Free safety Jeremy Brion intercepted three passes that led to two touchdowns Thursday and Capistrano Valley High School opened its football season with a 29-15 victory over Honolulu Damien at Aloha Stadium.
Brion was named the player of the game after running for a touchdown, scoring on a two-point conversion run and intercepting three passes by Damien quarterback Francis Breckterfield.
“You could tell who he was going to throw to by watching his eyes,” said Brion, a two-time All-South Coast League selection. “Sometimes, you could tell who he was going to throw to before the snap.”
Brion intercepted a pass at the Capistrano Valley 16-yard line midway through the first quarter and returned it 41 yards to end Damien’s first scoring threat.
But he was just getting started.
Brion opened the second half by intercepting a pass at the Capistrano Valley 39 and returning it 12 yards. The play set up a four-yard touchdown run by Brion, who made his debut at tailback, with 10:45 remaining in the third quarter. The score gave Capistrano Valley a 15-7 lead.
Capistrano Valley’s offense was sluggish throughout the first half when the Cougars fell behind, 7-0, but quarterback Tony Solliday sparked a strong third-quarter by throwing two touchdown passes to wide receiver Scott Patton.
Solliday teamed with Patton on a perfectly timed 35-yard touchdown pass over the middle that pushed Capistrano Valley ahead, 22-7, and then Brion set up the Cougars’ third score of the quarter with a diving, over-the-shoulder interception at the Cougars’ five-yard line late in the quarter.
Brion’s third interception paved the way for Solliday’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Patton with 48 seconds left in the third quarter, giving Capistrano Valley a 29-8 lead. Solliday completed 15 of 23 pass attempts for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
Solliday missed his first three passes, but got hot in the second quarter and connected on seven consecutive passes. Solliday, the South Coast League’s most valuable player as a junior, said the heat on Aloha Stadium’s turf made for a big adjustment.
“I had never played on the turf, and we had a couple of mix-ups on the line in the first quarter,” Solliday said. “But after the first quarter, I had all the time I wanted to throw. I think our passing game might be better than last year’s.”
Capistrano Valley Coach Eric Patton said beating the heat and getting into an offensive rhythm was the key to his team’s turnaround in the second half.
“It was 107 degrees on the field when the game started and we had trouble getting any consistency from our offense in the first half,” Patton said. “Tony completed a couple of short passes that got our confidence going, and Jeremy had one of his best games.
“The game showcased Jeremy’s talents. There isn’t much he can’t do on a football field. He’s a great athlete.”
Brion said he has improved his speed since last season and felt strong in the second half. Patton has emphasized conditioning and the Cougars appeared to wear down Damien in the second half.
“The second half is usually when we’re strongest,” Brion said. “We lost (tailback) Paul Shaheen from last year’s team, but I think our offense is better this year. I’ve wanted to play offensively for the past two years, but our coaches kept me on defense.”
Brion is being counted on to replace the graduated Shaheen and he responded by rushing for 58 yards in 10 carries.
But defense will continue to be Brion’s forte. He has 11 career interceptions and is being recruited by Colorado, Washington and USC among the major colleges.
“If anybody on this team is going Division I, it’s Jeremy,” Solliday said.