941 yards, 15 TDs) and ZACH CAGLE (27-455-4) are also dangerous runners on slot sweeps. The Vaqueros defense got its third shutout against Paso Robles and is allowing only 10.4 points per game. The unit is led by Smith (124 tackles), JAMES OWENS (12 sacks), JARRED TURNER (8 interceptions) and a host of others who have contributed mightily.

Arguably the best defense in San Diego County, El Capitan has posted 55 sacks and 25 interceptions.

CIF State Playoffs - First Round

Vaqueros shutout Paso Robles, next stop CIF State championship game

By Jim Lindgren

LAKESIDE (12-14-14) — Amongst the thousands of fans packed into El Capitan Stadium, a solo voice was heard in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s (Dec. 13) Southern California Regional Division III final.

“Hey, shouldn’t there be a running clock? Why is the clock stopping?”

The voice would have been correct if this was strictly a San Diego Section game in which a 35-point lead in the second half automatically triggers a running clock. It’s called the “mercy rule” down in these parts, but it doesn’t exist in the state playoffs.

There would be no mercy in El Capitan’s complete dismantling of a Paso Robles team from San Luis Obispo County.

The top-seeded Vaqueros (14-0) ignited a dynamite-like 28-point second quarter to rout Paso Robles (13-2) by a 41-0 margin in front of perhaps the largest crowd in El Cap history.

“You know what?” El Capitan coach RON BURNER told his charges. “We’re going to Carson!”

For photos of El Capitan's CIF Division III regional playoff game victory over Paso Robles Saturday night at Cutting Field. (please visit dondemarsphotography.com)

That would be the site of the Division III State Bowl Championship game pitting the Vaqueros against Moraga Campolindo (15-0) at noon Saturday at the StubHubCenter in Carson.

“The feeling is unbelievable,” El Cap senior star D.J. SMITH said. “This is our ultimate goal. We want to win a state championship. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

The first Vaqueros team to win a San Diego Section football title will now play for a state title after shutting out a team that was averaging 39.7 points per game, while limiting opponents to 16.7.

“It’s an unreal feeling,” quarterback BRAD CAGLE said. “Like I’ve said before, we’ve worked so very hard for so long to get to this moment.”

That moment Saturday was shared by a huge crowd that arrived early and cheered wildly as the Vaqueros unleashed a major whooping. “It definitely helped that this was our home turf,” Cagle said. “Having so many people here created such an awesome atmosphere. “They were energetic. We were energetic. We weren’t about to lose this one.”

The Vaqueros scored 28 rapid-fire points in a 5:06 span of the second quarter to punctuate the historic moment, scoring four different ways against the stunned Bearcats.

ISAIAH CAPOOCIA scored on a 1-yard sweep.

Capoocia scored again on a 62-yard punt return.

Smith returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown.

And FRANKIE LIMA snared a 15-yard scoring pass from Cagle. That made it 31-0 with 4:48 to play before halftime.

“We played as a team,” Burner said. “Offense had their moments. Defense had their moments. Special teams had their moments. “I think we showed them we’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. We showed them how good El Cap football really is.”

El Capitan’s superb defense did the rest, stuffing the run, breaking up the pass, sacking the quarterback, and basically frustrating the bejeebers out of the first Central Coast team to make the state playoffs.

Paso Robles got only 175 total yards and really never got close to scoring.

“Our defense did what our defense always does,” Smith said. “Shut them down.”

This could have been even more lopsided.

El Capitan got in the red zone on each of its first three possessions but came away with only a 3-0 lead.

Capoocia returned the opening kickoff 48 yards, and the Vaqueros advanced to the 3-yard line before being stopped on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak.

After a three-and-out and a 16-yard punt, they started the next possession at the 19-yard line but could only produce a 28-yard field goal by TAKOTA CURO, his fifth of the year.

Their third possession started at the Bearcats’ 44-yard line but finished on downs at the 23.

