On offense, who else but record-setter Dillon Baxter of Mission Bay, who dominated every opponent and will take his talents to USC in less than a month?
Defensively, Oceanside’s Thomas Molesi led the Pirates to their sixth straight section title and second State Championship Bowl victory in three seasons.
Coach of the Year was the biggest challenge, but Eastlake’s John McFadden earned the nod by guiding the Titans to the first section football crown in school history.
Next year’s state and section record books will have new entries after Baxter, who led Mission Bay to a 13-0 season and handed Bucs coach Willie Matson his first section title, ran rampant from his quarterback position.
•Baxter accounted for 76 touchdowns rushing (50) and passing (26), burying the previous state best of 64.
•He amassed 481 points this season, eclipsing the year-old state record of 414 by San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s David Mothander.
•Starting as a freshman, Baxter’s 919 career points move him to No. 1 in the state ahead of the 882 by Oaks Christian’s Jimmy Clausen from 2003 to 2006.
•In addition to the state marks, Baxter rushed for 2,974 yards this season, erasing Tyler Gaffney’s year-old section record of 2,866 set in 14 games for Cathedral Catholic.
“Breaking records is nice, but no one could do it without a good offensive line and I had a great offensive line,” said Baxter, who will wrap up his high school studies in January, play in the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio and then enroll at USC for the spring semester.
“It shows that hard work really does pay off. My philosophy this year was to not let the opponent tackle me.”
The 6-foot, 205-pound Baxter was second to none as an open-field runner, capping his high school career with a 384-yard, seven-TD performance on a soggy field in leading the Bucs past two-time defending champion Valley Center in the Division IV title game 48-17.
When Oceanside needed Molesi toward the end of the Pirates’ 25-19 bowl victory over San Jose Bellarmine Prep, the senior was standing tall, harassing the quarterback.
No big deal except he had returned after slowly limping off the field with an injury in the first quarter.
“You couldn’t keep me out of there,” said Molesi, a 6-2, 280-pound two-way lineman who will attend Oregon State.
Molesi was one of six players who had been starters as sophomores when the Pirates won their first bowl game in 2007. He knew how important the moment was.
Molesi anchored a defensive line that allowed just 116 points in 14 games in helping extend Oceanside’s ’ unbeaten streak to a state-best 39 games.
“This year he has become a dominant player,” Pirates coach John Carroll said. “He’s big and powerful, but he’s also extremely athletic. He’ll even get better at the next level.”
It had been 13 years since a South County public school won a section football title (Castle Park in ’96), but McFadden’s Eastlake team bucked the trend, capping an 11-0-2 season with a 21-14 victory over Vista for the Division I championship.
“This is a big honor. I didn’t expect that,” said McFadden, who has been head coach at Eastlake for 10 seasons. “Obviously, the highlight was winning the championship, but just as fun was getting there, working with these kids. We had a lot of kids play both ways, but to see them step up like that was special.”