If there was any doubt the Poway High Titans were determined to be the San Diego Section Division I football champs, they made that abundantly clear in the first quarter Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium, scoring 28 points in rapid-fire fashion against Vista Panthers, triggering a 56-0 rout.
In the D-I championship, the Titans completed an unbeaten season at 12-0-1 by scoring four times in their first five possessions, with defensive end Jonathan Petersen forcing three turnovers (an interception and two fumble recoveries).
Derek Babiash had three interceptions, returning one 64 yards for a touchdown, and Conor Flanagan added a pick, one of five by the Titans, who also recoved two fumbles.
It took the Titans only 1:10 to score 21 points midway through the first quarter; in just four plays requiring all of 25 seconds off the clock, Poway built its lead from 7-0 to 21-0 and the rout was on.
Meanwhile, the defense held the Panthers (7-6) to 12 yards in the opening quarter, and the Panthers didn't get a first down until there was 5:24 left before halftime. By forcing six turnovers in the opening half, the Titans had three drives of just one play and another two that took just two snaps.
With Poway leading 49-0 at the break, the second half was a mere formality.
“Our defense played outstanding and defense wins championships,” Coach Damian Gonzalez said. “But I'm also proud of our offense. They put up some big numbers, and Gabe Isaak was unreal tonight.”
Isaak finished the game hitting 10 of 14 passes for 135 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s an amazing feeling, it was a total team effort, and words cannot describe what I am feeling right now,” Isaak said. “I'm so proud of my guys and we really worked hard. We had a dream and accomplished it.”
The huge opening half gave Poway all the breathing room the team would need and provided for an uneventful second half, with multiple substitutions and a running clock in the fourth quarter.
“It takes the pressure off and makes things a lot easier,” Gonzalez said in regard to the fast start.
On offense, the Gross brothers, Nehemiah and Isaiah, each found the end zone twice, with Nehemiah rushing for 45 yards and two TDs and Isaiah making four catches for 87 yards and his two scores.
The Titan defense, dubbed "the sharks," finished the night with seven takeaways and a touchdown, limiting the Panthers to only 169 total yards.
“We came out hungry because we knew this was going to be the last time the sharks were going to feed together,” Petersen said.
Fellow defensive end Brian Guendling agreed. “We came out and knew what we had to do. It’s the biggest game of our lives and we came out as hard as we could and had (seven turnovers). That’s what we have to do.”
The 56 points was a season high, and the first time the team recorded a shutout.
With so many highly regarded teams in the Los Angeles area, this win will likely end the Titans' season, with no state bowl berth.
“We knew it was going to be a good game but we didn’t know how good,” Babiash said. “This is the best way to end it, with a 56-0 win.”
Vista 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Poway 28 21 7 0 -- 56
P: Nehemiah Gross 3 run (Jason Diaz PAT-K) 7:27
P: Conor Flanagan 7 run (Diaz PAT-K) 6:28
P: Isaiah Gross 21 pass from Gabriel Isaak (Diaz PAT-K) 6:17
P: I. Gross 50 pass from Isaak (Diaz PAT-K) 4:38
P: N. Gross 21 run (Diaz PAT-K) 3:28
P: Derek Babiash 64 interception return (Diaz PAT-K) 2:10
P: Dillion McMahon 6 pass from Isaak (Diaz PAT-K) 1:17
P: Alec Moreno 5 pass from Isaak (Diaz PAT-K) 8:46