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Open Division championship preview

11/30/2013, 5:26pm PST
By John Maffei

Oceanside vs. Mission Hills, Monday at 5 p.m., Qualcomm Stadium.


Kameron Canteen is the leading ball carrier for Mission Hills.

OPEN DIVISION

Oceanside vs. Mission Hills

When: Monday, 5 p.m.

Where: Qualcomm Stadium.

TV: Time Warner 825, Cox 4.

Radio: 1090-AM.

Preview: Oceanside QB Matt Romero has thrown for more than 2,000 yards with 28 TDs. Mikah Holder and Thai Cottrell are his main targets for the third-seeded Pirates. Cottrell is also the team’s leading rusher and kick returner. WR Johnny Arzola and FB Nikko Mageo have emerged as offensive weapons along with TK Dodds. On defense, lineman Rafael Sangines, a transfer from Carlsbad who checks in at 6-feet-3, 275 pounds, has 13 sacks in seven games. Tommy Woo, Jalene Golston, who is 6-1, 305 pounds, and Isaac Dixon are very active. Jace Whittaker and Alijah Holder are probably the best cornerback tandem in the county. No. 1 Mission Hills doesn’t have a running back with more than Kameron Canteen’s 434 yards. Anthony Bautista has added 212 and Ricky Liuchan provides a power back. Quarterback Connor Wynn is also a threat to run, scoring six rushing TDs. Brad Sochowski, who had 65 catches last season, went down at midseason with a broken foot. So Scott Higgins, who has 56 catches, Martrel Holmes and DeChaun Holiday have stepped up. Higgins also has three TDs on punt returns. Defensively, it would be hard to find two better linebackers than Fred Warner and Liuchan on one team. Add Holiday at cornerback and DBs Esteban Senteno and Zach Harbin and the Grizzlies defense is stout. Senteno also plays on offense and is the team’s kicker.

Prediction: Oceanside 28, Mission Hills 27.

OCEANSIDE

Record: 10-2.

Coach: John Carroll, 24th year.

Players to watch: The Pirates have four NCAA Division I players — receiver Mikah Holder (San Diego State), slot Cottrell (San Jose State) and cornerbacks Alijah Holder (Stanford) and Whittaker (Arizona). Mikah Holder has 52 catches for 1,000 yards while Cottrell has 2,000 yards rushing, receiving and on returns.

Season highlight: Trailing Eastlake 30-7 at the half in the semifinals, the Pirates rallied for a 33-30 win. Jackson Koonce’s 19-yard field goal with four seconds remaining won it. Romero threw for 308 yards.

Quotable: “This is a whole new season, a new deal,” Carroll said. “It will come down to who handles the pressure on the big stage.”

Championship past: Since 1995, Oceanside has played in 15 finals, winning 12, including nine of the last 10.

Little-known fact: Carroll will work from the press box instead of the sidelines after suffering a medical problem late in the season.

MISSION HILLS

Record: 11-1.

Coach: Chris Hauser, 9th year.

Players to watch: LBs Liuchan (Oregon State) and Warner (BYU) are NCAA Division I commits. Wynn has completed 146 of 226 passes for 1,869 yards with 25 TDs.

Season highlight: The Grizzlies beat Oceanside 30-6 in Week 5 and got to the title game with a 24-21 win over Helix in the semifinals.

Quotable: “It’s all going to come down to effort,” said Warner. “We’ve got to hold each other accountable. We’ve had too many runner-up finishes.”

Championship past: Mission Hills has played in three finals, losing to Oceanside in 2007 and 2010 and 21-14 to Eastlake last season.

Little-known fact: Hauser played on the 1981 Vista championship team and was the head coach of the Vista 2001 title team.

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