Mission Viejo wide receiver Austin Osborne walked past reporters interviewing teammate Akili Arnold and yelled “stud!” at the top of his lungs.
The one-word description was all that was needed to describe Arnold’s 324-yard, five-touchdown performance in a 48-35 win over Orange Lutheran on Friday night at Orange Coast College.
The Diablos (12-0) needed every gritty yard and explosive touchdown run from their junior running back to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals, where they will face local and national power Mater Dei, while also attempting to beat a Trinity League team for the third time in the playoffs.
When asked to describe Arnold’s performance, Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said, “I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Orange Lutheran (6-6) made a game of it, rallying from a 28-13 halftime deficit to tie the score at 28 on a six-yard touchdown run from Reggie Strong.
Arnold gave Mission Viejo a touchdown lead with an 80-yard run with 5:05 left in the third and then added a 61-yard score to give the Diablos a 41-28 advantage with 5:20 to play.
The Lancers cut the lead to 41-35 on a touchdown pass from Ryan Hilinski to Elijah Mojarro with 1:35 left.
Orange Lutheran got the ball back with 34 seconds to play with 93 yards to go for the potential win.
Diablos defensive back Ryan Kennedy wasn’t having any of that. He intercepted a pass by Hilinski, returning it 14 yards for a victory-sealing touchdown.
Mission Viejo took control on the legs of Arnold. The junior rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, including first-quarter scores of 14 and 28 yards to give the Diablos a 14-0 lead.
Orange Lutheran regrouped and got on the board in the first quarter on a 19-yard pass from Hilinski to Logan Loya.
Mission Viejo opened the scoring in the second quarter as quarterback Joey Yellen hit Elijah Collier for a 58-yard touchdown with 8:26 left before halftime, giving the Diablos a 21-6 advantage.
Orange Lutheran linebacker Drew Cornelius picked off Yellen to help set up a nine-yard score from Reggie Strong, cutting the deficit to 21-13 with 1:12 left.
Arnold raced down the left sideline for an 82-yard touchdown run just before halftime.