Finally, early in the second quarter, El Cap drove 54 yards in six plays and scored on a 1-yard run by Capoocia to make it 10-0 with 9:54 on the clock.

Paso Robles then rushed three times for 0, 0 and again 0 yards and was forced to punt.

Capoocia grabbed the ball on a bounce at the 38-yard line, raced right, slid left, broke a couple tackles, sprinted up the right sideline, broke a couple more tackles, tip-toed along the sideline, regained his balance and darted into the end zone for a 62-yard score and a 17-0 at 7:12.

Four plays later it was 24-0 when Smith picked off a pass at the 23 and raced virtually untouched for a 77-yard pick-six, the first of his career.

JOHN LaCHAPPA recovered a fumble two plays later, and Cagle then tossed a perfect lob to Lima for a 15-yard TD and a 31-0 lead at 4:48.

“We knew we weren’t going to settle for three points,” Cagle said. “We knew the defense was going to hold them. And then we started clicking on offense and got us some points.”

Among the all-time passing leaders in section history, Cagle finished 9-of-15 passing for 119 yards and his 77th touchdown pass in a three-year career. He also posted his ninth rushing touchdown this season on a 1-yard keeper in the fourth quarter. He now has 2,769 passing yards this season, topping his 2,738 yards last season.

“Our defense puts up points,” Cagle noted. “Our special teams puts up points. Our offense puts up points. It’s not just one guy or one unit. Everybody contributes.”

Smith had 85 rushing yards on 12 carries to give him 1,280 yards on the season.

Lima had three catches for 47 yards, SAM MELERO two for 23 and JOEY LaCHAPPA two for 27.

Capoocia, El Cap’s leading receiver, did not have a reception on offense. He had an interception on defense near the goal line at the end of the first half.

Joey LaChappa, the identical twin of John who are sons of Vaqueros assistant coach EAGLE LaCHAPPA, notched three sacks to give him 9½ for the season.

JARRED TURNER collected his team-leading eighth interception, and TREVOR ZAMORA had a fumble recovery and a key tackle for loss.

Like El Capitan, Paso Robles had the finest season in school history. The Bearcats had lost 15 games in the previous three seasons before this year’s breakout.

They came in wounded, however, down to their No. 4 running back. Their No. 1 receiver, Bailey Gaither (1,453 receiving yards and 20 TDs) was also injured. No. 2 receiver Ty Jones sustained a neck injury on a kickoff return in the first quarter.

They boarded a bus for a 7-hour return trip home licking more than physical wounds.

Quarterback Justin Davis had 2,502 yards and 31 touchdowns coming in. He was 8-of-19 for 55 yards and two interceptions against El Cap.

“After the first couple series,” Burner said, “with our defense, we knew we were going to dominate.” That they did. “They played inspired football,” Paso Robles coach Rich Schimke said. “No excuses. They played lights out all night long. “Forty-one to nothing – that pretty much says it all.” 


Patriots' Stowers, Howell to play at Stanford, Utah; former Christian High star, MLB veteran Robinson dies

EL CAJON (10-30-14) — Christian High outfielder-pitcher KYLE STOWERS has accepted a scholarship to Stanford University to play baseball for the Cardinal.

Utah State University in Logan, Utah, has recruited Christian’s TREVOR HOWELL to play ball for the Aggies as a shortstop.

Former Christian High pitcher JEFF ROBINSON, 52, passed away on Sunday (Oct. 26). Robinson, who helped the Detroit Tigers to an AL East championship as a rookie in 1987, went on to pitch in the major leagues through 1992.

Robinson's death was confirmed Monday by both the Tigers and the Kansas-based Natural Baseball Academy, where he served as a pitching director, coach and instructor.


Former Griffin Bonner wins NCAA Division II Football crown

© Special to East County Sports.com
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (12-21-14) — Former Grossmont College Griffin quarterback CHRIS BONNER has helped CSU-Pueblo win its first NCAA Div. II football championship.

