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Defense has always been the calling card for San Clemente football head coach Jaime Ortiz, and the Tritons defensive corps has set the tone through the first two games of the 2023 season.
San Clemente won handily at Torrey Pines last Thursday, Aug. 24, as the Tritons grounded the Falcons and dominated the ground game in a 34-0 victory.
Through two games, San Clemente has allowed only 10 points and a combined 137 yards passing. Chaparral of Temecula threw for 74 yards in San Clemente’s first game, and Torrey Pines managed only 63 yards last Thursday. It’s a strong early season mark for a defensive secondary that had to replace several impact players with untested juniors.
Pacing that defensive effort has been junior linebacker Lee “Puka” Fuimaono, who has led San Clemente in tackles each week. Fuimaono racked up 10 tackles against Chaparral, and the junior wrapped up another 12 tackles against Torrey Pines.
After forcing five turnovers against Chaparral, San Clemente forced just one turnover against Torrey Pines—a sack-fumble caused by junior Zeke Rubinstein and recovered by junior Theo Preisler. Junior transfer Matai Tagoa’i also recorded a sack, his third in two games with the Tritons.
Fuimaono, Max Kotiranta and Max Bollard, all juniors, were also credited with pass break-ups.
The defensive performances have given the San Clemente offense time to gel, and the Tritons have developed a balanced attack through two games.
Senior running back Aiden Rubin led the way for San Clemente on the ground with 126 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Rubin also caught a short touchdown pass. Quarterback Dylan Mills ran for a 33-yard touchdown—his second 30-plus-yard running score in two games—and the senior completed 16 of 29 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
San Clemente has spread the ball around in the passing game with seven different receivers catching a ball against Torrey Pines after eight receivers hauled in a catch against Chaparral. Converted senior tight end Broderick Redden led San Clemente against Torrey Pines with 55 yards on four catches, and junior Cole Herlean caught five balls for 46 yards.
Tritons Welcome Test from La Costa Canyon at Home Friday
San Clemente answered many of its preseason questions against a talented Chaparral team in the season opener, and the Tritons reaffirmed that and smoothed out other details in their shutout of Torrey Pines.
The Tritons will get another out-of-county test on Friday, Sept. 1, as La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad comes up to Thalassa Stadium.
According to the CalPreps computer rankings, which are used to determine the CIF-SS playoff divisions at the end of the season, Chaparral still rates as San Clemente’s toughest foe to date, but La Costa Canyon isn’t far behind. Chaparral holds a CalPreps rating of 32, which is No. 20 in the CIF-SS, and La Costa Canyon holds a rating of 18.5, good for No. 10 in the CIF-San Diego Section. Chaparral was rated 37.2 last season, and La Costa Canyon finished at 27.4 after a run to the CIF-SDS Division 1 quarterfinals.
This season, La Costa Canyon (2-0) has posted wins over San Diego teams University City, 41-25, and Del Norte, 28-13. Del Norte opened its season with a win over Torrey Pines, 23-14.
San Clemente has taken to opening its seasons with a run through San Diego County opponents in recent seasons, and with Friday’s game, La Costa Canyon will be San Clemente’s most-played San Diego opponent breaking a tie with Oceanside, which came off of San Clemente’s schedule this season. The Tritons are 6-2 all-time against the Mavericks with three straight wins on the field going back to 2019. The 2019 win was later forfeited due to an ineligible player.
San Clemente shut out La Costa Canyon on the road last season, 17-0.