Prep Football: Poway High chasing back-to-back titles; whispers of state
By Michael Bower
A tougher schedule and the move to a loaded Division II — home of powerhouses Oceanside, La Costa Canyon and defending state champion Helix — has Poway High football fans whispering about the possibility of reaching a state bowl game this year.
The Titans return the majority of its players from last year’s nearly-perfect season, which ended with the program claiming its first CIF San Diego Section Division I crown since 2007.
The defense is loaded with experienced veterans, the offense is stacked with speedy playmakers and the pieces are in place for a run at another section crown and maybe even a state title.
“We have high expectations for this season and I think we can be just as good as we were last year,” Poway coach Damian Gonzalez said. “We are in Division II this year, which gives us another challenge. Helix and Oceanside are the frontrunners. We have an opportunity to play Oceanside in the preseason, so that will help us see where we are as a program.”
The Titans were bumped from Division I to Division II due to lower enrollment numbers at the school. But the move actually puts Poway into the toughest division in the section, which means another run like last season could result in a SoCal State Regional playoff berth.
“We are excited,” said Arizona-bound cornerback/receiver Derek Babiash. “We thought we had a chance to make it to state last year, but this year we can actually do it. We feel like we can make it, if we do our job in Division II.”
Babiash is just one star on the quarterback-rattling Poway defense, which took on the nickname of “Sharks” last season. Nevada-bound Alec Moreno, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 226-pound linebacker, is back along with defensive end Jonathan Petersen and safety Ryan Sharpe. The list keeps going, too.
“There are just so many guys this year,” Gonzalez said. “It is exciting to see this whole group come back and they are a fantastic group of seniors that love the game and play with a high energy.”
Then there is the offense. The running game should be phenomenal again with leading rusher Nehemiah Gross back for another year. Junior Lance Mudd, another speedster, provides the Titans with a potent one-two punch in the backfield.
“I am really excited to see what both of those kids can do,” Gonzalez said.
Babiash should also get plenty of touches at receiver along with Moreno at tight end. The offensive line should be solid with returnees Charlie Long and Tahj Haywood leading the way.
The only question mark for Poway is at quarterback, where Max Washam will replace the graduated Gabriel Isaak. Washam was the starting quarterback for the JV team last season. He brings a different set of skills than Isaak did last year.
“Max obviously has huge shoes to fill replacing Gabe,” Gonzalez said. “But Max is a runner and he adds to our boot game and our rollout-passing game is back. Gabe was more of a pocket passer. Max is going to be exciting to watch this year.”
Key games for the Titans come in Week 3 (La Costa Canyon), Week 5 (Oceanside) and Week 6 (Valley Center). Running the table is likely a must for a shot at a state title. But it wouldn’t be a Gonzalez-led team without the age-old quote of taking it one game at a time.
“We talked about state in the spring and the summer, but that isn’t something we are talking about now,” he said. “It is not our goal now. That is a long term goal and we are more about the short term goals, taking it one practice and one game at a time.”
Poway is currently No. 8 in the ESPN SoCal Division II Bowl Rankings and No. 2 in the Pomerado News SDS Rankings, behind only Helix. The Titans kickoff the season at Scripps Ranch Friday night at 6:30.
Follow Sports Editor Michael Bower on Twitter @PomeradoSports for all of the local prep news.
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