SAN MARCOS Heading into the fourth quarter Friday night, Mission Hills High, the No. 1 seed in the Open Division of the San Diego Section football playoffs, led by just eight points.
Unable to put away Steele Canyon, the Grizzlies turned to two defensive players.
Linebacker Ricky Liuchan and cornerback Esteban Senteno scored touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lift Mission Hills to a 56-35 victory in the opening round of the postseason.
Liuchan’s 6-yard touchdown run with 10:12 to play increased the lead to 42-27, and a minute later Senteno returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown and a 49-27 lead.
“It probably wasn’t our best effort of the season,’’ Mission Hills coach Chris Hauser said. “But any time you win a playoff game, it’s an accomplishment no matter who you beat. Very cool.’’
Mission Hills (10-1) won its fourth straight game and will host Helix in the semifinals next Friday.
The loss was the sixth in the last seven games for the Cougars (3-8), who wasted a five-touchdown performance by receiver Lawrence Dickens.
Mission Hills quarterback Connor Wynn completed 15-of-24 passes for 237 yards and five touchdowns, and he also ran for a score. DeChaun Holiday and Scott Higgins each caught two TD passes from Wynn.