By Michael Bower
There was one simple message from the Poway High football team after its 31-0 blanking of visiting Westview Friday night in the CIF San Diego Section Division II quarterfinals: bring on Helix.
The third-seeded Titans (9-2) and their fans got what they have been wanting since the playoff brackets were released – a showdown with the No. 2 Highlanders (10-0) with a spot in the section championship game on the line.
The two will meet in the semifinals Friday night at 7 at Helix High. The defending CIF Division II section and state champion Highlanders advanced with a 48-21 win over Steele Canyon in another quarterfinal game Friday.
“We are really pumped,” said Poway’s Derek Babiash, who hauled in a 74-yard TD reception from Max Washam to put the Titans up 21-0 late in the first quarter. “We wanted to play Helix last year because they were that team to beat, but we didn’t get the chance. So it is an awesome feeling to get a chance to play them. We are excited.”
Poway easily took care of No. 6 Westview for the second time this season. The Titans, which beat the Wolverines 45-0 in Week 8, scored 21 first-quarter points before sputtering on offense. Poway fumbled three times – lost two – dropped a few catchable balls and were riddled with penalties.
“We had a penalty on a punt return that took points off the board and we could have had a pick-six that took points off the board and we dropped a ball in the end zone,” said Poway coach Damian Gonzalez, who added his offense tried a few new things but never was able to get into a rhythm. “Obviously, if I have those points, it is a different feeling than I have right now.”
In the end, the lack of offensive execution didn’t matter thanks to another dominating performance by the defense. The Titans had two interceptions, a recovered fumble and nine sacks en route to their third shutout of the season. Westview picked up just five first downs and had zero total yards of offense – minus-41 rushing and 41 passing.
“We knew we were going to come out and play the best game we possibly could,” said linebacker Alec Moreno, who registered 1 ½ sacks. “There is always the trap game and we thought this could potentially be it, but we were not going to let that happen.”
Moreno, who will play at Nevada next year, said it was hard for the team not to look ahead to the potential showdown against Helix. But now that it is here, Moreno is ready to put 100-percent of his attention on the Highlanders.
“We are feeling anxious to play them right now, but we always have to have our week of preparation,” he said. “I am more excited to get into the film room Monday and start dissecting what they do … They have one of those explosive offenses that scores 40 points a game and we have an explosive defense that gives up zero. It is definitely going to be a battle.”
Poway’s Nehemiah Gross put the Titans up on Westview, 7-0, just 55 seconds into the game with a 63-yard touchdown run. Gross (21 carries for 135 yards) scored again with 5:30 left in the first quarter to make it 14-0. Babiash’s 74-yard TD reception made it 21-0 through one quarter. Jordan Choukair’s 32-yard field goal late in the first half put the Titans up 24-0 at the break.
The offense was sloppy from there, but did manage to turn a Barnard Walker interception into seven points, when Conor Flanagan scored on a run from 11-yards out with 8:37 left in the game.
“It got sloppy there in the second half, but I am happy with the win,” Gonzalez said.
Note: The other Division II semifinal puts No. 5 Valhalla against No. 1 Oceanside.