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PREP FOOTBALL : South Coast League : Mission Viejo Makes the Playoffs

Times Staff Writer

Mission Viejo High School cruised through its first seven games unbeaten, enjoying a banner season with visions of winning a league title and gaining a playoff berth.

But then the Diablos met rivals Capistrano Valley and El Toro, which tied and defeated the Diablos in consecutive weeks. Besides threatening Mission Viejo’s title chances, the losses could have bumped the Diablos from the playoffs.

But Mission Viejo regrouped Thursday night, putting two proven running backs, Darrin Sweazy and Todd Yert, on defense, just for variety’s sake. The move paid off as the Diablo defense twice stifled Irvine on key plays in the fourth quarter to preserve a 14-13 South Coast League win in front of 2,000 at Mission Viejo Stadium.

The Diablos improved to 4-1-1, putting them in a second-place tie with Capistrano Valley and guaranteeing them a spot in the CIF Southern Section Southern Conference playoffs.

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A coin flip will be held today between Mission Viejo and Capistrano Valley to determine which team will be the league’s second- and third-place representative in the playoffs, assuming El Toro defeats San Clemente tonight.

Should the Chargers (4-1) lose, they will fall to third place and the Mission Viejo-Capistrano Valley coin flip would then determine the league’s top two positions.

But the Diablos are just happy to have made the playoffs.

“After those last two games it’s good to be back in the win column,” said Bill Crow, Mission Viejo coach. “It has been two rough weeks. We’ll take a win, whether it’s by one point or 50.”

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Thursday, one point was enough, thanks to a Diablo defense that tightened when it had to. Irvine moved the ball well between the 20-yard lines, but had trouble scoring.

With Mission Viejo leading, 14-7, Irvine capped a 13-play, 73-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by halfback Mike Steinke with 9:22 to play.

The Vaqueros went for the two-point conversion, but on a run-pass option play, the Diablos strung Irvine quarterback Jimmy Raye to the far sideline before Yert and linebacker David Bancroft forced him out of bounds. That kept the Diablos ahead, 14-13, but the Vaqueros weren’t through yet.

Later, with 2:40 to play and Irvine on its 47 and facing a fourth-down-and-eight situation, Bancroft intercepted a Raye pass to preserve the win. Irv--Renteria 44 run (Koutoures kick)

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MV--Yert 2 run (Roberson kick)

MV--Doran 20 pass from Murphy (Roberson kick)

Irv--Steinke 5 run (run failed)

Attendance--2,000

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