Carlsbad High running back Mason Walsh started the game with a 74-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
Lincoln defenders DJ Peevy and Jerome Roberts finished it with a pair of sacks.
The sacks, and pressure on a fourth-down pass attempt, blunted Carlsbad’s last-ditch drive, giving Lincoln a 28-24 win and the San Diego Section Open Division championship Friday at Snapdragon Stadium.
The Hornets (11-1) advance to the Southern California Regionals with pairings to be announced on Dec. 4.
Carlsbad (10-2) led 21-6 after Justin Johnson returned an interception 57 yards for a score with 11:46 to play. Lincoln cut the deficit to 21-13 when KJ Chatham capped an 80-yard drive with a 25-yard TD toss to Josiah Cox with 9:33 to go.
Carlsbad appeared to have put the game away when Walsh broke free for 69 yards, but a hustle tackle by Chris White stopped Walsh at the Lincoln 4. The Lancers had to settle for a field goal and a 24-13 lead after Jerome Roberts stopped Walsh on third down.
Lincoln got a quick-strike TD when Chatham hit Mahki Gray with a perfect pass, beating the Carlsbad secondary for 80 yards. Chatham hit Raylon Logan with the two-point PAT, and Lincoln was within 24-21 with 6:02 remaining.
Again Carlsbad had a chance to put the game away, but quarterback Julian Sayin came up inches short on a third-and-4 run at the Lancers 38, forcing a punt.
Three Lincoln incompletions left the Hornets with fourth-and-10 at their 35. That’s when Chatham hit Corey Thompson-Miller with a pass across the middle.
The Carlsbad defenders swung him around, but he broke free and raced down the sideline for a 65-yard TD, giving Lincoln a 28-24 lead with 3:38 to play.
Carlsbad had one last chance, but a completion for 2 yards, the two sacks and an incompletion on fourth down gave Lincoln the win.
“This feels great,” Gray said of the win. “We’ve been told we couldn’t finish. Well, we turned it around and finished.”
Chatham finished the game 11 of 22 for 231 yards and three TDs. Lincoln running back Roderick Robinson had 24 carries for 121 yards.
Walsh finished with 15 carries for 202 yards. Sayin, who was under heavy pressure all game, was 6 of 18 for 75 yards and was intercepted by Joshua Carroll.
“We were right there,” said Carlsbad coach Thadd MacNeal. “We had a couple of costly breakdowns.”
Lincoln came into the game ranked No. 1 in the U-T Writers Poll, but was seeded No. 2. Carlsbad was No. 2 in the poll, but seeded No. 1.
This was the 16th time the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the county have met with the No. 2 team still holding a 12-4 advantage.
(1) Mission Hills 28, (5) El Camino 21: WR Lucas Scott caught a 5-yard TD pass in the first quarter and opened the second half with a 98-yard kickoff return as Mission Hills (9-3) outlasted El Camino (9-4).
QB Keaton Smith tossed a 9-yard TD pass to TE Henry Davis late in the third quarter for what proved to be the winning score. DE Jonathon Class had three sacks and LB Jaedrein Newman had two sacks as the Grizzlies defeated Avocado League rival El Camino for the 11th time without a loss. An 11-yard scoring run by Wildcats RB Zuriel Eatmon with 8:46 left to play, followed by a two-point conversion run by Eatmon, closed the Mission Hills lead to 28-21. But El Camino was unable to advance out of its own territory on two additional fourth-period possessions.
(3) Mater Dei Catholic 14, (2) Cathedral Catholic 9: Mater Dei Catholic (8-4) got an interception in the end zone by Isaac Houchin on the game’s final play to clinch an eighth consecutive win. Junior RB Anthony McMillian’s 1-yard TD run midway through the third quarter proved to be the game-winning points. Cathedral Catholic (6-6) had RB Ethan Ford rush 18 times for 99 yards. The Dons outgained the Crusaders 243-190.
(1) Granite Hills 45, (5) Mira Mesa 8: For the first time in 43 seasons, Granite Hills (10-2) is heading back to a CIF championship game. QB Nico Tomasello threw TD passes of 56 yards to Colin Riley and 20 yards to Maxwell Turner. Isaiah Pablo Jackson had TD runs of 16 and 10 yards. Easton Peterson returned a punt 77 yards for a score and Cedric Holden capped the scoring with a 1-yard TD run. Robert Petrich kicked his 12th FG of the season. Joaquin Thomas had a pair of interceptions while Nokoi Maddux and Royce Harper each had one. Jordan Glaze and Damarrion White both had sacks. Makai Thompson had 22 carries for 63 yards and a score for Mira Mesa (9-4).
