by Steve Breazeale
The San Clemente Tritons football team continued their impressive stretch of play on Friday night by defeating the visiting Dana Hills Dolphins 42-14 in a non league match at Thalassa Stadium.
The Tritons (3-0) did most of their damage to the Dolphins (0-3) on the ground, and opened up an early 14-0 lead after touchdown runs by senior De Andre James and junior Dakota Mersino, Mersino’s score coming just 50 seconds after James’ rush.
Penalties were a big issue for the Dolphins in their last game against Fountain Valley and the problem continued for them on Friday. After the Dana Hills defense forced the Tritons to punt out of their own side of the field mid way through the first quarter, the Dolphins were called for having too many men on the field and the ball returned to the Tritons with a fresh set of downs. San Clemente promptly drove down the field to set up James’ rushing touchdown. In the first half alone the Dolphins were called for seven penalties that added up to 65 yards.
“Penalties were very frustrating. Some of them were iffy calls,” Dolphin senior safety Nigel Crosby said.
Tritons senior quarterback Sean Donnelly was quiet in the first quarter but broke through in the second with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Mersino that made it 21-0. It was a nice designed play in which Donnelly pump faked a pass to a nearby receiver, causing the Dolphins secondary to bite hard, which freed up Mersino down the sideline. Donnelly found him easily to complete the play.
The Triton defense then forced a three and out and scored on the following drive, this time on a three yard touchdown run by senior Christian Bailey that made it 28-0.
Dolphin junior quarterback Mac Vail was pressured all night long and was sacked five times. Because of the constant pressure, the Dolphin offense was stifled and scrapped together 218 total yards of offense. San Clemente’s outside linebacker Kelsey Benoit sacked Vail twice.
“In the last couple of weeks we haven’t been able to blitz a lot…It was nice for us to unleash a bit and bring some pressure (on the quarterback),” Triton head coach Jaime Ortiz said.
With San Clemente leading 35-0, sophomore wide receiver Connor Hill streaked down the sideline and Vail sent a lob pass that Hill caught in stride. Hill ran the length of the field to complete a 68-yard touchdown play to cut San Clemente’s lead to 35-7.
The Tritons added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Donnelly connected with senior tight end Ryan Alvarez for a 13-yard touchdown pass. That score caused a running clock situation and made it 42-7.
The Dolphins tacked on a touchdown with the clock winding down in the fourth that made it 42-14.
“The way (San Clemente) is playing right now I don’t think it really mattered who their opponent was. They’ve played strong in all three (games),” Dolphin head coach Todd Rusinkovich said. “Right now we’re kind of taking some steps back and we’re hoping next week we can take some steps forward.”
-Injuries have hit the Dolphins hard lately. Senior linebackers Cody Betzler and Trevor Tribolet were not on the field Friday. Senior defensive end Dalton du’Casse, the Dolphins leading pass rusher, suffered a head injury early in the game and had to leave the field.
-Donnelly threw for 191 yards, completing 12 out of 20 passes, with three touchdown passes and an interception. Vail threw for 125 yards (8 out of 15) and a touchdown.
-Bailey had another solid game, running for 56 yards on nine carries and he scored two rushing touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 38 yards.
-Mersino caught one pass for 48 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for nine yards on two carries and scored a rushing touchdown.