San Clemente's Kevin Kling intercepts a pass intended for Sonora's Steven Riley with less than a minute left in Friday's CIF-SS Southwest Division second-round playoff game, ending Sonora's last chance for a comeback. San Clemente won, 52-45, at La Habra High.

San Clemente survives epic battle with Sonora, 52-45


LA HABRA – San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz knew his team had just dodged a bullet.

With a 10-point lead late, the Tritons nearly allowed Sonora to claw its way back after the Raiders recovered a pooch kick and closed the deficit to 45-42 with 5:34 left in the fourth quarter.

But the Tritons turned to their arsenal of offensive weapons to survive. Vlad Dzhabiyev’s ensuing 1-yard touchdown plunge proved to be the deciding score as San Clemente held on for a 52-45 win to move on to the CIF-SS Southwest Division semifinals.

“It was a battle, it was back and forth,” quarterback Jack Sears said. “We just wanted to band together. We trusted in our line.”

The Tritons (10-2) will play Buena Park at home next week.

San Clemente’s defense had a tough time containing Sonora’s weapons. Jacob Fimbres rushed 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns. But the Raiders (9-3) proved they were more than their ground game while amassing 582 total yards.

McDonald constantly hounded the Tritons’ secondary, completing 18 of 26 passes for 291 yards, a TD and two interceptions.

“We wanted them to throw the football, but we gave up the big play,” Ortiz said. “We have to clean some things up, but this is a resilient group.”

In a showdown of offenses, neither team had more than a one-score lead until a five-yard TD run by Dzhabiyev gave San Clemente a 31-21 advantage early in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth, the Tritons extended it to 45-28 on a 44-yard TD pass from Sears to Liam Eldridge. But Sonora wasn’t done.

Fimbres capped a 73-yard drive with a 3-yard TD.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Sonora’s pooch kick landed short of Reaves and the Tritons watched as Sonora pounced on it at the San Clemente 11.

Two plays later, Fimbres had his fourth rushing TD and Sonora had cut the deficit to three.

Sears orchestrated a Tritons drive that started at their own eight-yard line after a penalty. Sears hit Dzhabiyev for a 31-yard gain and later hit Reaves for the 23-yard screen to set up San Clemente at the 1.

“We just couldn’t come up with a key stop at the end,” Raiders coach Paul Chiotti said. “We were going both sides of the ball. These kids really gave everything they had tonight.”

Dzhabiyev leaped in for the decisive score. Carlos Flores added a 32-yard field goal with 1:03 remaining and Sonora recovered the onside kick, but McDonald’s first pass on the drive was intercepted by Kevin Kling to seal it for San Clemente.

Sears completed 20 of 23 passes for 326 yards and three TDs. San Clemente amassed 552 yards.

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