Oceanside players celebrate their come-from-behind triumph over Helix in the San Diego Section Open Division final.
CHULA VISTA — Stymied for nearly three quarters by a hard-hitting Helix defense, Oceanside turned to its up-tempo offense.
The impact was immediate and the reward was a come-from-behind 20-13 win over Helix in the San Diego Section Open Division championship game Saturday before a near-capacity crowd at Southwestern College and an almost certain bowl trip to the Southern California Regional.
The football title was the 15th in school history for the Pirates and their 13th under coach John Carroll.
“We had up-tempo in the game plan the whole time,” said Oceanside quarterback Matt Romero. “I’m not sure why we didn’t do it in the first half, but we came out second half and did it and it was successful.
“Coach Carroll told us at halftime to calm down, we’re only down by seven. There’s still a whole second half, thank God, because the first half wasn’t too good. Then we came out and we got it done.”
Carroll, who was coaching from the pressbox, had his team in the finals for the 11th straight season.
“The only two words that I can say — pride and character,” Carroll told his team. “You have so much pride and so much character. You refused to lose. You willed that victory.
“You are one of the four undefeated teams in the history of Oceanside High School.
“You have my complete and utter respect, for your heart, your will and your character, and your flat out refusal to lose.
“Gentlemen, if I had a hat on, my hat’s off to you.”
Trailing 10-3 after a frustrating first half and an even more frustrating start to the third quarter, the Pirates (13-0), went to a quick, no-huddle offense and put together a 10-play, 67-yard drive with Josh Bernard going the last seven for the TD with 1:18 to play in the period to pull to within three points.
The Pirates got a major boost when Taj Apodaca blocked a Helix (10-3) punt with Oceanside taking over at the Highlanders 40.
On third-and-10, Romero hit Johnny Arzola with a 40-yard scoring strike, giving Oceanside its first lead of the night at 17-13 just 32 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Bernard, who had 12 tackles in addition to 84 yards rushing, had a 12-yard sack on Helix’s next possession, forcing a punt.
That led to a 31-yard field goal by Caleb Ramirez, his second field goal of the game, and a 20-13 lead with 7:41 to play.
Bernard came up big again on defense, stopping Nate Stinson for a yard loss on a fourth-and-1 at the Helix 32.
“I played my heart out,” Bernard said. “That’s all I could do, give it up for my teammates.”