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SAM GANGWER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
San Clemente's Jack Sears entered this season as the team's unproven quarterback and the replacement for Sam Darnold. He wound up leading the team back to the CIF-SS Southwest Division championship game.

San Clemente's Sears getting a standout reputation

STAFF WRITER

It is quickly becoming one of the most prestigious positions in the area, and as a result, south Orange County has become more than just a beach destination for big-time college recruiters.

San Clemente is churning out Saturday afternoon signalcallers with regularity these days, producing Chase Rettig (Boston College), Travis Wilson (Utah) and most recently, Sam Darnold (USC).

Jack Sears figures to add his name to that list soon enough, especially if the Tritons junior continues to play at such an elite level.

For the second year in a row, San Clemente is in the CIF-SS Southwest Division final, and again, it’s been behind the stellar play of its quarterback.

“He had the daunting task of trying to replace Sam Darnold and, as you know, you can’t replace Sam. All you can do is hopefully emulate him,” Tritons coach Jaime Ortiz said of Sears and the expectations of taking over for the reigning county offensive player of the year.

“I just told him to make his own identity, his own legacy. Jack’s one of the main reasons we’re here right now. He’s been efficient with the football, he’s a dynamic player, and he’s got a good supporting cast around him.”

The numbers Darnold put up through 13 games in 2014 are similar to Sears’ production in that same scope this season. Sears is completing 71 percent of his passes, averaging 200 yards through the air per game, and has tossed 35 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 718 yards, trailing only Vlad Dzabhiyev.

“Coach just told me to be me, do what I do,” Sears explained. “He had a lot of faith in me and that really helped me develop. I feel like I’ve come a long way this year and I look forward to continuing it in the championship game and into next year.”

Friday’s showdown against La Habra presents a shot at redemption in more than just one sense for Sears. While San Clemente watched league rival Trabuco Hills celebrate a 44-37 victory in last season’s final, Sears made a relief appearance for an injured Darnold in the fourth quarter of that game.

Having taken a limited number of snaps before being thrust into such a position, he completed just one of 10 passes for 27 yards.

“I remember after that we all sat down, talked, and every single one of us who was coming back knew we had a goal in mind,” Sears said. “This has been our dream and it’s great to be back.”

With the offensive line dominating up front, the running game consistently churning out big gains and Sears picking apart opposing secondaries, the Tritons offense has averaged 55 points a game during its seven-game winning streak.

“It’s always fun as coaches when you practice all week long, you give the keys to the car to a 17-year old kid on Friday night under the lights and let him run with it,” Ortiz grinned. “Jack has done a great job with that.”

If he can keep steering this ride in the right direction, Sears will accomplish something none of his distinguished predecessors did: win a CIF championship.

Contact the writer: kconnnolly@ocregister.com


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