By Steve Breazeale
Friday night’s showing against visiting Garfield was just what the San Clemente High School football team needed.
The Tritons offense lit up the scoreboard and the defense held the Bulldogs in check as San Clemente picked up a 38-22 nonleague victory to start their season.
The win snapped an eight-game losing streak for San Clemente (1-0) dating back to last season.
The Tritons displayed a balanced offensive attack on the first drive of the game, which spanned 16 plays and ended with a 24-yard Sam Darnold touchdown run up the middle of the Garfield (0-1) defense. Darnold, who played in his first game since breaking his foot in Sept. of last year, finished the game with a pair of passing and rushing touchdowns. He threw for 138 yards and ran for 76 more.
The run game was particularly effective for the Tritons, who racked up 262 yards on the ground. The running back tandem of sophomore Brandon Reaves and junior Vlad Dzhabiyev flanked Darnold and provided the offensive firepower. Dzhabiyev had a game-high 132 yards rushing and scored once.
Reaves, who was playing in his first varsity game, rushed for 34 yards and served as a downfield weapon at receiver. The sophomore reeled in six catches for 74 yards and scored twice. Reaves’ second touchdown catch, an 11-yard pass from Darnold, put the Tritons up 31-14 in the fourth quarter, ultimately sealing the win.
“Brandon is a sophomore but he played like a senior tonight. He’s got a bright future here. Him and Vlad combined, I call them thunder and lighting and they showed that tonight,” San Clemente head coach Jaime Ortiz said.
The Bulldogs finally broke through for a score just seconds before halftime, when junior quarterback Ausencio Navarro hit Stevie Williams for a 33-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7.
Navarro connected with Williams for another big play midway through the fourth on a 67-yard touchdown pass that made it 31-22. Navarro passed for 298 yards.
But the Tritons defense, who were playing without starting cornerback Jake Russell, made Navarro pay several times on the night.
San Clemente’s Liam Eldridge intercepted Navarro with three minutes to go before the half, which set up a Darnold touchdown run. When Navarro tried to scramble late in the third, he fumbled and the Tritons pounced on it. Andrew Frohner and Liam Buhl also recorded interceptions for the Tritons.
San Clemente’s defensive line recorded five sacks.
The win was a step back in the right direction for San Clemente, who will play Huntington Beach next week.
“A win is a win at this point. We have to fine tune some stuff on defense and offensively I thought we did a really good job controlling the football,” Ortiz said. “We play defending CIF champ Huntington Beach (next week) we have to go back to work tomorrow and get ready for that next game.”