(3) Ramona 19, (2) Central Union 7: Ramona (8-4) rushed 30 times for 216 yards and a score in upsetting Central Union (9-3) in the desert. QB Colin Lester rushed 10 times for 43 yards and a score. Azlan Enriquez had four carries for 29 yards and a TD. Adrian Rodriguez had 13 carries for 125 yards. The Bulldogs completed 4 of 7 passes for 65 yards and a score. Ramona is making back-to-back CIF championship game appearances for the first time in 43 years.
(1) University City 24, (4) Bishop’s 20: University City (10-2) freshman QB Quentyn Demara had his prayers answered when sophomore Dreyden Garner pulled down the winning TD over a pair of Bishop’s defenders with 1:29 left in the game. Bishop’s grabbed the lead with 3:23 remaining on Will Fierro’s second TD of the game to Jadon Moore. The Knights’ (9-3) Tayshawn Taylor led all rushers with 134 yards on 14 carries and a TD. Samuel Cooper started at QB for UC, completing 3 of 4 for 34 yards and a TD, rushed for a team-high 94 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 22 yards. UC had three receivers — Ladainian Lawrence, Cayden Dawson and Garner catch TD passes. Layton Calderon booted a FG. Demara was 12 of 16 for 180 yards and the TD. Grarner had three catches for 80 yards. Fierro had a pair of TD passes. This is the first 10-win season since 2017 for the Centurions.
(2) Point Loma 49, (3) Del Norte 14: Point Loma’s Noah Turberville rushed for more than 200 yards, including a 75-yard TD as the Pointers spotted the Nighthawks a 7-0 lead before rattling off 49 straight points. Emmett Jacobson intercepted a pass, Point Loma’s 25th interception of the season. The Pointers (10-2) have averaged 50.5 points the past four games. The Pointers are appearing in their first championship game since 2009 and reached the 10-win plateau for the first time since 2006. Del Norte finished 7-5.
(1) Fallbrook 21, (5) Mission Bay 3: A banged up RB Chris Bausch returned to action after missing two games and rushed 24 times for 175 yards and a TD as Fallbrook (9-3) advanced to the CIF championship game for the first time since 2003. Bausch now has 223 carries for 1,555 yards and 17 TDs. Alan Leon rushed 19 times for 97 yards and two TDs and has 882 yards and 12 TDs. Angel Angulo and Thomas McSheehy had sacks and a tackle for loss. Will Sherman had an interception. Since it last won a CIF title in 2000, Fallbrook is 70-161-1 with 10-loss seasons in 2006 and 2019 and six nine-loss seasons. Mission Bay finishes 8-5.
(7) Palo Verde Valley 35, (3) Coronado 15: Palo Verde Valley (12-1) earned a return trip to the CIF championship game, building a 21-0 lead, expanded that to 34-7 and cruised home. The Yellowjackets have won 12 in a row and were 11-3 last season. Mission Bay finishes 7-4.
(1) Crawford 26, (5) Mar Vista 7: Crawford’s Vincent Smith returned an interception 45 yards for a TD and Joseph Minchello recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a score. The Colts (11-1) blocked two punts and intercepted three passes, including Abdulahi Sharif’s eighth of the season. Hamadi Sharif rushed for 203 yards on 14 carries and scored a TD. The Colts last appeared in a championship in 1985. Mar Vista (7-6) saw its five-game winning streak come to an end. Aleks Wojcik was 10 of 22 for 154 yards passing. He also rushed for 94 yards and the Mariners’ TD. DeMarco Wright had 115 total yards. Nathan Pulido led the Mar Vista defense with five sacks and seven tackles while LB Adrian Martinez was credited with seven tackles.
(3) Classical Academy 28, (2) Escondido Charter 14: Luke Sega and Life Pollard both ran for two TDs as Classical Academy (9-3) upset Escondido Charter (9-3) by building a 21-6 halftime lead thanks to three fumble recoveries. Sega scored TDs of 20 and 1 yards while Pollard ran for TDs 19 and the game-winning points on a 2-yard run. QB Skylar MacMahon was 22 for 27 passing for 270 yards and two TDs for Escondido Charter. MacMahon finished the season with 2,461 yards and 32 TD passes. Aiden Volk led the White Tigers with 127 yards on 10 receptions.
Freelance writers Don Norcross, Steve Brand, Terry Monahan, Ramon Scott, Adam Paul and Rick Hoff contributed to this report.
CIF CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
Friday at Southwestern College
(2) Point Loma vs. (1) University City, 2 p.m.
(3) Mater Dei Catholic vs. (1) Mission Hills, 7:30 p.m.
Friday at Escondido HS
(7) Palo Verde Valley vs. (1) Fallbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at Escondido HS
(3) Classical Academy vs. (1) Crawford, 2 p.m.
(3) Ramona vs. (1) Granite Hills, 7:30 p.m.