Thursday, November 9, 2023

Prep Football: Undefeated Powers Vie for Open Championship Berth

In what promises to be one of the most thrilling matchups of the year, two undefeated powerhouses, the No. 2 seed Carlsbad Lancers (10-0) and the No. 3 Granite Hills Eagles (10-0), will go head-to-head on Thursday night. The victor will earn a spot in the Open Division Championship at Snapdragon Stadium, where they'll face off against either No. 1 Lincoln or No. 4 Helix.

Carlsbad, seeking its fourth straight appearance in the finals, enters this clash with one of the most explosive offenses in the San Diego Section, headlined by five-star prospect and Alabama commit Julian Sayin. Sayin, widely regarded as one of the nation's top quarterbacks, has exhibited remarkable accuracy this season, racking up 2112 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and an astonishing 75.7% completion rate with no interceptions thrown. He's got an array of talented targets at his disposal, including standouts Josh Ball (488 yards, 3 TDs), Will Cianfrini (381 yards, 4 TDs), Griffin Rosenbloom (505 yards, 5 TDs), and Jalen St. Paul (487 yards, 6 TDs). The Lancers also possess a formidable ground game led by senior running back Mason Walsh, who has accumulated 1005 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

Granite Hills, on the other hand, boasts a tenacious, ball-hawking defense that has excelled in creating pressure and generating takeaways all season. The Eagles' secondary has snatched nine interceptions, led by Parker Vance who hauled in 5. Damarrion White, Jonathan Deleon, Travis Ford, and Moshi Tileia have wreaked havoc up front and will look to bring enough pressure to disrupt Sayin's ability to make the big plays.

The Eagles' offense showcases a balanced approach, with freshman quarterback Zachary Benitez and the dynamic running back duo of Maxwell Turner and Pablo Jackson at the helm. Benitez put up 1677 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in his prep football debut. His primary target this season has been junior Brenden Lewis, who has hauled in eight touchdown receptions. Senior Josh Zander and sophomore Tristan Diaz are also big-play threats. Meanwhile, Turner and Jackson bring a dangerous rushing element to the game, combining for 1489 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in 2023. Senior Alejandro Tejeda is one of the top offensive linemen in the county.

This matchup presents a classic strength-versus-strength scenario, pitting Granite Hills' efficient offense against a formidable Carlsbad defense. The Lancers, who allowed 13.5 points per game, feature playmakers at every level, including sack artists Jude McLellan and safety Damon Ivey. Granite Hills has found success in the ground game, but Carlsbad counters with a ferocious front seven, led by linebackers Luke Ferrelli and team captain Thomas McCormick.

Buckle up, because this matchup has all the makings of a thriller between two of the San Diego Section's premier programs. With an Open Division championship bid on the line, expect the Lancers and Eagles to leave it all on the field in this postseason blockbuster. 

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