Prep Football: Poway High can’t overcome slow start, falls 23-13 to Oceanside
By Michael Bower
By the time the offense of the Poway High football team got going Friday night, quarterback Tofi Paopao and Oceanside had already delivered too much damage.
The No. 1 Pirates capitalized on three turnovers by Poway to build a 23-0 lead at the half, and then held on for a 23-13 victory in a game that certainly will influence the seeds of the two schools when the CIF San Diego Section Division II playoff field is set in November.
Oceanside (3-1) led 10-0 before three straight Poway (2-2) turnovers – a fumble and two interceptions – turned into 13 more points for the Pirates, quieting the large number of green-shirt wearing fans at Poway High.
“We just didn’t have the intensity that we needed in the first half,” Poway High coach Damian Gonzalez said. “We played great in the second half this week and last week, but just haven’t done it in the first half. I think it is just us as a coaching staff needing to get the kids better prepared.”
The Titans, which were held to just 62 yards of offense in the first half, made it a game with two third-quarter scores. Poway recovered a fumble and turned it into seven points when Lance Mudd broke free for a 59-yard score. Jonathan Petersen then blocked a punt to setup a Nehemiah Gross 2-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 23-13.
But despite the Titans’ defense shutting out Oceanside in the second half, the early deficit was too much to overcome. Poway never threatened in the fourth quarter, but still walked off the field with a little confidence that could go a long ways should the two meet again in the playoffs.
“I think what we can take from this game is we can play with them,” Gonzalez said. “I thought we were just as physical as they were … I know we can play with these guys and I think when we get on a roll here as the season progresses, I think we will have a lot of momentum, if we see them again.”
Oceanside is the second Division II team to beat Poway this season. La Costa Canyon was the other. The Pirates and Mavericks along with Helix figure to be locks for the top three spots in the Division II field. The Titans seem destined to land the No. 4 seed.
Arizona-bound cornerback Derek Babiash continued snatching opposing quarterbacks’ passes out of the air. The senior added two more interceptions to his resume, giving him six through just four games this season.
He had a theory for Poway’s first-half woes.
“I think we come into games with too high of expectations and when one thing goes wrong we are just out of focus right then,” Babiash said. “I think we need to just go into the game level headed because once we get to halftime it is just a reality check and we come back out and play well.”
Oceanside QB Paopao completed 18 of 31 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He did an outstanding job recognizing the blitz and checking to bubble screens and quick hits.
His first TD pass was a 31-yard toss to Mikah Holder on an audible to a screen play. Paopao also found Thai Cottrell in the flat for what ended up as a 43-yard score after the maneuvering by the speedy wideout.
But Poway’s defense still has to feel good after forcing Oceanside to kick three field goals, when the Pirates started with the ball in Poway territory. The Pirates entered the game never having scored less than 30 points in an outing this season.
“We knew they were a great offense and we knew it was a great challenge for our defense,” said linebacker Alec Moreno, who provided several tackles. “After that first drive of the game they had, we buckled down. They played on a 30-yard field and we held them to field goals. We will take that everyday.”
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