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BILL ALKOFER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mission Viejo's Brenden Schooler fends off Norco's Kyle Connette in the first half of Friday's game in Mission Viejo.

Mission Viejo passes stiff test behind defense, Brock Johnson

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

MISSION VIEJO – Bob Johnson peered over at the Norco sideline prior to Friday night’s kickoff and slightly smirked when he spoke of the Cougars’ Michigan-bound quarterback Victor Viramontes.

“You’ve got to respect the heck out of that kid,” Johnson, the Mission Viejo coach, said.

The Diablos, with their preparation shining through early from beyond the line of scrimmage, showed their esteem for the dual-threat quarterback the best they knew how – with a near flawless effort in the first two quarters.

Mission Viejo forced three first-half turnovers – all leading to scores – en route to a 37-13 nonleague victory over visiting Norco.

The win gives Mission Viejo, ranked No. 2 in the county, its first 5-0 start since the 2013 season.

“I loved it,” Johnson said. “The defense did a real good job. We handled (Viramontes) pretty well.”

The Diablos were without star running back Isaiah Miller (455 yards and seven touchdowns this season), who is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone.

Norco, which is ranked No. 10 in the Pac-5 Division rankings, drops to 2-1.

Playing without a key piece of the offense, Mission Viejo looked to their leader behind center. Senior quarterback Brock Johnson completed 15 of 26 passes for three touchdowns.

“I don’t think it’s business as usual for Brock, but it was a great game,” Johnson said. “He played outstanding.”

Norco, which lost to the Diablos, 49-21, last season, had issues controlling the ball early on.

Despite converting on a fourth-and-2 at their 28 early in their first drive, Viramontes’ second pass of the series flew errant and was picked off by Cade Covarrubias at Norco’s 35. Covarrubias brought it back to the 18, and Mission Viejo needed just four plays to punch it in on Colin Schooler’s 1-yard dive with 7:46 left in the first.

Mission Viejo benefited from a resilient defense in the first half, forcing Norco into two first-quarter punts. Norco’s first possession of the second quarter showed promise as it moved into Diablos territory, but a risky fourth-and-6 attempt turned disastrous when Viramontes was sacked by Schooler for a nine-yard loss and a turnover-on-downs.

The Diablos, who accumulated 152 first-half yards, then march 57 yards down the field on seven plays, concluding with Johnson’s 22-yard, scrambling TD strike to Austin Osborne with 6:50 left. Mission Viejo missed the extra point, but extended its lead to 13-0. On Norco’s next series, the Cougars moved the ball through the air, but Viramontes was eventually picked off by Lewis Cowans.


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