Given the choice as to whether it felt better to record two key sacks or pour the water bucket over the head of coach Dave Gross, Santana High’s Jason Patterson had an easy decision to make.
“I like the water,” Patterson said amid a wild celebration after the host Sultans defeated Coronado 38-26 in the San Diego Section Division IV semifinals Thursday night.
“This felt really good,” Patterson added. “We’ve never done this before.”
The Sultans (11-1) will indeed seek their first-ever CIF title when they play Valley Center on Monday at 10 a.m. at Qualcomm Stadium. This, from a school that came into existence in the mid 1960s when El Capitan was split into two schools and Santee thus had its first high school with Santana.
“This is indescribable,” said Sultans’ star receiver Landon Lozoya, who caught one touchdown pass and actually threw another to Tyler Weiss to ice the game. “This is great for the coaches, the team, and the entire school. It’s overwhelming.”
Coronado (9-4), coming off an upset of top-seeded Mount Miguel, almost pulled off another stunner with a valiant comeback effort. The Islanders, behind Austin Denson’s two passing touchdowns and one rushing score, nearly came all the way back from a 24-6 halftime deficit before falling short in the end.
“This was my first year,” a smiling coach Tony Isabella said. “Many people told me we’d be lucky if we finished .500. These boys did a great job.”
In a game featuring 960 yards of total offense—509 by Coronado and 451 by Santana—the Islanders defense almost made the difference by forcing three turnovers on fumbles.
The second turnover, a fumble recovered by Islanders linebacker Jake Shepherd, led to a 10-yard Denson TD run that cut the deficit to 24-13 midway through the third quarter.
Coronado pulled within 24-19 its next possession on a 15-yard pass from Denson to Ryan Halvorson but the two-point conversion failed.
Santana took a 31-19 lead on Kyle Gasner’s third touchdown pass of the night, a 34-yarder to Spencer Love in the third quarter’s final minute
The Islanders came within 31-26 midway through the fourth quarter on Denson’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Corpus, which was set up by an 88-yard run by Charles Westbrook.
That’s when Santana reached into its bag of tricks. Gasner took the snap and threw a lateral pass to Lozoya to his left, who then found a wide-open Weiss for a 48-yard score and an insurmountable 38-26 lead with four minutes remaining.
“We knew it would be that open,” Loyoza said
Santana built a 21-0 lead on a 28-yard pass from Gasner to Lozoya, Love’s 1-yard run and a 10-yard pass from Gasner to Garrett Hath. Coronado’s first score came on a 61-yard run out of punt formation by Corpus with 1:42 left in the half. Brad Cornish increased the Sultans’ halftime lead to 24-6 on a 34-yard field goal as time expired.
Gasner completed 15-of-20 passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Lozoya had a game-high eight receptions for 84 yards and one score. Coronado’s Westbrook led all rushers with 170 yards in 19 attempts. Denson hit on 15-of-40 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns.
“We had a wonderful group of players and great support from our district,” Isabella said. “This was a lot of fun. I want to start practice Monday for next season.”
The Islanders will have to wait more than eight months for their next official practice, but the Sultans can’t wait till Monday when they seek unprecedented heights in the Division IV finals.