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Mission Viejo defeats Orange Lutheran in dramatic fashion

Mission Viejo defeats Orange Lutheran in dramatic fashion
Quarterback Joey Yellen of Mission Viejo talks with coach Rob Johnson. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

There’s no shortage of dramatics when Orange Lutheran and Mission Viejo clash on the football field.

The Lancers and Diablos dueled in the playoffs last season, and Friday’s nonleague contest at Orange Coast College was decided on a missed 30-yard field goal by the Lancers with two seconds left, as the sixth-ranked Diablos escaped with a 37-35 victory over No. 5 Orange Lutheran.

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The Akili Arnold nightmare continued for Orange Lutheran (3-2).

Arnold ran all over the Lancers last season in a Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinal victory to the tune of 324 yards and five touchdowns, and used his dynamic playmaking ability to break open this one, as well.

The versatile senior, who plays both sides of the ball and returns kickoffs and punts, returned a 94-yard kickoff for a touchdown, had a 72-yard punt return that set up a short-field touchdown and had a 47-yard touchdown catch for Mission Viejo (6-0).

Mission Viejo trailed 28-17 after a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Lancers linebacker Jackson Cloyd at the 7:04 mark of the third quarter, and that’s when Arnold went into action.

His kick return touchdown cut the deficit to 28-24, and he followed with the punt return to set up a two-yard touchdown run from Jamari Ferrell to give Mission Viejo its first lead, 31-28, at the 5:06 mark.

Arnold capped his performance with the 47-yard score for a 37-28 lead with 6:44 to go. He finished with six catches for 88 yards; Ferrell had 171 yards and two scores.

Orange Lutheran cut its deficit to 37-35, on a 23-yard run from Cooper Vander Hill with 5:26 to play. But Ashton Logan pulled the potential winning kick wide left.

The Lancers scored on their first possession: Vander Hill capped the seven-play, 72-yard drive with a 16-yard run.

Orange Lutheran took advantage of a bad snap to the Mission Viejo punter and struck quickly on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Hilinski to Josiah Hawkins for a 14-0 lead. But Mission Viejo scored the next 10 points.

Hilinski (20 of 40, 229 yards, two TDs) found his favorite target, Kyle Ford, for a 41-yard gain to set up a 39-yard connection with Ford in the end zone, good for a 21-10 lead with 5:12 to play in the half.

The first-half shootout continued with Diablos quarterback Joey Yellen finding Mavin Anderson for a 21-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 21-17 late in the half.

Yellen was 24 for 39 for 267 yards and two touchdowns.

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