State’s No. 5 team from Mission Viejo pounds it out down the stretch to kill the clock in 21-14 triumph over No. 17 Vista Murrieta for the CIF Southern Section West Valley Division crown. They also clamp down the No. 2 spot in the CIF Southern California regional bowl games, which means they’ll host a Division IAA matchup next Friday.
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After all of Mission Viejo’s previous CIF Southern Section football championships, including the one in 2004 when the 14-0 Diablos were No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation, there was no talk about any games still to be played.
On Friday night at Vista Murrieta, however, the coaches knew their team had wrapped up an almost certain home game in the new CIF Division IAA four-team state bracket after a 21-14 victory over the host Broncos in the CIFSS West Valley Division final.
With the win, Mission Viejo (14-0) earned its second straight title in the division that was created last season and improved its winning streak (second-longest in the state) to 26 games.
In some years, a resume that the Diablos have built also would be strong enough to merit consideration for the CIF Open Division bowl bid from the south. This year, though, that slot will be going to the winner of Saturday night’s CIFSS Pac-5 Division championship at Angels Stadium between Corona Centennial and St. John Bosco of Bellflower.
“Do you know if we play on Friday or Saturday, because that’s the only thing I’d really need to know right now?” asked Mission Viejo head coach Bob Johnson, who won his eighth section title (including his years at El Toro). “We’ll treat it like a bowl game and start cutting our practices even more. We are excited about it to represent the school and the community.”
The Diablos, in fact, will play on Friday night, but their opponent won’t be known officially until Sunday when the CIF section commissioners meet to place all of the teams into the new 13-division format (which is being done to enable every CIF section champion to play on).
If Helix of La Mesa wins in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division final on Saturday vs. St. Augustine of San Diego, it’s likely it would be facing Mission Viejo in Division IAA. If St. Augustine wins, then likely it would be Narbonne of the L.A. City Section (which is a big favorite in its title game Saturday vs. Crenshaw).
One of St. Augustine’s two losses heading into its Saturday game was against Vista Murrieta and the Broncos (12-2) did their best in an attempt to upset the Diablos.
“I knew at the beginning that this one was going to be one of those teams that would go places and win,” Johnson said. “That’s hard to say, but after last year we knew what we had back. This one is really special.”
Vista Murrieta scored on its first series in the first half on a 31-yard TD pass from Karson Greeley to Kade Greeley (his twin brother) and also scored on its first series of the second half on a 58-yard strike from Greeley to Khalil Shakir.
In between, though, the Mission Viejo defense was able to get stops mixed in with the Broncos committing some costly penalties.
After Shakir’s touchdown tied the score at 14-14, head coach Coley Candaele’s team had two chances on offense to take the lead but were denied on downs and an interception by Mission Viejo’s Brenden Schooler, who earlier in the game caught a touchdown pass and blocked a field goal.
The play of the game may have then taken place early in the fourth quarter on a third and 11 from the Vista Murrieta 41-yard line when Diablo QB Brock Johnson, the grandson of Bob Johnson and the son of offensive coordinator Bret Johnson, flung an off-balance throw as he was falling backward and about to get sacked that was snared by receiver Olaijah Griffin and taken down to the three-yard line for a 38-yard gain.
Two plays later, the team’s other Schooler brother, Colin, punched in a two-yard touchdown for a 21-14 lead.
There was still 10:13 left in the game after Colin Schooler’s touchdown so there was plenty of time for the Broncos. They had one play to the Mission Viejo 1-yard line called back on a penalty but on two possessions did not score. They were hoping for another chance at the 6:01 mark, but never got the ball again.
Starting from its own 23, Colin Schooler and the Diablo offensive line took over. He carried on 12 straight plays, converting four first downs. After the fourth, all it took was kneel downs by Johnson to end the contest.
“We knew we were up and knew we just had to milk that clock,” said Colin Schooler. “Our o-line did a great job. Adrenaline just takes over in that situation.”
Schooler, who along with his brother helped Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo win a CIFSS title last year in the Southwest Division, also was in on numerous tackles from his linebacker position and he ended with 155 yards on 33 carries.
Johnson, who threw for seven touchdowns to break a school record in the semifinals, was limited to 161 on this night on just 8 of 22 passes, although he did have two TDs with no interceptions.
Mission Viejo’s primary focus on defense was to prevent Arizona State-bound Kyle Williams from getting any big kick returns and tackling him immediately on passing plays. Williams only had five catches for 31 yards. Karson Greeley finished unofficially 14 of 30 for 182 yards.
Like Johnson’s teammates, his dad and his grandpa, there could be concerns about CIF travel and the length of the season, but there also could be two more weeks to keep the special season going.
“I just love this,” Bob Johnson added. “I love the competition. It’s so much fun and the kids are so much fun.”