By Cheynne Lee
San Clemente football advanced to its first CIF final since 1979 last night after dominating Tesoro 51-16.
The Tritons will now prepare to face Santa Margarita High School in the CIF-SS final.
“I’m excited for the kids, the coaches, the community,” said Head Coach Jon Hamro. “These guys deserve it. They’ve been together a long time. They’ve grown up together. We’re a one high school community, and I’m really proud of all of them.”
The Tritons opened things up quickly, scoring on their second play as quarterback Travis Wilson hooked up with standout receiver Christian Tober on a screen pass that resulted in an 80-yard touchdown.
Wilson had another a great night, completing four of his seven passes for 217 yards, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for 52 yards and a touchdown. All three of Wilson’s touchdown passes were greater than 50 yards, two of which went to Tober.
Tesoro answered back with a 76-yard drive, but Titan quarterback Matt Adam gave up an interception in the endzone to defensive back Nick Pasquale who quickly knelt down for a touchback.
On the ensuing drive, the Tritons pounded the rock with halfback Mike Elespuru on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that was opened up by a Wilson 50-yard run. Elespuru took it in for a 1-yard score and after the extra point, the Tritons were up 14-0. Elespuru ended the night with 120 yards rushing, a touchdown in addition to a 57-yard touchdown reception.
Tesoro roared back as return specialist Syd Reynolds ran for a 99-yard touchdown to keep the Titans within striking distance 14-7. But, unfortunately for Tesoro, the Triton offense kept rolling.
With 8:21 left in the second quarter, Wilson threw a deep ball to Tober for a 73-yard touchdown that put San Clemente back on top 21-7. On their next drive, the Tritons furthered their lead, 28-7 from a 3-yard Wilson run.
Then, on Tesoro’s next drive, the Triton defense held them to four plays. With a fourth down and 13 yard deficit, Tesoro was forced to punt on their own 28. Long snapper Clayton Eubank picked up the ball above the punters head, which resulted in a safety to put the Tritons up 30-7.
The San Clemente defense once again was dominant. In total, they recorded two sacks, two interceptions and only allowed 96 yards on the ground.
Tober iced the game at the end of the first half with 1:50 left. On the following kickoff, he took it 75 yards for a touchdown. Tober had a phenomenal night, having two touchdown receptions totaling 153 yards, an interception and the kick off return for a score. Tober tallied 18 points for the Tritons.
“I go into every game just knowing that I got to play my butt off; it could be my last play every game,” he said. “I want to do it for everybody, my whole team. I love this game.”
As the Tritons were up 51-7 by the end of the third quarter, the CIF mercy rule was implemented. When up by more than 35 points by the end of the third quarter, the game clock keeps running and stops only on scoring plays and timeouts.
“We changed some things up since that one loss; we’ve created more movement on offense,” Hamro said. “If you noticed the shifting (and) the motion that has helped keep the (opposing) teams from identifying from what were doing. I think it’s a mindset; I think it’s our mindset. These kids are on a mission, and they’re very focused.”
Hamro has taken his team into the CIF final on his first year coaching, as an interim, a feat that potentially puts him in the running for coach of the year.
The only setback on an otherwise triumphant night came with the injury of No. 58 Brian Knauf who was taken off the field by paramedics with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
At the end of the game, Wilson was confident with his team going into the next game. “We definitely expect on winning it,” he said. “I mean we’re going to practice really hard, and we’re going to be fired up for the next game.”
San Clemente will face Santa Margarita in the Triton’s first CIF final in 32 years. These two teams last met in 1999, and have only faced off twice with each team taking a game apiece. Santa Margarita inched past Mission Viejo 21-20 in the final minute to advance to the championship. The final will be played at Angel Stadium next Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
By Cheynne Lee