California Dreamin': Mission Viejo vs. L.B. Poly

In a battle of nationally ranked football teams, No. 9 <b>Mission Viejo (Calif.)</b> and No. 14 <b>Long Beach Poly (Calif.)</b> square off Friday night for bragging rights in California.

Ho-hum. Just another day at the office for the nationally ranked Mission Viejo (Calif.) football squad.

For the third time in four weeks, the Diablos collide with a highly touted opponent in a non-conference battle. This time, it will be a clash of the top-ranked teams in California as Mission Viejo, ranked No. 9 in the National Top 25, travels to No. 14 Long Beach Poly at 7 p.m. Friday night.

Unbeaten Mission Viejo (3-0) has looked impressive while outscoring opponents 119-28 through three games. And not that the Diablos need to be looking past Poly, but next week they wrap up non-conference play with a trip to play De La Salle, the California juggernaut whose 151-game winning streak was snapped earlier this season by Bellevue (Wash.).

"The kids love big games, and our coaching staff loves to prepare for them," said Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson. "This is the kind of competition that is going to make us a better team and hopefully help us accomplish our goals of winning a league championship and getting into the CIF playoffs."

When Mission Viejo and Poly met for the first time last season, the Diablos escaped with a 28-27 victory after stopping a Poly two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter. Johnson doesn't expect anything different from this year's tilt.

"It was just a phenomenal game last year," said Johnson. "We hit them with a couple of special plays and blocked a couple PATs, which forced them to go for the win at the end of the game instead of going to overtime. I envision this year will be no different because they've got a very talented team over there."

Think Poly (3-0) coach Raul Lara would go for that two-point conversion attempt again? Recent history suggests he would. The Jackrabbits trailed Clovis East (Calif.), 28-21, in overtime on Sept. 18 before senior running back Jason Brown scored on a 4-yard jaunt. Poly elected to go for two, and senior quarterback Theo Scott completed the conversion pass to senior running back Adrian Brown, propelling Poly to a 29-28 victory.

Junior tailback Troy Guthrie rushed for a career-high 155 yards and a touchdown as Poly defeated St. Paul, 28-21, in its home opener last Friday.

Poly boasts a pair of talented quarterbacks in seniors Cruz Parsons and Scott. Scott received the lion's share of work in the Clovis East game and completed 25-of-40 passes for a career-high 244 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, is a big-play threat on the outside. The Jackrabbits also boast a formidable offensive line with the senior tackle tandem of Robert Buycks (6-5, 280) and Justin Brown (6-6, 280). Senior linebacker William Alo headlines the defense.

Mission Viejo's closest call came in a 14-7 triumph over Mater Dei (Calif.) on Sept. 16. The Diablos outgained Mater Dei 387-162 in the win but needed a pair of fourth-down conversions to prolong their scoring drives. Sophomore Keegan Grogerty scored the winning touchdown with a 1-yard run on the Diablos' first possession of the second half.

Last Friday, USC-bound senior quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 9-of-9 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown before calling it a night as Mission Viejo opened a 20-point, first-quarter advantage against Marina (Calif.) and rolled to a 50-0 triumph.

Junior running back Chane Moline rushed for 276 yards and five touchdowns as Mission Viejo cruised to 55-21 season-opening victory over nationally ranked Los Alamitos (Calif.) on Sept. 9. Moline is running behind an offensive line that includes senior tackles Gregg Peat (6-4, 290) and Ohio State-bound Kevin Bemoll (6-5, 305). Defensively, the Diablos boast speedy senior safety Andrew Ayala.

Poly finished as the CIF Southern Section Division I runner-up last season.

Mission Viejo, which has been to the CIF Southern Section Division II finals three years in a row and has won the South Coast League championship the past four seasons, seemingly doesn't need a rigorous non-conference schedule to prepare for league play, but the Diablos don't shy away from it.

"We've sort of had our way in the league the past few years, but winning a league title is certainly our No. 1 priority," said Johnson. "We're enjoying these big games and will continue to do so if we're winning. But win or lose, we're learning a lot from these games."

Friday night's game will be played at Long Beach Cabrillo with Poly's stadium under renovation.

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