MISSION VIEJO - Sparked for the second consecutive week by the big-play exploits of junior safety Hunter Remington, the Mission Viejo defense proved to be all the offense the team needed to advance in the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division playoffs
Remington returned two of the Diablos' four interceptions for touchdowns in the first half as the Diablos defeated Westlake High of Westlake Village, 42-10, in a first-round game Friday night at Mission Viejo High.
"With our corners and our safeties, things have clicked for us," Remington said. "We've been able to be in the right spots at the right times."
Remington had three interceptions in last week's victory over El Toro, returning one for a touchdown. As a team, the Diablos have now recorded 10 interceptions in their past two games.
"If we keep doing some of the things that we've been doing, this defense can do great things," Remington said.
Mission Viejo (11-0), the No.2 seed in the Pac-5 Division playoffs, will play host to Long Beach Poly in the second round next week. The Jackrabbits defeated Bishop Amat of La Puente, 40-25 in a first-round game at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.
"We're really coming together and playing as a team," Diablos coach Bob Johnson said. "Our defense helped carry us tonight. We've got Poly at home next week and they are a team that seems to peak at the right time. It should be a great game."
Westlake (6-5) took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a 28-yard field goal by sophomore quarterback Kevin Robledo.
The Warriors forced a punt from the Diablos offense and were poised to add to their lead near the midway point of the quarter. They drove to the Diablos 8-yard line, but a fumbled handoff by junior Neil Uskali was recovered by senior Garrett Marino at the Diablos' 16 to end the threat. Using a well-balanced mix of run and pass, the Diablos took a 7-3 lead with 2:33 left in the first quarter as Marino powered into the end zone from 2 yards out.
Westlake , which outgained the Diablos 199-126 in in the first half, marched into Mission Viejo territory on its' next possession, but on 4th-and 13 from the Diablos 34, Remington corralled an errant pass from Uskali at the Diablos' 11 and returned it 89 yards to give Mission Viejo a 14-3 lead.
"It was a last second decision for the quarterback, and when I caught it, all I saw was an open field in front of me," Remington said.
Diablos senior Max Redfield made it 21-3 with 4:30 to go in the second quarter as he stepped in front of an Uskali pass and raced 79 yards into the end zone.
"The quarterback stared at his receiver," Redfield said. "I had my eyes on the end zone the whole time and the guys did a great job blocking."
Remington capped the defensive scoring explosion with just under three minutes to go in the half as he plucked an Uskali pass and sprinted 42 yards into the end zone, giving the Diablos a 28-3 lead.
"I was telling myself that I better score on this one too," Remington said. "I saw No. 9 (Westlake running back Dashon Hunt) coming and I knew I had to beat him to the end zone."
The Warriors narrowed the lead to 28-10 with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter, as Uskali connected with junior Alex Egurbide on an eight yard touchdown pass on fourth and goal.
Following an 15-yard interception return by Diablos senior Ryan Pesak, junior fullback Daniel Marx powered in from one-yard out to give Mission Viejo a 35-10 lead with 10:28 remaining.
Junior Alex Suchesk, who gained 77 yards on 18 carries, scored the final points of the game on a three yard touchdown run with 5:58 remaining.