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San Clemente's Sam Darnold (18) about to unleash a pass in the Tritons game against Tesoro on Oct. 2. Photo: Kevin Dahlgren/
San Clemente’s Sam Darnold (18) about to unleash a pass in the Tritons game against Tesoro on Oct. 2. Photo: Kevin Dahlgren/

By Steve Breazeale

A hounding defense, slick special teams and solid quarterback play powered visiting Tesoro to a 59-38 nonleague victory over San Clemente on Oct. 2.

Tesoro junior quarterback Devon Modster and the Titans (5-1) offense had an answer for everything the Tritons (5-1) threw at them. Modster completed 17 of 30 pass attempts for 234 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran in a score late in the second quarter.

The Titans were able to keep San Clemente off the scoreboard early. Modster hit senior Tristan Kafentzis for a 30-yard touchdown and, after Tesoro forced a three and out on defense, connected with junior Spencer Heinsius for a 15-yard scoring strike that made it 14-0.

In the second quarter, both teams had a hard time keeping control of the ball.

A Tesoro fumble was recovered by the Tritons to start the quarter but the Tritons coughed it up right back to the visitors minutes later. With Tesoro driving downfield, the Tritons defense forced another fumble and senior linebacker Riley Whimpey recovered it for a 70-yard touchdown return to make it 17-10.

The Titans kick return unit was a difference maker in the game and consistently set Tesoro’s offense up with a short field.

After being set up at midfield, Tesoro scored on the first of two Anthony Battista touchdown runs to make it 24-10. Less than one minute later, San Clemente quarterback Sam Darnold responded on a 21-yard touchdown screen pass to junior Vlad Dzhabiyev to cut into Tesoro’s lead yet again, 24-17.

The crucial swing in the game came just before halftime.

San Clemente marched downfield trailing by 14 and scored on a 12-yard Dzhabiyev run with just over one minute to play. Tesoro again got a big play from their special teams when Kafentzis returned the ensuing kick 45 yards, setting up yet another short field. Modster engineered a quick-hit four-play scoring drive and ran in a four-yard touchdown to make it 38-24 with 19 seconds remaining.

Tesoro received the ball to start the second half and scored on a 16-yard pass from Modster to Jake Smeltzer to take a commanding 45-24 lead.

The Tritons  were not able to recover.

Darnold was routinely pursued in the backfield by the Titans defensive front seven, which recorded three sacks. Darnold completed 14 of 24 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

“We didn’t play clean and when you don’t play clean that’s what happens. (Being) 5-1 is good. I wish we would have performed better tonight and we didn’t,” San Clemente head coach Jaime Ortiz said. “We’ve got to lick our wounds and learn from the experience and get ready for next Friday night.”

The loss snapped the Tritons five-game unbeaten streak. San Clemente will now head into Sea View League play and a game against Capistrano Valley on Oct. 10.


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