San Clemente quarterback Jack Sears throws the ball during Friday's South Coast League game against San Juan Hills. (JEFF ANTENORE, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER)

Sears helps San Clemente protect its turf


SAN CLEMENTE – When San Clemente players came out for warmups before their South Coast League matchup against San Juan Hills, a sign was visible from the visitors’ side that read “One Town Two Teams.”

For the Tritons, Friday night’s game against the Stallions was more than a crucial league game, it was about defending an identity.

That pride showed early for the Tritons, as quarterback Jack Sears connected with tight end Chris Kane for three touchdowns in the first half, which led to a 35-20 win for No. 8 San Clemente.

“One town, one team,” Kane said. “We (had) to protect it.”

While Sears and Kane provided the quick spark offensively, the Tritons defense forced four Stallions turnovers and turned two of them into touchdowns.

Junior cornerback Matt Waskowski intercepted Stallions quarterback Matt Rodriguez twice in the second half, while Riley Croft and Shane Lockett each recovered fumbles.

“We had to be disciplined,” Tritons coach Jaime Ortiz said. “The kids did a good job of swarming to the ball in crucial times. They’re a good offense and I think defensively, we did a good job of making tackles.”

San Clemente (6-2, 2-0) took up 12:18 combined in its first two possessions, both of which ended in Kane TD receptions of 10 and 12 yards. More importantly, Kane, who has filled in for injured starter Isaac Rex, kept those drives alive with three third-down catches for 28 yards.

The Stallions (6-3, 1-2) responded with a five-play, 65-yard drive. Rodriguez hit Cayden McCluskey for a 46-yard gain to the Tritons’ 5-yard line, and Brock Cazel ran it in from there to cut the lead to 14-7.

San Juan Hills forced the Tritons to punt on their next series, but San Clemente recovered a fumble to keep possession. Kane ended the drive with his third TD reception, a 12-yard pass from Sears.

“He’s got some height and athleticism,” Ortiz said. “They tried to pressure Jack, he threw it out there and Chris did a great job making those catches.”

Kane caught eight passes for 97 yards. Sears finished with 156 yards on 17 of 22 passing. Sears also ran for a second-half touchdown and finished with 108 rushing yards, most of which came on a 64-yard TD run on San Clemente’s first drive of the second half.

Needing a spark, San Juan Hills got some luck when Rodriguez’s pass was tipped by a linebacker and fell into the hands of McCluskey for a 15-yard TD. The two hooked up later in the half for a 21-yard TD.

Rodriguez finished with 200 yards on 18 of 27 passing. McCluskey caught five passes for 105 yards. Cazel rushed 12 times for 41 hard-fought yards.

“What we thought was going to be there was there, it was just the execution,” Stallions coach Aaron Flowers said. “They’re breaking tackles and making plays and we just didn’t make as many as them.”

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