By Tim Pickwell
Any day that a team with “Torrey Pines” on its jersey beats a team with “La Costa Canyon” on its jersey is a good day.
The rivalry is wide (extending from soccer to lacrosse, volleyball and football), deep (reaching into elementary school), and intense (friendships have ended, cars have been vandalized).
Saturday, Sept. 22, at Torrey Pines High School was a very good day.
Head Coach Mike Lytle’s Pop Warner Midget Falcons came into Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at Torrey Pines High School with an unblemished record (4-0), and averaging 36.8 points per game, while allowing a stingy 12.5 points. The Mavericks (3-0-1) had scored nearly 27 per game, while allowing only two TD’s each outing.
Irresistible Force, meet Immovable Object
LCC opened the match by kicking short to Jacob Schneider who fielded the ball at the 38 yard line.
The Falcons “Gold O” took the field, and QB Tyler Lytle quickly fed the ball to beefy Fullback Adam Eastwood. Running behind a line of Graham Valentine (LT), Brian Minarik (LG), Ronan Gilliland (C), Yu Jay Kurosu (RG), and Kyle Hurt (RT), Eastwood gobbled up 10 yards on two carries. The teams then traded penalties, and the Falcons were forced to punt.
The Mavericks started on their own 36 yard line. D-End Schneider strung out a running play on the right side of the Defense to hold LCC to two yards. An LCC back then busted through the middle of the line and had nothing but daylight for 70 yards. Fortunately, Safety Caden Wolfson, playing with a soft cast on his arm, made the shoe string tackle to stave off disaster.
LCC then ploughed into the line, with first Falcon Brian Minarik, then LB Noah Rubinmaking stops. LB Eastwood made a tackle, and a holding penalty marched LCC backwards.
With 1st and 20 on their own 36 yard line, the Mavericks ran a draw. The running back bounced it outside and went sprinting down the left sideline with an escort. Cornerback Tyler Alexander gave up ground, avoided the racing escort, and squeezed the ball carrier towards the sideline. Alexander played it brilliantly, and finally eluded the blocker and ran the ball carrier out of bounds, but deep, deep into Falcon territory at the 16 yard line.
Huge play by LCC; Huge save by Tyler
Bad snap, and LCC fumbled on the next play. Eastwood recovered, and the Falcon Offense was in business.
But, backed way up. The first run lost a yard. A pitch-out to Moe Mirer gained a yard. On third down, a scrambling Tyler Lytle wisely threw it out of bounds.
Punter / Linebacker / Fullback / Ginger-Haired Noah Rubin found himself backed against his own endzone on 4th down. The Mavericks came pouring in on the snap, but Rubin uncorked a doozy. The ball hit past midfield and got the roll down to the Maverick 28 yard line. The returner unwisely picked it up, and was immediately clobbered by Ronan Gilliland—who somehow managed to snap the ball and beat the kick downfield. (Note to self: check space/time continuum algorithms to see if it is even possible for a Center to be the first man downfield).
Torrey Pines practices Special Teams play every practice—and that was about to pay off in a big way as key points in the game hinged on Special Teams play.
With the scoreless First Quarter winding down, LCC managed: no gain, no gain (Eastwood tackle), no gain (Eastwood tackle), and the punting team came on. Brian Minarik, now on Special Teams, got a hand on the punt, and the fluttering kick went only 6 yards, giving the Falcons excellent field position on the 42 yard line.
Assistant Coach Frank Montes’ quick strike offense, heretofore stifled, went into action. Enjoying protection from the Gold O Line, QB Lytle dropped back and hit a streaking Michael Gadinis down the right sideline for a 22 yard gain. Eastwood took the next play 20 yards up-the-gut untouched for the game’s first score. With 15 seconds left in the first quarter, Gilliland hiked it to holder Jacob Montes and Gadinis kicked it through for the PAT. 8-0, Falcons.
[Note: Place kicking ain’t easy for the elementary and middle school crowd. It involves coordinated long-snapping, holding, and kicking while teammates maintain blocks. This skill and coordination is hard to develop. Sure, it looks easy when the NFL does it on Sunday, but you try and get 11 pre-teen and adolescent kids to pull this off on Saturday. In order to encourage development of this difficult play, Pop Warner has reversed the typical PATspread: kicks are worth 2 points at the lower levels, while running or passing it in is only worth 1. This reverses at High School and beyond).
With the second quarter in its embryonic stage, the Maverick Offense lost yardage on its first series and was forced to punt.
