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San Marcos beats Del Norte 21-6, claims Palomar League title: 3 takeaways

San Marcos held Del Norte to their lowest point total since week nine of the 2019 season

SAN DIEGO – League championships in football have not been a regular occurrence for San Marcos and Del Norte.

The pair met on the field Thursday night to determine the outright winner of the Palomar League, a decade after the two teams shared the 2013 Valley League title.

San Marcos, led by a stifling defense, snagged a 21-6 road victory to become outright league champions for the first time in more than 40 years.

After a scoreless first quarter that included missed field goals by both teams, San Marcos struck first. The Knights were able punch the football loose after a Del Norte reception that resulted in a 64-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Cayden Woolwine.

Leading 7-3 at halftime, San Marcos continued their dominance on the defensive side for the final two quarters and got two timely offensive drives in the second half to put the game out of reach.

Below are three takeaways from Friday's game.

SWARMING DEFENSE FOR THE KNIGHTS

Del Norte entered Thursday's de facto Palomar League championship game averaging 30 points per game on the season. Against a San Marcos defense up for the challenge, the Nighthawks managed six points.

The Nighthawks moved the ball into San Marcos territory during each of their four first half possessions but were only able to manage three points. They missed a field goal on their first drive before a fumble on the second drive turned into a 64-yard scoop-and-score touchdown for the Knights.

“We have been saying all year that this is what we work for right here," San Marcos senior defensive lineman Jake Voorhees said.

A sack on third down during their third possession led to a punt from the 40-yard line. On possession four, Del Norte had to settle for a 37-yard field goal with just over a minute left in the first half.

Once the second half came around, the Knights defense began living in the backfield. They came off the edge, up the middle and from just about every angle you could imagine.

"Something clicked the last few league games, and we were tired of teams pushing us around and tired of the haters," Voorhees added.

The Nighthawks punted the ball away on their first four possessions of the second half, recovering the ball in San Marcos territory after the fourth punt was muffed. That possession resulted in a 43-yard field goal that made the final score 21-6.

KREET MAKIHELE IS BACK AND HEALTHY

San Marcos quarterback Kreet Makihele tossed 32 touchdowns in 2022 during his breakout freshman season. His sophomore season took an early turn he went down with a collarbone injury against Torrey Pines in week four.

Five weeks later, Makihele returned to the field and picked up right where he left off, finishing with 353 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Rancho Bernardo.

“It’s definitely slowing down," Makihele said of his second season under center. "I’ve gotten my mistakes out of the way and it’s time to roll.”

His lone touchdown pass on Thursday night bounced off the hands of a diving defender and right into the hands junior Brady Pohl. Pohl sprinted down the Del Norte sideline and into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown.

“I was trying to throw the ball away and I put it too high," Makihele said. "Just got lucky.”

A LONG AWAITED LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP

Thursday's win clinched San Marcos their first outright league championship in football since the 1981 season.

The Knights have had success in recent seasons, posting back-to-back second place finishes in the Avocado League in 2017 and 2018 as well as a shared Valley League title in 2013.

“This was a big championship game, so everyone had to lock in all week," Makihele said.

The Knights, a Division 1 playoff team, will find out their playoff seeding on Sunday afternoon.

“Do whatever it takes to get the job done, don’t care about anything else," San Marcos senior defenisve lineman Jake Voorhees said. "This is our first true league title since (1981) so there was a real fire in us.”

(All photos by Justin Fine)

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-- Bodie De Silva | bodie@scorebooklive.com | @sbliveca