Colorado State-Pueblo’s seven-year climb to the national championship podium is complete.

And the ThunderWolves didn't wait until the final gun to begin the celebration of their NCAA Division II title with a 13-0 victory over Minnesota State on Saturday.

With about 35 seconds remaining, when it became apparent the ThunderWolves would not be required to take another snap, the players and coaches on their sideline spilled onto the field, arms raised in triumph.

Later, head coach John Wristen fought back tears explaining the program’s remarkable journey from restoration to national title.

"I wanted to be part of something special to Pueblo, Colorado," Wristen said. "We just put our head down and went to work."

For more on this story please click here



Norseman, Matadors and Eagles take a page out of Ernie Banks’ playbook

By Bill Dickens
© East County Sports.com
HENDERSON, NV (12-21-14) — The Norsemen of Valhalla have had good fortune in the Las Vegas Foothill Holiday Classic at Henderson, NV, winning in the first round on Friday (Dec. 19) and then both of their games on Saturday (Dec. 20).

By doing so, the Norsemen have vaulted into the championship game on Monday (Dec. 22) at 1 p.m. against an opponent yet to be named.

In Game 1 the Norsemen trailed Cimarron (NV) by two points at the half but were able to make up the difference in the second half, going on to score 62-54 for the victory.

COLE HENDERSON scored 23 points and 11 rebounds, while JOHN MURAD and JAKE BASSETTE added 12 and 11 points respectively for Valhalla in the first game.

In the nightcap Valhalla enjoyed a slim 24-21 advantage at the half but were able to maintain their composure and the offense picked up against Rancho (NV), handing the Nevada team a 53-47 defeat.

COLE HENDERSON was again the leading scorer, rolling another double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. JACOB HAMMETT scored 15 points while JOHN MURAD pitched in 13.


Matadors rolling along in Phoenix

© East County Sports.com
PHOENIX, AZ (12-21-14) — Mount Miguel finally came uncocked in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, AZ, rolling over St. Mary’s (AZ) 88-34 in Saturday’s (Dec. 20) encounter.

ZARIA BRANCH hit a game high 31 points for the Matadors to go with five rebounds and nine steals. KAMREE HARRISON scored 18 points, SATERA BATES scored 16 and ROZLYN PIERCE added 11 with eight rebounds.



Griffins play Jerkyl and Hyde

© East County Sports.com
COMPTON (12-18-14) — Grossmont was looking to break out of their losing streak, but alas they could not as they dropped a game to the El Camino-Compton Center Tartars that had two drastically different halves for the Griffins. Compton scored 52 points in the opening 20 minutes and went on to win 82-64 on Wednesday (Dec. 17).


Griffins' Fagan lands in Champaign to play Big Ten football

Special to EastCountySports.com
CHAMPAIGN, ILL. - The University of Illinois - Champaign landed its third offensive lineman from the junior college ranks on Wednesday (Dec. 10) with a pledge from tackle JORDAN FAGAN of Grossmont College in El Cajon, CA.

Veteran offensive line coach KEN WILMESHERR, master recruiter of the Grossmont College football staff, has turned out another gem. The 6-foot-6, 280 pound Fagan said academics played a large role in his college choice, and he plans to major in engineering.

"My biggest thing is that Illinois is the No. 6 engineering school in the country," Fagan said. "It’s the best education that I had an opportunity to get."

A full qualifier coming out of Olympian High School in the San Diego area, Fagan will be a mid-year transfer and have four years to play three at Illinois.

Fagan in the sixth offensive lineman to commit to Illinois in the 2015 class, and the third OL from the JUCO ranks. He talked about what the Illini staff saw in him.

"They love my athleticism," Fagan said. "I’m a real athletic guy. I played basketball in high school. They like the technique that I bring to the table. Also my physicality and toughness."

