The game: Mission Viejo rallied from a 16-point deficit in the first half to win a wild, back-and-fourth game to remain in contention for a seventh straight South Coast League crown and extend its winning streak to 20 games. Mission Viejo quarterback Brock Johnson passed for 207 of his 261 yards in the second half, adding three touchdowns as the Diablos held off Devon Modster, who passed for 415 yards and three TDs. Mission Viejo's defense made two fourth-down stands near midfield in the second half in an inspired effort.
Key to the game: A few themes emerged. Tesoro forced three first-half turnovers to slow the Diablos and build leads of 23-7 and 23-10 in the first half but the Diablos played sharper in the second half. Johnson was particularly accurate with his deep passes down field. But the biggest key was the ability of Mission Viejo's defense to hold the Titans to field goals in the red zone five times (one field goal missed). The Diablos limited Mission Viejo to three field goals in the red zone in the first half and then forced a missed 30-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half.
Modster returned from a shoulder injury and the Tesoro likely avoided running him for that purpose. The most telling example was a second-and-goal at the Mission Viejo 1 late in the first half. Modster has made a career of TD run in this exact scenario -- and he has eight rushing TDs this season -- but he didn't get the ball. Mission Viejo's defense forced a two yards loss and then forced a 17-yard loss that brough on a field goal, which lifted Tesoro to a 23-7 advantage with 6:14 left in the first half.
Players of the game: Johnson owned the second half to claim the honor here. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Seemingly every pass the senior threw arrived on the mark. But Mission Viejo also got a strong game from Isaiah Miller, who overcame a costly early fumble to run for 114 yards on 33 carries. Modster also had a huge second half, throwing for 250 of 415 yards but cooled off down the stretch.
Key stat: The Arizona commit Modster didn't run much at all, perhaps because of his shoulder injury, and neither did the Titans. They finished with negative 12 yards while Mission Viejo racked up 159 yards on the ground. Tesoro's lack of running back certainly hurt them pounding the ball into the end zone but Mission Viejo's defense had a lot to do with that.
They said it: "Defense was huge," Brock Johnson said. "Getting their stops in the red zone, kicking field goals and giving us the ball back."
What it means: Mission Viejo remains on track to defend its South Coast League crown and lock up the No. 1 seed in the West Valley Division. The Diablos will be 2-0 in league when they play at 2-0 San Juan Hills next week. El Toro also looms as a tricky game in Week 10 but Mission Viejo needed to beat Tesoro to have a chance at another undefeated league season. And how important was Tesoro's rally against El Toro now? The Titans could be looking at 0-2 in league and a potential at-large playoff berth. But Tesoro plays struggling Dana Hills next week and they will could need to beat visiting San Juan Hills for second place in Week 10. Of course, if the Stallions can upset Mission Viejo, perhaps Tesoro finds itself playing for a share of the league title after all. Yes, don't sleep on the South Coast. There's plenty of entertainment left.