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Mission Viejo finds spark to get past Mater Dei
The Diablos take over in the second half to win, 42-21, and advance to the Pac-5 title game.
SANTA ANA - A trick play and aggressive defense sparked Mission Viejo in the second half against Mater Dei on Friday.
The Diablos' ground attack and Tre Madden applied the finishing touches as Mission Viejo stormed to a 42-21 victory in a Pac-5 Division semifinal in front of almost 10,000 spectators at Santa Ana Stadium.
Mission Viejo fell to Servite in last season's semifinal but could face the defending champion Friars in next Saturday's Pac-5 final at Angel Stadium. Servite plays host to Alemany in the other semifinal Friday night at Cerritos College.
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So the top-seeded Diablos (13-0) want the No. 2 seed Friars (12-0), right?
"Doesn't matter," Mission Viejo senior Frank Q. Randall said. "They can come get us. ... If they are calling our name, they got us."
Mission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford threw for 164 yards and three touchdowns and the Diablos intercepted three passes.
The Diablos also held Mater Dei to 75 yards rushing on a night in which the Monarchs (8-5) played without starting back Corbin Anderson (school issue).
But it was hard not to notice Randall. His "Q" stands for quad because he is Frank Randall IV. His key play arrived in the third quarter.
The speedy receiver snapped a 14-14 tie by scoring on a 29-yard reverse. Bridgford ended up as the lead blocker on a play the Diablos ran for the first time this season.
"We practiced it all week," Randall said of the reverse. "We executed well on offense, we executed well on defense and we had a (heck) of a second half."
Mission Viejo's Michael Connell and Michael Schmall then recorded sacks on Mater Dei's next two possessions.
Bridgford used a short pump fake to add a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide out Bryan Keller with 2:27 left in the third as the Diablos opened a 28-14 lead.
Mission Viejo's defense remained tough on Mater Dei's ensuing possession. On a third-and-5, the Diablos dropped Madden into coverage on his fellow USC commit, wide out Victor Blackwell, on a short route.
Sophomore Max Redfield intercepted a pass over the middle and returned the ball 17 yards to Mater Dei's 38 with 1:22 left in the third.
The Diablos then drove for a 1-yard touchdown dive by Madden to take a 35-14 lead with 7:49 left in the fourth.
"The whole second half was big," Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said. "We didn't like the first half. Not just the 14-14 (at halftime). ... We just didn't play our kind of football."
Mission Viejo saved fullback Jaheel Pinner for the second half and he rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries. Mission Viejo also got 78 yards from running back Dallas Kessman en route to finishing with 190 yards on the ground.
Randall also scored the tying touchdown late in the second quarter. With 1:08 left in the half, Randall caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Bridgford as the Diablos tied the score, 14-14.
Mater Dei nearly prevented the score on the play before Randall's score. On a third-and-20 from the Mater Dei 33, cornerback Glen Raphael grabbed an interception but Mater Dei was called for pass interfence and the play was nullified.
Both offenses opened fast. On the game's third play from scrimmage, Bridgford found wide receiver Austin Reuland open in the flat and the junior turned up field for a 54-yard touchdown 1:06 into the first.
Mater Dei responded 23 seconds later on a 17-yard touchdown run by Freddie Mora. The score was set up by a 52-yard kickoff return by sophomore Treavon Coley to the Diablos 36. After a 19-yard gain by Josh Valdivia, Mora tied the score at 7.
In the second quarter, Mater Dei took a 14-7 lead as quarterback Max Wittek tossed a 27-yard touchdown to Blackwell. The senior capped a 59-yard drive making a leaping catch near the 10 and spinning before reaching the end zone with 7:03 left in the first half.
Blackwell later added a 47-yard touchdown reception but Mission Viejo had already put the game out of reach. The Diablos reached their first Pac-5 Division final and first section title game since their Division 2 title season of 2004.
"I just want our kids there. I love this team," said Johnson, who is taking his ninth team to the section finals. "I've experienced it and it doesn't get old."
Madden showed his athleticism by diving to recover the ensuing onside kick. He also intercepted a pass with just over two minutes left that allowed Mission Viejo to run out the clock.
"He can do a lot of things," Johnson said of Madden. "Best player in the county - if not the state."