CHULA VISTA It turned out to be the perfect game plan, especially on a muddy field.
Third-seeded Hilltop (11-1) used a powerful ground game and tenacious defense to advance to the San Diego Section Division III semifinals with a thrilling 13-6 overtime victory over visiting Hoover (8-4) on Friday.
“We had a lot of respect for them (Hoover) and heard they have one of the best defensive lines in the county, but we knew if we pounded it, sooner or later we’d have our chance,” said senior running back Jake Madarang, whose team will face Christian in Wednesday night’s semifinal.
That chance came midway through the fourth quarter when linebacker Jared Akers, who earlier recovered a fumble, picked off an attempted Hoover screen pass and returned it to the Cardinals 25.
“Our coaches told us the linebackers had to stay with the backs and look for the screen and he threw it right to me,” Akers said.
Five plays later, Madarang carried it in from the 2 to tie the game at 6-6 and set up overtime.
In the extra period, Hilltop got the ball first and in four plays Madarang took it in from the 4.
It was all up to the Hilltop defense. Two long incompletions and two scrambles by Cardinals quarterback Daevon Bazzo failed to pick up a first down and the game ended.