By Zach Cavanagh
SAN CLEMENTE – Whatever hold Thalassa Stadium and the San Clemente football team had over Mission Viejo in recent meetings was shaken off quickly on Friday night.
Mission Viejo scored on its first six possessions with six touchdown passes from Kadin Semonza and added a pick-six in the first half to roll San Clemente, 49-14, in both teams’ South Coast League opener on Friday, Oct. 14, at San Clemente High School.
San Clemente (5-3, 0-1) had won the last two meetings over Mission Viejo (7-1, 1-0) at Thalassa Stadium in low-scoring, dramatic fashion, but the Diablos found the form they’ve showed at home over the Tritons in a blowout win.
“They played well, they played together, and at times we didn’t do that,” San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz said. “That’s the bottom line. They’re a good football team. With us, we had to be firing on all cylinders, and tonight, we didn’t do that.”
San Clemente is at home again next week, as the Tritons host Capistrano Valley (4-4, 0-1) for Homecoming on Oct. 21. The Cougars lost at home to Tesoro (6-2, 1-0) on Friday, 45-10.
San Clemente, ranked No. 28 in CIF-SS by CalPreps, came out how it needed to on the opening drive against Mission Viejo, ranked No. 5 in CIF-SS.
Junior quarterback Broderick Redden connected with senior receiver Thomas Hartanov, senior running back Blake Allen broke a 42-yard run and Hartanov converted on a fourth-down run to get the Tritons inside the Diablos’ 20-yard line.
However, on the next play after the fourth-down, a low shotgun snap hit off Redden’s leg and was recovered by Mission Viejo to end the drive and the only momentum the Tritons had in the first half.
After that opening drive, San Clemente only gained another 43 yards in the first half. The Tritons also turned the ball over twice more in the first half with a fourth-down stop late in the first quarter and a tipped pass for a pick six early in the second quarter for the 21-0 Diablos lead.
In the first half alone, Semonza threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns on 15 of 18 passes with three touchdowns and 148 yards on six receptions by Mikey Matthews as the Diablos picked apart the San Clemente secondary and rarely even got to third down. Semonza finished 21 of 24 passing for 395 yards and six touchdowns.
“We had our chances early on, and we didn’t capitalize on them on that first drive,” Ortiz said. “This game is about momentum. There’s times we played well as a team, and times that we didn’t. It’s a lesson learned. Give credit to our kids for battling in the second half and fighting, but we put ourselves in a hole in the first half.”
That second half “battling” that Ortiz referenced came off defense and special teams.
Late in the third quarter, senior Cole Robertson got in clean on Semonza for a sack and forced fumble that was recovered by senior Nolan Reid at the Mission Viejo 31-yard line. Four plays later, junior quarterback Dylan Mills hit Hartanov on a 16-yard touchdown pass to break the Mission Viejo shutout, 49-7.
On Mission Viejo’s ensuing drive, Reid got his hand in to block a punt, and sophomore Max Bollard picked up the loose ball and ran to the 1-yard line. Mills plowed forward on his second sneak attempt for a touchdown.
“I told our kids that we don’t have a 42-point play, but let’s win each play one at a time,” Ortiz said. “Give our kids credit, they battled back. They faced a lot of adversity in that first half, and they bounced back a bit in the second half.”
San Clemente will get its chance to bounce back in the South Coast League in a festive Homecoming environment next Friday.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.