Welcome to the Southern Sectional Semis, step right up step right up! Feast your eyes on Mission Viejo, these guys haven't lost a game in forever and don't want to start this weekend. But look this way and see the man with the Golden (Bear) arm, future Cal star QB Nate Longshore! He's the best and brightest (but don't tell that to Sean Norton!) and leads his high powered offense against the 3rd ranked team in the state.
Not impressed? Look this way where the Schedule of the Gods has given Newhall Hart's record a few dings but strengthened the team a whole and across the aisle you'll find San Clemente leaning on their defense in a position where they might actually pull the upset of the playoffs.
At first glance the Mission Viejo/CCC matchup looks like a no brainer. Feel free to take a second look, but don't expect things to change. Bob Johnson's squad is rolling, and CCC doesn't have the manpower to stop them. Led by All Everything Marty Tadman (I'd list his positions but I'm not sure this site has the bandwidth) but anchored by RB Chane Moline, Mission Viejo wins with balance and execution. Coach Johnson like to make sure every column on the stat sheet is full and happy, so expect QB Mark Sanchez to throw 13-18 passes with seven or so in the general direction of Tadman (the very definition of a playmaker, this is the guy who scored on his first four touches against Diamond Bar). Moline will get 20 touches (he might be even more dangerous out of the backfield as a receiver then when they just hand him the ball), and the defense will do its thing, pressuring CCC's Cal bound QB Nate Longshore into costly turnovers and a less than spectacular day.
The fact that Longshore has a back who can do damage in Louis Montano (30 TDs on the season) might give CCC's offense a shot, but at a certain point their defense will have to stop Mission Viejo. When you?re giving up 36 points to LaVerne Damien, your chances of success against one of the most potent offenses in the state go down drastically. Longshore won't be at 100% tonight, he may not even play, and a big test will be the first time he takes a hit. Another test will be the second time, and then he'll get to look forward to the third, fourth and fifth times. Luckily for him the first quarter will be over by then and he'll get some time to put his helmet back on straight.
But just maybe Longshore's gutsy decision to play hurt will inspire his team and WR Sean Coen will find seams in the Mission secondary. Perhaps CCC Coach Harry Welch will have a scheme devised to get Montano outside and the momentum they built up during their 4th quarter, fifteen-point comeback last week. Maybe they'll set a new state playoff record with 136 points.
But in all likelihood their "D" would still give up 152.
Mission Viejo 42 - CCC 25
Newhall Hart has played the toughest schedule this side of the 49ers this season, and they don't get a break with the San Clemente Tritons tonight. Clemente's offense, one of short passes and clock management, is just the type of "O" that wins in the playoffs, and an off day for the inconsistent Hart defense might just give San Clemente their shot at an upset. Of course this would give them a rematch with Mission Viejo for the Championship. Motivation, I have found thee.
Newhall Hart's Sean Norton will certainly have something to say about that scenario, and if Hart's season has taught them anything it has to be that every week is as important as the next. After starting the season 0-3 against the cream of the high school football crop, they regrouped and did what they always do, dominate the Foothill League going 9-0 and earning the 2nd seed behind Mission Viejo.
Meanwhile San Clemente has spent the majority of the season under the radar (or as under the radar as a Top 25 team can be) winning the games they are supposed to, looking good even when they lost (except to Mission Viejo). Coach Eric Patton relies heavily on RB Cheyne Verhagen, and don't expect that to change tonight. Verhagen, who carried his team (and a defender) to the semis, is the heart and soul of San Clemente's offense. QB Cole Bergquist is a smart accurate passer, and while the San Clemente offensive scheme doesn't generate big plays it also doesn't turn the ball over.
This game will depend primarily on Hart's offensive line. If they can give Norton enough time to look downfield, Hart will have the edge, but San Clemente's defense has been solid, particularly a defensive line led by end Brian Oakes. Pressuring Norton into mistakes is the way to tame the savage Hart beast, and San Clemente has the athletes to do it.
San Clemente 24-Hart 23