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The San Clemente High School football team came into their Sept. 25 nonleague game against visiting Newport Harbor intent on running the ball. After the opening 10 minutes of play, the Tritons players in the backfield were running on full steam and could not be stopped.
The Tritons rallied behind a 169-yard first half performance from senior running back Vlad Dzhabiyev and the athletic playmaking ability of their quarterback Jack Sears in a convincing 40-20 victory over the Sailors.
After a Newport Harbor (2-2) snap sailed into Triton territory early in the first quarter, setting San Clemente (4-1) up with good field position, Sears broke off the first of his four touchdown runs of the night, flashing breakaway speed on a 35-yard keeper to make it 7-0.
Sears repeated the act three minutes later, turning a bobbled snap and what appeared to be a broken play into a 28-yard scoring run and a 14-0 lead.
“That’s just athletic ability,” San Clemente head coach Jaime Ortiz said of his quarterback. “He’s definitely a good athlete and he’s done some really good things for us.”
Dzhabiyev really got going on the Tritons’ fifth possession of the game, catching a pass for 18 yards while producing runs of 21, 10 and nine yards, respectively to put the Tritons down at the Sailors’ 21-yard line. But a Sears interception halted momentum.
The Tritons got the ball back and Sears again made something out of nothing with the ball on the Sailors 20-yard line. With under three minutes to go before the end of the first quarter, the junior quarterback rolled to his left, escaping the Sailors pass-rush, and found Brandon Reaves in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
Dzhabiyev ran for his biggest gain of the night, a 76-yard burst on third and long from the Tritons 11-yard line, to set up a 13-yard Sears touchdown run. The drive ended the half and capped off a run of 26 unanswered points.
Dzhabiyev was spectacular, posting a season-high in rushing yards on only 11 carries.
“We wanted to establish the run … In order to win a championship, you’ve got to be able to run the ball and the kids did a really good job today,” Ortiz said.
The Tritons defense limited Newport Harbor’s standout running back Cole Kinder to just 85 yards on 23 carries.
Sears completed 13 of 24 passed for 166 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He carried the ball 10 times for 100 yards and four touchdowns.
The Tritons will travel to play Tesoro on Oct. 2 for their final nonleague game of the season.