High school football: Vista Murrieta has a special look

Eric Sondheimer
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Vista Murrieta has gotten exceptional play from special teams in playoffs

Vista Murrieta (11-2) is making its sixth consecutive appearance in a Southern Section championship football game, and the Broncos can thank the players on their special teams.

During the West Valley Division playoffs, the Broncos have blocked two field goals and two punts. They've also returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.

"We spend as much time on special teams as offense and defense," Coach Coley Candaele said.

Vista Murrieta has also scored on defense with interceptions and fumble recoveries. In other words, beware of the opportunistic Broncos, who face Mission Viejo in Saturday's 2 p.m. final at Angel Stadium.

"We did struggle early," Candaele said. "However, I was so proud of our team and the way we developed and came a long ways. We went from having low expectations to having very high expectations. I think everyone counted us out after the first four or five games, and because of that, our kids got super hungry."

The big change was moving Kyle Williams from receiver to quarterback, and by midseason, when he began to get comfortable in his new position, the Broncos took off.

"At the end of the season, you get tired," Candaele said. "Our kids are ready to roll."

Dorsey's decision

One day after telling Coach Paul Knox that he would no longer be the football coach at Dorsey after 30 seasons, Principal Reginald Sample released a statement clarifying his decision, saying he was seeking a full-time teacher and head coach. Sample indicated he wanted Knox to stay at Dorsey in a different capacity, helping recruit students to attend Dorsey's Magnet Program.

"I see this as closing one chapter in his successful career and opening a new chapter on a more macro level to make an even greater impact on the football program in the area of coaching and player development and community relations," Sample said in the statement. "This is a great way to honor a man who has done so much for this school and community.".

Knox has said he was disappointed to be replaced as coach.

Playoff plan

The CIF state bowl games begin next week with regional championships, but there will be no regional games in the Open Division. Two teams will be chosen and each will have two weeks to prepare for the final.

It's likely the winner of the Pac-5 Division championship game between Corona Centennial and St. John Bosco will play Concord De La Salle in the Open Division bowl game on Dec. 20 at StubHub Center in Carson.

Close calls

No team has had a more challenging road in the Pac-5 playoffs than Centennial. It started with a 68-64 shootout victory over Gardena Serra, followed by a 27-24 win over Mater Dei and then a 38-37 win over Bishop Amat.

"I've never been prouder and seen a team develop as much as this team has, and what they've shown in the last three weeks in terms of what we've gone through with injuries and the way the games have gone back and forth," Coach Matt Logan said. "The resilience and the toughness they've shown has been amazing. It's beyond words how proud I am of these guys."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: LATSondheimer

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