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Southern Conference : Mission Viejo Sloshes Past Foothill, 14-8

Times Staff Writer

Friday night’s Southern conference playoff game at Mission Viejo Stadium ought to have been the clash of an irresistible force--the Mission Viejo High School football team’s offense--against an immovable object--the Foothill defense.

Most impartial observers put their expectations firmly on the side of Foothill’s defense, a fierce unit which had allowed fewer than six points a game to its last nine opponents.

But because of an unseen element--torrential rains--the matchup that evolved was of quite a different nature.

In the end, it was the unsung Diablo defense that conquered the mud for a 14-8 victory. The crowning moment came with 9:22 left as defensive back Rick Angle intercepted Chris Fergus pass, and returned it 35 yards for his first varsity touchdown and the margin of victory.

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“I was supposed to cover the flats, and I was just doing my job,” Angle said. “I just cut in front of him (the Knights’ intended receiver) and caught it. Then I said, ‘God help me get into the end zone!’ And I got there.”

Diablo Coach Bill Crow had devoted his day to one of the unsavory aspects of a coaching staff’s job, namely field maintenance. That translated to pushing a tennis court roller around the field in the hope of making its surface somewhat less treacherous than the Florida Everglades.

As he watched the junior defensive back race into the end zone, Crow suddenly started feeling a lot better about the game, which had gone into the fourth quarter in a scoreless tie.

“I was his biggest cheerleader,” Crow said. “I was just so glad to see him down there. I was dead tired, but this makes it all worth it. I’ll do field maintenance any time for a win like this.”

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Mission Viejo (10-1-1) will advance to the quarterfinals against South Coast League rival El Toro, the only team to beat the Diablos this season.

Mission Viejo is looking forward to an opportunity to avenge itself on the Chargers.

“El Toro and us are real close--not close as in friends, but we see them around Mission Viejo a lot,” said tailback Todd Yert, who scored Friday’s first touchdown on a 1-yard plunge to cap a 13-play, 56-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

“We see them too much,” Yert said. “That’s what makes the pressure build. We’ve got something to prove. We’ve got to get our respect back.”

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Nobody was able to prove much of anything in the first half of the Foothill game, although the Knights (9-3) supposedly had a revenge factor on their side for the Diablos’ 16-13 overtime upset in the same game last season.

With small craft warnings for the middle of the field, some fans wearing trash bags as rain protection, a few cheerleaders garbed in long johns and a coach stomping around in his snowmobile boots, it was anything but easy going for the offenses.

Mission Viejo allowed two offensive opportunities for roughing Knight kickers, and Foothill returned the favor as Fergus threw two first-half interceptions. Diablo defensive lineman Craig Whitley sacked Fergus three times in the half. Neither team was able to penetrate its opponent’s 30-yard line.

Mission Viejo, which has averaged 27 points a game this season, accrued just 27 yards total offense in the first half. Foothill was not far ahead with its 63 yards. The teams, and the rain, combined for just three completed passes in the half.

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They traded fumbles to open the third quarter, and after the Knights punted, the Diablos settled down for the game’s one sustained drive. Yert and quarterback Brendan Murphy each managed enough footing to come up with big first-down carries within the Knight 20 yard-line.

“We were blasting along,” said Yert, who had his face mask broken twice. “A five-yard gain is great in a mud bowl.”

Yert, who had 25 carries for 77 yards, scored with 10:23 left. Just a minute later, Fergus’ third interception resulted in Angle’s winning touchdown.

Foothill’s defense came up with one big, but belated play as Matt Bain blocked the punt of Diablo Marc Preston with slightly more than a minute to go. One play later, Fergus completed a 39-yard pass to Keith Takabayashi, and rushed for the 2-point conversion.

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But Yert recovered the Knights’ onside kick, and the game ended, suddenly for both teams, but happily for Mission Viejo.


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