Mission Viejo's Olaijah Griffin and Brenden Schooler hug after beating Helix of La Mesa in Friday's CIF State Division I-AA Regional Championship game at Mission Viejo.

Mission Viejo refuses to fall, advances to state title game


MISSION VIEJO – Mission Viejo has won games all sorts of ways this season.

The Diablos’ offense has had dominating games. Sometimes their defense has taken over games.

Mission Viejo used some of both Friday, because the Diablos needed it to beat Helix of La Mesa, 32-28, in the CIF State Division I-AA Regional Championship game at Mission Viejo High.

The Diablos, who won the CIF-SS West Valley Division championship last week and are 15-0 for the first time, will play Bellarmine of San Jose (13-1) in the state I-AA championship game at Sacramento State on Friday at 8 p.m. It will be Mission Viejo’s debut in a state championship game. State championship football started in 2006.

Bellarmine beat Folsom, 42-35, Friday to end Folsom’s 30-game winning streak.

Helix (11-2), CIF-San Diego Section Open Division champion, made two turnovers in the final moments: a fumble recovered by Mission Viejo sophomore linebacker Christian LaValle, and a clinching interception by Olaijah Griffin with 1:30 left in the game.

Helix seemed ready to get the ball one more time in the final minute. But with Mission Viejo looking at a fourth-and-5 at midfield and lined up to punt, the Highlanders were offsides to give the Diablos a first down.

Mission Viejo veteran coach Bob Johnson animatedly and repeatedly signaled “first down.” It was a game of ups-and-downs for both teams, and an emotionally taxing one.

Or, as Johnson described it, “A lot of grinds.”

Mission Viejo was trailing in the fourth quarter, 28-20. The Diablos cut that to 28-26 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Colin Schooler and took the 32-28 lead with 1:59 to go on another 1-yard run by Schooler.

Then came the Griffin interception to seal the win and send the Diablos to Sacramento.

Schooler rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. Diablos quarterback Brock Johnson completed 15 of 22 passes for 236 yards and two TDs. Both scoring passes went to sophomore receiver Austin Osborne.

Helix running back Nathen Stinson rushed for 280 yards and scored all four Helix TDs, including runs of 61, 56 and 93 yards.

Johnson, who has thrown several long touchdown passes in the playoffs, added another one in the second quarter. He connected with Osborne for a 56-yard touchdown to tie it, 14-14.

The Diablos took their first lead when Schooler scored on a 1-yard run behind a big block from tackle Zack Aylor who left the game in the early fourth because of a leg injury. Again the extra-point kick missed. Mission Viejo had a 20-14 halftime lead.

Stinson scored on a 43-yard run early in the third for a 21-20 Helix lead. His 93-yard TD run later in the quarter made it 28-20.

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