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Sears helps San Clemente knock off No. 1 seed
MENIFEE – For the Heritage of Menifee football team, the image of San Clemente quarterback Jack Sears running upfield untouched is one that may haunt the upcoming offseason for some time.
The Tritons relied on their USC-committed quarterback’s feet to move the chains in key situations throughout Friday night’s CIF-SS Division 2 quarterfinal, and none more than on his 48-yard run up the middle on third-and-6 from the Tritons 43 with 1:25 left that allowed them to run out the clock on a 23-19 victory.
“I just got some blocks down the field and took off; I saw some light and just tried to help this team get a W,” said Sears, who finished with 150 rushing yards on 12 carries and ran for six first downs. “It’s the best feeling to get to practice on Thanksgiving and get another week of high school football.”
San Clemente (9-3) will host Valencia Valencia in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
After a first half with 33 points scored, the teams combined for only nine in a second half that featured just three run-dominated possessions for each side.
The top-seeded Patriots (11-1) cut San Clemente’s lead to 23-19 on a 12-yard touchdown run by Javier Luna just eight seconds into the fourth quarter.
After a holding penalty stalled the drive around midfield, the Patriots clawed their way back to within six yards of a first down at the Tritons’ 42, but the exact same reverse play to Phillips on fourth down was stopped 3 yards short with 3:13 to play.
“They had shown that in film and it was a great call by them,” San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz said. “It was nice to see our defense react to it the second time around and make that play when they had to. In order to win these games, you’ve got to make great plays on defense.”
Heritage had not given up any points in the first quarter over 11 games this season, but couldn’t stop the Tritons from driving 70 yards on their opening possession and into the end zone on 26-yard counter play by Brandon Reaves (146 total yards with two touchdowns).
After the teams exchanged punts on the next two sequences, Heritage answered with a 69-yard touchdown run from White on the second play of its second possession.
Both teams failed to convert on their first two point-after attempts to leave the game tied at 6 with 3:56 left in the first.
Touchdowns were traded back and forth, with Sears hitting Reaves on a swing pass for a 20-yard touchdown at the 2:59 mark of the first and Heritage answering with a 76-yard drive capped by a run over the right pylon by White with 9:13 left in the second.
San Clemente reclaimed the lead, 20-13, with 5:41 left in the half when Sears tossed a scoring pass to Austin Whitsett on third-and-goal from the 1. The Patriots seemed bound to keep pace, as they drove inside the Tritons’ 20-yard line 1:30 to go, but Ikaika Tautala was stood up by a horde of tacklers and stripped of the ball and San Clemente’s Mike Rinehart recovered for the Tritons.
“I knew it was going to be tough, they are a really good defense,” Ortiz said.
“They are a proud program and we’re lucky to get a win and get out of here.”
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