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By Zach Cavanagh

After a 4-0 charge to open the season, the San Clemente football team has now endured back-to-back losses.

The Tritons (4-2) took that second loss in a high-octane, barnburner at Murrieta Valley, 48-31, last Friday, Sept. 23. San Clemente put up its second-largest offensive output of the season, but the Tritons could never fully catch up to the soaring Nighthawks.

Junior quarterback Broderick Redden posted his most prolific passing night of the season. Redden completed 18 of 26 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. The completions and yardage were season highs.

Senior receiver Thomas Hartanov was the beneficiary of the high-flying offensive night with season highs in receptions (six) and yards (129) with two touchdowns.

The Tritons were held under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season, but junior Aiden Rubin found the end zone twice for two rushing touchdowns and 32 yards on six carries.

Defensively, senior Cole Robertson and sophomore Max Bollard each wrapped up 16 tackles, and senior Kyle Yamano pulled in 15 tackles. Senior safety Brad Gerken led with eight solo tackles and 13 total tackles with a fumble recovery.

Despite the pair of defeats, neither loss at home to Edison, 21-16, two weeks ago and at Murrieta Valley is ultimately debilitating in the bigger picture.

In the latest CalPreps rankings, which are used to determine the CIF-SS playoff divisions at season’s end, Edison (5-0) is ranked No. 8, Murrieta Valley (4-1) is ranked No. 22 and the Tritons come in at No. 25. San Clemente slid from No. 18 following the loss to Murrieta Valley.

At the end of the season, the Division 1 playoff bracket could be made up of four, six or eight teams. Assuming all the top-ranked teams remain as automatic qualifiers through their respective league finishes, San Clemente currently would slot into Division 3. If Division 1 is an eight-team bracket, which many see as unlikely due to the separation of the top-three teams (Mater Dei, St. John Bosco and Centennial of Corona) from the rest of the field, the Tritons would figure to be the top seed in Division 3.

However, as teams enter their league schedules and higher-ranked teams play each other, there are opportunities for San Clemente to gain rankings points and other teams ahead of the Tritons to lose rankings points.

The Tritons don’t stand to earn too many points with one last trip to San Diego County this season, as San Clemente plays at Steele Canyon on Friday, Sept. 30.

Overall, Steele Canyon has a low ranking compared to CIF-SS teams, despite the Cougars being ranked No. 14 by the CIF-San Diego Section. In the CalPreps rankings, Steele Canyon has a minus-1.7 rating, and San Clemente has a 39.1 rating. By CalPreps’ standards, the Cougars are one spot ahead of Oceanside, which the Tritons beat in their season opener, 48-7.

This week at Steele Canyon also marks the first week that sit-out-period transfers are eligible to play. For San Clemente, that namely means junior quarterback Dylan Mills.

Mills, a transfer from JSerra, was in competition with Redden for the top signal-caller spot over the summer. Redden has certainly done well with the position with his six weeks at the helm, especially by posting his most prolific performance in his latest game. However, don’t be surprised if the Tritons want to see some game action from Mills with their biggest games around the corner.

After Steele Canyon, San Clemente will take a bye week as it prepares for its South Coast League schedule, which opens with the Tritons’ biggest game of the season: a home meeting with reigning league champion Mission Viejo. The Diablos are ranked No. 5 in CIF-SS by CalPreps.

San Clemente and Mission Viejo has traded the South Coast League championship each of the last four seasons, with the Tritons winning each of the last two meetings at Thalassa Stadium.

Zach Cavanagh

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 zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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