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By Steve Breazeale
There was no rust to be seen on the Mission Viejo football machine during its Nov. 4 matchup with San Clemente at Thalassa Stadium.
The Diablos, who traveled to play San Clemente following a bye week, were dominant from start to finish in a 41-3 victory that secured the South Coast League championship.
Mission Viejo (10-0, 4-0 league) has now won eight straight South Coast League championships and extended its state-best winning streak to 38 games.
Both teams entered the game with perfect 3-0 records in league play.
The Diablos defense jump-started the game early when Colin Schooler forced a a San Clemente (7-3, 3-1) fumble on the opening drive, and Noah Lechuga recovered. The Diablos turned the turnovers into points, which would be a theme in the first half, when a Schooler-fueled drive ended with a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt McDonald to the standout two-way back. Schooler had four carries and caught two passes, including a 21-yarder, during the drive.
Three minutes into the second quarter, the Diablos did something no other team has done this season–intercept Tritons standout senior quarterback Jack Sears. Sears, who had gone nine games without throwing a pick, heaved a pass into the end zone while on the move and Mission Viejo’s Akili Arnold tipped it into the hands of teammate Cade Covarrubias.
Schooler burst down the sideline three plays later for a 71-yard touchdown run and Mission Viejo took a 14-0 lead.
Arnold intercepted Sears later in the second, but nothing came of it as the teams headed into the half.
The Diablo offense, which came into the contest averaging 55 points in league play, would not lay dormant for long. Mission Viejo scored 20 unanswered points in six minutes to start the third quarter and blew the game open.
The Diablos first three possessions of the second half all resulted in points. McDonald found receiver Christian LaValle for a 30-yard touchdown pass, running back Jamari Ferrell scored on a three-yard run and McDonald hit Elijah Griffin for a 57-yard touchdown strike to go up 34-0.
Ferrell had a game-high 128 yards rushing and a touchdown. McDonald completed 10 of 17 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. Schooler, who had both a rushing and receiving touchdown, had 103 yards rushing and caught three passes for 43 yards.
The San Clemente offense struggled to gain momentum all night, despite Mission Viejo committing seven personal fouls on defense. Tristan Trager scored the Tritons only points on a 33-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Sears was pressured often, and was on the move for most of the night. The Duke commit completed 16 of 24 passes for 118 yards and threw two interceptions. Senior Brandon Reaves caught 12 passes for 82 yards.
“(Mission Viejo) is a good football team. But unfortunately we didn’t play to our level tonight and the score indicated that,” San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz said. “We’ve got to learn and grow from it and the good news is we have a (playoff) game next week.”
By placing second in league the Tritons are guaranteed a berth in the upcoming CIF-SS Division 2 Championships. The playoff brackets will be released on Nov. 6.