By Michael Bower
The Poway High football team was playing for respect in last Friday’s CIF San Diego Section Division II semifinal against second-seeded Helix.
The Titans earned that with a
21-7 victory over the defending Division II state champions
On Saturday, third-seeded Poway will be playing for something else: back-to-back section titles.
The defending SDS Division I champion Titans have the rare opportunity to win consecutive section crowns but in different divisions, when it faces No. 1 Oceanside Saturday at 7:35 p.m. at Escondido High in the SDS Division II championship game.
It will be the second meeting between the two this season, as the Pirates knocked off Poway in Week 4, 23-13, at Poway High.
The Titans enter the game as a slight underdog, but that has been a role they have excelled in throughout these past two years. Poway has no reason to think things will change now.
“Our team definitely has a calm swagger to them,” said Poway coach Damian Gonzalez, who led the school to both of its section championships (2007, 2011). “But anytime somebody doubts you and you are a competitor it puts a chip on your shoulder and brings out the best in you.”
The Titans will try to become the first team other than Helix and Oceanside to win the Division II title since Monte Vista won it in 2003.
In order to do that, Poway must beat a Pirates squad that has posted five shutouts and is led by arguably the most talented quarterback in the section, Tofi Paopao.
“Tofi is just incredible and he can put the ball anywhere on the field,” Gonzalez said. “He has a lot of weapons at his disposal and a strong arm so that is what makes their offense scary.”
Paopao’s biggest threat to Poway is his ability to read coverages and change plays at the line of scrimmage.
In the first half of the first meeting between the two, Paopao used long snap counts to sniff out blitzes.
Oceanside was highly successful with the screen play because of audibles Paopao made at the line.
The Poway defense did make changes at halftime and shutout Oceanside 13-0 after the break.
“It will definitely be a chess game,” Poway defensive coordinator Robby Sevier said. “We have some different things planned. Sometimes we might show one thing and actually do another. In the second half of the first game, we faked a lot of blitzes and ran different stuff and that confused him. You have to do that, otherwise he will pick you apart.”
Paopao has a bag full of weapons, including playmakers Thai Cotrell, T.K. Dodds and Mikah Holder. William Gulley leads the running attack. There is no bigger challenge for a defense than stopping those guys.
“We have to be great at tackling,” Sevier said. “They will complete some passes and run the football. They just have too many weapons not to. But what it really is going to be about is tackling and being sound at what we do.”