We are at the midway mark of the season and tonight league play begins in San Diego county. The Grossmont-Hills league has made lots of noise through the first five games. Teams like Steele Canyon (5-0), Granite Hills (4-1), Grossmont (4-1) and Helix (4-1) have made a strong case for the Grossmont-Hills league being the best league in the county. Tonight, is put up or shut-up for two of those squads, Steele Canyon Cougars and Granite Hills Eagles, as they go head-to-head in their league opener. Steele Canyon has climbed to a top #3 spot in the CIFSDS rankings while Granite Hills is not far behind in the #9 spot. To gain insight about the Cougars approach in tonight’s match-up we spoke with Steele Canyon’s senior athlete Junior Akintunde.
At 5’10 190lbs, Junior has been a do everything type athlete for the Cougars. He’s a two-year starter that plays both offense and defense for the Cougs. On offense he’s a hard-downhill running back that is tough to take down with the ability to elude defenders and catch the ball out the backfield. On the defensive side Junior is listed as an outside linebacker but this season he’s moved around mainly giving the opponents different looks from the defensive end position. As a defender Junior is aggressive, plays with a high motor and disruptive in the pass game. When asked about tonight’s match-up he’s fully aware of the challenges the Cougars face.
(In game photo of Junior #2 versus Eastlake)
“We need to just play focused, complete our assignments and play smart football. Granite Hills is a really good opponent and over the last three years we’ve had some really close games. Last year, we lost a heartbreaker to Granite Hills in our Homecoming. We made some dumb mistakes on offense and defense, having three fumbles, a blocked field goal and other mistakes we could fix easily. That’s something we definitely don’t want to happen again,” explains Junior.
Since 2009 the Cougars have beaten Granite Hills 5 games to 4 but the Eagles have had the edge in their last four meetings besting the Cougars 3 games to 1 and winning the last two in a row. Three of those four games have also been decided by 3 points or less and one of the losses came in the 2017 season when Steele Canyon won the D3-A state championship. If common opponents are any indication of who will come out on top both teams played Madison and Steel Canyon beat the Warhawks 19-14 while the Eagles lost to the Warhawks 40-27. Regardless of what has transpired in the previous seasons or among common opponents Junior has a short memory and he’s locked in on how his Cougars can come away with the win tonight.
(In game photo of Junior #2 versus Madison)
“We don’t pay attention to the rankings or the past when we play. We focus on playing our best football and winning our next game. We play Granite Hills and there are some advantages we have on defense with guys like Chance Johnson, Thomas Max, Luis Alvarado, Antoine Walker, James Bradle and Cameron Ewert. Our defense is really good and we don’t really give up a lot of points. I’m confident our offense can get things going on Granite Hills as well.,” says Junior.
Now, with both teams ranked in San Diego’s top 10 the match-up seems to have a little more at stake than just vying for league position. Both teams are in Division 1 and an Open Division playoff spot is potentially on the line for tonight’s victor. Tonight’s game will be an epic showdown between two the best teams in the county and we get a chance to see which team will challenge for this year’s Grossmont Hills league title.