Both Teams Hurting After Villa Park Beats Mission Viejo

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After a game marred by injuries to both teams, Villa Park football Coach Pat Mahoney was just glad to see it end Thursday night.

Junior running back Grant Pearsall rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns as Villa Park scored on three long drives in a 21-6 nonleague victory at Mission Viejo.

The Diablos (2-3) lost not only the game, but some key players. Defensive back Sanjay Merchant (broken right ankle) and backup quarterback Jake Londe (sprained ankle) were injured Thursday.

Mission Viejo already was without running back Erick Fielding, one of Orange County's leading rushers, who sat out with a deep thigh bruise suffered against Rancho Alamitos two weeks ago.

Villa Park (3-2) escaped with only one injury--linebacker Sean Durante suffered a neck injury with 2 minutes 30 seconds left in the game.

Mahoney said Durante sat out contact drills this week with a sore neck. Durante was injured while tackling Mission Viejo quarterback Brad Weekes.

"He banged his neck (on the play)," Mahoney said. "We hope there's no nerve problem."

Villa Park punter Ryan Tsui set up Mission Viejo's only touchdown when his knee accidentally touched the ground on the snap, giving the Diablos the ball at the Spartan 47-yard line.

John Higashi carried on six of the next seven plays, including a one-yard touchdown run with 2:33 seconds left in the first quarter that gave the Diablos a 6-0 lead.

Villa Park tied it, 6-6, with a 10-play, 78-yard drive capped by a 26-yard touchdown run by Pearsall with 9:25 left in the second quarter. Sophomore Brett Polakoff's extra-point kick gave the Spartans a 7-6 lead.

The Spartans opened the second half with another 10-play, 78-yard drive, this time ending with a one-yard dive by Pearsall that gave them a 14-6 lead with 7:06 left in the third quarter.

Mission Viejo threatened early in the fourth quarter, reaching Villa Park's 15. But a 12-yard pass from Londe to Bill Pedigo at the Spartan three was negated by a Mission Viejo holding penalty.

Londe was injured on the next play, when he fumbled away the snap. Villa Park's Mike Haddad recovered. Mission Viejo didn't.

The Spartans added the clinching touchdown--a 24-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Strapp to Hector Flores--with 5:20 left in the game.

Strapp completed 10 of 14 passes for 129 yards and no interceptions. Flores caught four passes for 67 yards, and Todd Jackson caught five passes for 50 yards.

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