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Mission Viejo wins state title with perfect finish
SACRAMENTO – A 16-game journey that began in mid-August in Hawaii ended in rainy, slippery and dominating fashion for Mission Viejo’s football team Friday night in another distant stadium.
Before a sparse but dedicated crowd at Sacramento State, the Diablos united on offense and defense to complete their trek to perfection with a 24-0 victory against Bellarmine Prep of San Jose in the CIF State Division I-AA championship game.
Bellarmine (13-2) was coming off a 42–35 victory that ended Folsom’s 30-game win streak, but the Diablos handled the Bells with a balanced offense and swarming defense to capture their first state title and first 16-0 season.
“This is beyond words,” said Mission Viejo senior quarterback Brock Johnson, who threw two touchdowns to finish with a school single-season record 41. “I’m so proud of my team. So thankful. So blessed by God.
“This is just amazing.”
Johnson had plenty of help. Junior Colin Schooler rushed for a season-high 224 yards on 31 carries and helped the Diablos hold Bellarmine’s double-wing offense to 44 yards rushing and 7 yards passing.
Schooler, who also played linebacker, finished with a team-high nine tackles, including two for loss. Mission Viejo defensive coordinator Brett Paton praised his team’s sound tackling, which delivered a striking turnaround after getting blitzed by Helix running back Nathen Stinson in the SoCal regional.
“Kids did a great job,” Paton said.
Mission Viejo recorded an impressive 16 tackles for losses, including two by linebacker Christian LaValle, three by defensive end Ryan Dove, two by tackle Carter Hartmann and two by linebacker Byrce Chambers. Dove also had two sacks and Olaijah Griffin played well at corner.
Mission Viejo spotlighted Hartmann, a two-way starting lineman, by substituting him with about a minute left. The Harvard commit got a tap on the helmet from defensive line coach Mike Piel, the ex-Ram, as he reached the team's sideline.
“They’re insane,” Johnson said of his defense.
Mission Viejo’s offensive line, missing two starters, allowed only one sack and paved the way for Schooler. The group included Matthew Cortez, who filled for the injured Zack Aylor.
"It's a team sport," Brock Johnson said. "One guy goes down, next man up. That's our mentality."
Schooler also did plenty on his own by breaking several tackles. He dove in for a 2-yard TD run to cap an eight-play, 65-yard drive in the middle of the third and later added a 1-yard run to finish a swift 70-yard march later in the third. He sparked the second drive with 33-yard gain on first down.
Both scores helped Mission Viejo extended its 12-0 halftime lead.
Veteran Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson claimed his first state title and let his emotions show in the postgame celebration, encouraging smiles with the trophy and the soaked cheerleaders to join the team photo.
“We’re a pretty resilient team,” he said. “I’m just so proud of the team. … (We’re) very banged up. We lost a lot of guys, but that’s OK. We kept playing.”
Schooler certainly did. A late-season replacement for the injured Isaiah Miller, he rushed for 146 of his 224 yards in the second half,
An in-depth look at the record will show the Diablos’ ride actually began Sept. 12, 2014 with a victory against visiting La Habra. That was Brock Johnson’s first victory as Mission Viejo’s starting quarterback and the Diablos haven’t lost since, a streak that now stands at a state-leading 28 games.
“(I’m) very, very happy, but also sad that it’s over,” he said. “It’s bittersweet. I couldn’t ... have a better way to go out.”
Chambers showed his emotion by taking a knee early in the postgame celebration.
"He's just thrilled," Bob Johnson said of the senior. "It's his senior year. It's all over with."
Mission Viejo’s defense positioned the Diablos in the middle of the second quarter for their first score. A tackle for loss on third down by safety Cade Covarrubias forced Bellarmine to punt from its 19 as Mission Viejo took over at the Bellarmine 48.
The Diablos drove for a 13-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Griffin on third-and-8 with 3:28 left in the half. The 10-play drive featured a leaping 27-yard reception by Brenden Schooler on third-and-14 and fourth-down sneak by Johnson. Brenden Schooler outleaped two defenders on his reception.
Mission Viejo’s defense forced another punt on the next possession as Bellarmine misplayed a flea-flicker attempt deep in its territory and Mission Viejo's Trennan Carlson added another tackle for loss. The Diablos took over at the Bells’ 40 and wasted no time attacking.
Johnson faked the handoff, rolled right and threw on the run deep for sophomore Austin Osborne, who beat two defenders for a 40-yard touchdown. Johnson’s 2-point conversion pass to Osborne failed.
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