What had been incentive for San Clemente became its albatross in the end.
For 17 years, the third-ranked Tritons had played patsy for Capistrano Valley. In 17 games, they had only a tie for their efforts. That winless streak was extended Friday, as painful as it was for the Tritons to accept.
Capistrano Valley's 19-10 victory at San Clemente left the Tritons stunned as the Cougars celebrated as if they had won the South Coast League title.
"Eighteen years, 18 years," Capistrano Valley running back Charlie Landrigan said. "Last year, I was on the first Capistrano Valley team that failed to make the playoffs. I was not going to be on the first Capistrano Valley team in 17 years to lose to San Clemente.
"That's all we thought about all week."
When Brett Thompson made his fourth field goal with 1 minute 31 seconds left, the fifth-ranked Cougars (6-1, 2-0) had continued what they considered tradition--beating San Clemente. The closet the Tritons have come was a 14-14 tie in 1991.
It was Thompson who made the key plays with his usual skill and a little extra. He had field goals from 32, 41, 35 and 42 yards--matching his season total. He also made the key play on the Cougars' only touchdown drive.
Capistrano Valley appeared to be stopped on fourth and four at the San Clemente 41. But Thompson, not the Cougars' regular punter, completed a nine-yard pass to Rik Currier on a fake punt.
It led to a eight-yard touchdown scramble to quarterback Austin Moherman.
"I've never thrown a pass in a game before," Thompson said. "But I do play receiver in practice, so using my hands is not foreign to me."
Capistrano Valley had a modest night on offense. Moherman threw for 222 yards, but 73 came on a flea-flicker that led to Thompson's first field goal. Running back Malaefou MacKenzie, playing with a back injury, gained 78 yards, with 74 coming in the second half.
San Clemente seemed to move the ball with ease. The Tritons had 366 yards, including 203 yards rushing by Ryan Davis.
"We thought they were a better team than us," Cougar Coach Dave Brown said. "We knew were going to have to play a perfect game."
They didn't in the first half. The Tritons pushed the Cougar defense back on every possession, but had only one touchdown to show for it.
On their first drive, the Tritons got within inches of the goal line, only to have consecutive penalties stop them. The drive ended with a bad snap on a field-goal attempt.
San Clemente got to the Cougar 13 and 20 on its next two drives. Both times Coach Mark McElroy decided against a field-goal attempt on fourth down. Both times the Tritons came up short.
Davis scored on an 18-yard touchdown run, breaking three tackles, with a minute left in the half. It gave the Tritons a 7-3 halftime lead.