Oceanside quarterback Matt Romero says he's "more relaxed in the pocket" now than when the Pirates first met Mission Hills.
The San Diego Section’s first Open Division football championship game is a rematch.
In Week 5, Oceanside traveled to Mission Hills and collapsed 30-6 under the weight of six turnovers.
Today, the two North County giants meet again, this time at 5 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium. Mission Hills (11-1) is seeded No. 1. Oceanside (10-2) is No. 3.
Thirty-one sportswriters, sportscasters and local CIF representatives vote for the Top 10 teams in the county. Oceanside and Mission Hills are tied for No. 1, each getting 276 of a possible 310 points.
So who is the favorite? Who has the advantage in a rematch?
“The edge goes to the loser of the first game,” said Mission Hills coach Chris Hauser. “They understand what it took to beat them while we’re not sure if what worked the first time will work again.”
Hauser knows of what he speaks.
When he was the head coach at Vista, Hauser’s 2002 Panthers beat Carlsbad 45-7 in the regular season but lost 14-13 in the Division I title game.
In 2001, Vista beat Rancho Bernardo 52-0 in the regular season but edged the Broncos only 10-7 in the Division I championship.
“Every situation is different,” said Oceanside coach John Carroll. “Things change. We’re better now. So are they.
“Really, championship games hinge on injuries, which team puts its best players on the field. Throw in errors, and who handles the pressure of being on the big stage. The first time we played them it just wasn’t our game.”
The Pirates were stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the Mission Hills 1, lost two fumbles and Oceanside quarterbacks threw four interceptions. Three of those were by junior Matt Romero.
“I forced too many balls,” Romero said. “That game was early in the season. I’m more experienced now.
“It wasn’t the pressure of playing in a big game because we had played Serra Gardena (No. 8 in the nation by USA Today) earlier in the season. I just tried to force things.
“Since we played them, the biggest thing is I’ve learned to be more relaxed in the pocket.”
Three of Romero’s interceptions went to Mission Hills cornerback DeChaun Holiday. The junior returned one 65 yards for a touchdown.
“I don’t know if either team has an advantage,” Holiday said. “I’m sure they’re working on what went wrong last game, and will try and disguise things. We’re doing the same thing. The really fun part of playing football is the chess game between the teams.”
Holiday said his interceptions were the result of film study of Oceanside receiver Mikah Holder.
“As a team, we’ve been looking at a lot of film,” Holder said. “But I haven’t been particularly focused on Holiday and how he played me. As a team, we’re looking at what went wrong and how to fix it.
“This rematch fires us up. But we can’t let emotion, the desire to even the score, affect how we play.”
The teams played a 7-on-7 passing-league game this summer — won by Mission Hills — that was as intense as any regular-season game.
Then the Grizzlies won the regular-season match.
“It’s not as simple as just opening up the folder from Week 5, looking at the film and seeing what worked,” said Mission Hills linebacker Fred Warner. “We’ve been in this position before, playing for a championship, and lost.
“This is the Open Division, where the best teams in the county play. And this game is exactly that — the two best teams.
“If we want to be No. 1, be the champion, we have to go out and prove it.”
OCEANSIDE VS. MISSION HILLS
2013 / Mission Hills 30, Oceanside 6
2012 / Oceanside 26, Mission Hills 17
2011 / Oceanside 10, Mission Hills 10
2010 / Oceanside 48, Mission Hills 28
2010 / Oceanside 47, Mission Hills 10
2009 / Oceanside 28, Mission Hills 7
2007 / Oceanside 26, Mission Hills 7
OCEANSIDE IN FINALS
Year / Division / Outcome / Coach
1962 / 1A / Carlsbad 13, Oceanside 6 / Herb Meyer
1963 / 1A / Oceanside 32, Poway 13 / Herb Meyer
1965 / 1A / Carlsbad 13, Oceanside 12 / Herb Meyer
1975 / 2A / Oceanside 25, Granite Hills 14 / Herb Meyer
1986 / 2A / Lincoln 41, Oceanside 7 / Roy Scaffidi
1995 / III / Oceanside 31, Mission Bay 20 / John Carroll
1997 / III / Oceanside 28, St. Augustine 25 / John Carroll
1998 / II / University 35, Oceanside 20 / John Carroll
1999 / II / Oceanside 20, Monte Vista 0 / John Carroll
2001 / II / Helix 41 / Oceanside 30 / John Carroll
2002 / II / Oceanside 42, Helix 14 / John Carroll
2004 / II / Oceanside 27, Helix 10 / John Carroll
2005 / II / Oceanside 31, El Cajon Valley 21 / John Carroll
2006 / II / Oceanside 14, Helix 7 / John Carroll
2007 / II / Oceanside 26, Mission Hills 7 / John Carroll
2008 / II / Oceanside 23, Helix 19 / John Carroll
2009 / II / Oceanside 26, Helix 10 / John Carroll
2010 / II / Oceanside 47, Mission Hills 10 / John Carroll
2011 / II / Helix 44, Oceanside 6 / John Carroll
2012 / II / Oceanside 32, Poway 10 / John Carroll
MISSION HILLS IN FINALS
Year / Division / Outcome / Coach
2007 / II / Oceanside 26, Mission Hills 7 / Chris Hauser
2010 / II / Oceanside 47, Mission Hills 10 / Chris Hauser
2012 / I / Eastlake 21, Mission Hills 14 / Chris Hauser
NOTE: Mission Hills coach Chris Hauser played on Vista’s 1981 3A championship team and was the head coach at Vista when the Panthers won the 2001 Division I championship.