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Playoff loss ends stellar season for San Pasqual

Renowned English novelist Charles Dickens greatly enhanced his reputation when he wrote an exceedingly popular work of historical fiction entitled “A Tale of Two Cities.”

For the San Pasqual Golden Eagles, their San Diego Section Division II quarterfinal playoff game versus visiting El Camino last Friday night turned out to be a tale of two halves.

And because the second one wasn’t nearly as inspiring or productive as the first, the G. Eagles’ impressive and memorable 2019 season came to an end as the result of a 42-21 loss to the athletic Wildcats.

With the setback, San Pasqual saw a six-game winning streak snapped and its final overall record conclude at a still glossy 9-2. As for the 6-6 Wildcats, their victory entitles them to move onto a semifinal matchup against the Vista Panthers this coming Friday evening.

Given a bye in the first round of the postseason because of their praiseworthy play and No. 4 seeding, the G. Eagles looked refreshed and sharp during the first half of their confrontation with El Camino.

On their first three possessions of the contest – all resulting in touchdowns – the G. Eagles performed like a well-oiled machine that clearly had the Wildcat defense reeling and back on its heels. 

Elusive quarterback Trevor Jungman got things off to a bang up start when he parlayed his instincts, moves and speed into an electrifying 52-yard tote on SP’s first offensive play. Shortly thereafter, it was Jungman again taking center stage with a twisting, spinning 11-yard rush that got the G. Eagles on the board first.

Things kept right on percolating for the hosts on their very next series when they traversed 57 yards in just four plays. With the Wildcats obviously run conscious, Jungman dropped back and heaved a sweet throw that a wide-open Kody Ketcham snared downfield before he hustled unencumbered the rest of the way for a 46-yard scoring strike. At that moment, the SP offense was humming right along.

And that scoring train continued to roll when SP got the ball a third time. By now, Jungman was totally feeling it as he unleashed an artful pass on the run that John Carey grabbed near the sideline. The end result was a terrific 47-yard connection. Three straight running plays positioned the G. Eagles close and from the 5, that man Jungman (310 total yards) sold a nice fake before taking a keeper off the right side for yet another trip to pay dirt. Matters literally couldn’t have gone any better for SP, having found the end zone on its initial three series. 

However, though its defense was being confounded, El Camino’s offense was inflicting some serious damage of its own, thereby keeping the club from Oceanside squarely in the hunt. Almost immediately after Jungman’s first touchdown run, the Wildcats answered right back. Poised sophomore signal caller Kiah Reid (14-19, 211 yards) arched a deep bomb to diminutive 5-foot-6 wideout Alexander Fetko who had gotten behind the SP secondary. And after making a deft move to free himself, Fetko scampered down the left sideline with a massive 74-yard TD catch and run.

Moreover, SP’s 14-7 lead thanks to Ketcham’s heroics lasted barely over two minutes when the visitors offered another quick response. On this occasion, Reid arched an accurate 29-yard TD toss to wide receiver Jacob Gathright who had gotten loose in the end zone.

What felt like a possible game-changing moment took place right before the half when SP kicker Liam O’Callaghan had his attempted field goal from makeable range partially blocked. So instead of being up by a margin of 10 and with momentum on their side, the G. Eagles were left with but a touchdown advantage at the break.

And alas, the magic that the G. Eagles authored in the first 24 minutes of action was not to be replicated after intermission. It was like the difference between day and night was descending upon them. Tellingly, San Pasqual’s shining moments were past.

It certainly didn’t help matters when the home team was forced to play the entire second half without their productive and hardnosed fullback Mark Santar, who suffered a strained knee. The situation got even more problematic when—after the kickoff,—SP sustained losses on consecutive plays before having to punt. 

It was then that the Wildcats began to pounce. After workhorse running back Noah Sega banged off the left side to convert a critical 4th and short, Reid lofted a sweet 20-yard spiral that the playmaking Fetco easily embraced for his second tally. Only a missed Wildcat PAT enabled the G. Eagles to maintain a slender 21-20 lead midway through the third quarter.

Thanks primarily to a pair of splendid catches by Paco Corona – on which he showed conspicuous athleticism and concentration – SP attempted to counterattack by moving the ball all the way down to the EC 8, but from there the drive stalled. Ultimately, all that hard work went for naught when another field goal attempt went array, this one being pulled wide left. These were more vital points SP could ill afford not to be tacking onto the scoreboard.

Then, on the last play of the third stanza, the rugged Sega broke one tackle and stepped out of another before rumbling his way to a 51-yard score. This marked the first time all evening that EC had gotten out in front. At that juncture, there was a definite sense that the tide was now turning in the Wildcats’ favor.

That was confirmed when the G. Eagles fumbled away the ensuing kickoff. Not to overlook such a gift, the Wildcats were determined to capitalize on this golden opportunity. Key completions to Jordan Wilkins and Gathright set things up for the assertive Sega, who took a pitch to the right and powered his way across the goal line from six yards out.  A successful 2-point conversion pass upped the count to 35-21 and with less than seven minutes remaining, the hopes of the G. Eagles were now in serious jeopardy.

Unable to generate anything on offense, SP was forced to punt. It wasn’t long before any thought of a miracle comeback perished when Sega (199 yards) burst through a huge hole in the middle and raced untouched for a 39-yard capper that helped run the final score to 42-21.

There was no denying that this was a painful way to have SP’s campaign culminate. Regardless of the eventual spread, the Golden Eagles had a bona fide shot at taking down the Wildcats. But the resourcefulness and clutch gene that had categorized their play on so many occasions in 2019 just didn’t manifest itself as the game with EC reached its critical mass.

Nonetheless, nothing can take away from SP’s sparkling regular season that featured a near perfect record and an unblemished Valley mark (5-0) that led to a league title. Head coach Tony Corley and his staff did an outstanding job of having the G. Eagles prepared and primed to perform at a high level for virtually the entire year.

And though impactful players like Santar, Ketcham, the versatile Masato Thompson and defensive standout Matt Hodgins were big-time contributors, it was Jungman and the ever-active Johnny Vega who were the heart and soul of this team. 

Jungman was an ignitor of the highest order with his determined, slippery running and timely, underrated passing. But above all else, it was this senior’s amazing penchant for coming through when the pressure was at its max that came to define him. Rising to the occasion time and time again became his calling card and those who were able to watch him perform witnessed a truly special player do his thing.

Meanwhile, Vega meant every bit as much to the defense as Jungman did to his side of the ball. Vega was the consummate battler given the manner in which he hit, never quit and brought a palpable intensity to the task at hand. Seemingly always in on the action, the indefatigable Vega posted impressive tackle totals and like Jungman, made plenty of big plays that were absolutely critical to the G. Eagle cause. It was Vega through his sheer effort and desire that spearheaded the SP defense and provided it with an inspiration around which all his teammates could rally. 

In the big picture, what happened in the second half versus the Wildcats will prove to be nothing more than a footnote when the 2019 G. Eagle football season is discussed in upcoming years. Because virtually everything that went before it was pretty damn terrific.

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