Early playing time is available for Fagan with the Illini graduating tackle Simon Cvijanovich.

"They told me I can come in in January and compete for that starting spot at left tackle," Fagan said. "They said they really need a left tackle right now."

At 280 pounds, Fagan said he would like to bulk up some before the 2015 season kicks off, but he doesn't want to sacrifice any of his foot speed.

"I’m going to get in the weight room and get a lot stronger," he said. "The biggest thing is getting bigger without losing my quickness. If I can get to 295 and be strong and still have my quickness, that’s probably as big as I will get."

Offensive line coach Tom Brattan and head coach Tim Beckman were the main coaches recruiting Fagan to Illinois. Fagan was on campus this past weekend in Champaign for his official visit.

"I loved the facilities, and the football team has a family atmosphere," Fagan said. "When I was there on Saturday, I did a tour of the engineering school."


Locals turn knowledge into success in German football league

By Bill Dickens

EL CAJON (12-3-14) - It could be called a working vacation, but one thing for sure, none of the personnel involved complained.

"It was all good," said Christian High alum and Willamette Universit football coach DANNY MITCHELL.

While Mitchell was the offensive coordinator-head coach for the Osnabruck (Germany) Tigers, fellow Patriots alum PATRICK KELLY was the defensive coordinator for the Tigers as well as playing linebacker on the team.

Mitchell recalled, "We were there from April of this year to October 1st, it was six months of unique experience. The players, who were grown men, were eager to learn American football. They soaked up the coaching from both Pat and I and we ended up going 10-0 for a perfect season and winning the German Football League Division 3 National Championship, as well as the 2014 North League Champions.

"Our All-American Willamette quarterback Josh Dean also went with us and was a standout on the team."

Mitchell and Kelly traveled extensively while abroad, including,, Berlin, Dublin, Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Venice and London in a car provided for them the entire time they were there, in addition to lodging.

The Tigers played three games a week, traveling in the Tiger Bus.

Mitchell's parents, Mike and Arlene, and his brother Brian visited the facilities in Germany while Danny and Patrick were there.

Mitchell graduated from Christian High in 2007, the quarterback of the 2006 CIF Championship team. He was the quarterbacks coach at Menlo College in 2012 and coached the running backs at Willamette University since 2013 prior to his experience coaching in Germany. After playing baseball at San Diego Christian College for the 2008-09 season, he transferred as quarterback to Willamette University, graduating in 2012 with a degree in Exercise Science.

Kelly graduated from Christian High in 2008, a member of the 2006 CIF Championship team and earned All-State Linebacker, an award he also earned from Grossmont College in 2010. He was a scholarship athlete to Nebraska-KearnyUniversity, graduating in 2013 with a Criminal Justice major. He was the linebackers coach at GrossmontCollege for the 2013 season.

Kelly pointed out that the Tigers defense gave up only one rushing touchdown all year.

"That is one of the more impressive football stats I've ever heard," stated Danny Mitchell. "We outscored our opponents 432-76."


Get Free Pizza On Your Birthday!


Week 12 – SDCIF Rnd. 1

The 6-foot-2, 209-pound quarterback finished 16-30-1 for 225 yards and a TD in a losing effort versus El Camino in the first round of the San Diego Section playoffs.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior outside linebacker made 11 tackles, including 2 for loss, against El Camino in the first round of the San Diego Section playoffs. For the season to date Baker has 132 tackles to his credit.


Petty, a 5-foot-7, 153-pound junior running back, rushed for over 360 yards on just 17 carries as Christian won the Central League championship. He had an 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, a TD run of 65 yards midway through the second quarter, and added a 44-yard touchdown run in the third.

D.J. SMITH, El Capitan
The 6-foot, 225-pound senior running back-linebacker plowed in from 3 yards out in the fourth quarter to log the final winning score for the 10-0 Vaqueros as they defeated Helix and won the Grossmont Hills League championship.

For previous 2014 winners, click here




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