TPPW Line Coach Jason Alexander signaled for “Red O” and beefy Will Nute (LT), Ryan Robbins (LG), Langston Glover-Castro (C), Landon Pinchin (RG) and Ryan Dill(RT) entered the game. Unfortunately, the Falcons backfield quickly fumbled, and LCC had the ball in excellent field position.
Barely rested, the Falcon Defense could have been forgiven a let-up, backed up as it were deep in its own territory. But, they capitalized on an LCC miscue (QB tripped), a foiled line-plunge, and had great pass coverage to force a turnover after four unsuccessful Maverick plays.
“Red O” was back in business.
Playing most of the second quarter in the shadow of its own goalpost, the Falcon line pushed and fought. They overcame a false start penalty to open lanes for Mo Mirer (now taking the snaps), who gained 15 yards on one second down carry. Torrey Pines punted at the 6 minute mark of the quarter, but stopped LCC to get the ball back.
RB Antoine Lee, taking hand-offs from Mirer, ran behind the Red O line and ran out the clock on the first half.
Backed up with bad field position, Red O fought and battled, and kept the Defense rested and off the field for nearly 8 minutes over three drives in the quarter, and the Falcons entered the locker room (o.k., “sideline”) leading, 8-0.
As the second half opened with Falcon Michael Gadinis’ kick, only one thing was certain: neither team would achieve its scoring average; both teams would achiever their defensive averages. It was war.
LCC went three-and-out, and then Torrey Pines fumbled on its first play. But, lineman Kyle Hurt recovered for the Falcons. Mirer then ripped off a nice run, and Lytle connected with Gadinis for a first down. Then, on two quick plays, Eastwood caught a pass from Lytle for 15 yards, and then went up the middle and bounced it outside for 38 yards to take the ball to the 12 yard line. A hit out-of-bounds put Eastwood on the bench for a few plays.
No worries. Elusive Ben McCaskill jumped in and quick-stepped up the middle for 10 yards to put the Falcons at First-and-Goal on the 2 yard line.
But, a QB sneak was foiled, two runs up the middle were stopped, and Torrey Pines fumbled it away on 4th down.
The Mavericks were VERY EXCITED to have stopped the Falcons and to take over on the 2. And, who could blame them? It was a heroic defensive effort from a worthy opponent.
The initial Maverick drive was thwarted by Gilliland, Schneider and Eastwood, and looked to be stopped on 4th down. But, standing inside its own 5 yard line, LCC faked the punt, and gained 6 yards for the first down, as the 3rd Quarter expired. Special Teams . . .
The Torrey Pines Defense was unfazed. Has there been a more veteran, composed group of 12-13 year olds!?!
Falcon Caleb Armendariz flushed the Maverick QB on the next play, right into the waiting arms of Jacob Schneider. Soon, LCC was forced into another 4th down punt.
Momma don’t raise no stupid children (nor coaches) in Carmel Valley.
When LCC faked the punt again and ran for it, they were mauled. Ball back to Torrey Pines.
A Lytle handoff to Noah Rubin lost three yards, but a pass on the next play to Gadinis got it all back and then some. The Falcons had the ball on the 4 yard line. Big #33 got the call, and it was “Touchdown Eastwood and Falcons!”
Gilliland-to-Montes-Gadinis was good for 2 on the PAT. Falcons, 16-0.
With 7:48 left in the game, Gadinis kicked off.
Special Teams . . .
LCC took the kick deep on the left, and built a wall to the right. The kick returner followed his reads, and took the ball deep, deep into Torrey Pines territory for a 40-yard return.
Smelling hope, the Maverick sideline erupted.
But, hope met a thing called the Falcon Defense. And, it wasn’t pretty. For Hope. Or, the Mavericks.
Eastwood had a tackle on the first play. Then Noah Rubin and Brian Minarik stopped LCC on third down. 4th down was a fumble
Mopping up with less than three minutes to go, lineman Y-K (Yu Jay Kurosu) opened a huge hole for Noah Rubin who sprinted 48 yards. With Mirer calling the signals, the Falcons kept feeding the ball to Rubin. Then, Antoine Lee rotated in and got the rock for a couple of runs. The Offense ran the clock down to 0:55 before turning the ball over to LCC.
Familiar Falcon jerseys (Schneider, Armendariz, Minarik) crushed any remaining Maverick hope, and the internecine, I-5 coastal struggle between two affluent San Dieguito Union High School District Communities ended appropriately: Falcons on top, 16-0.