HUNTINGTON BEACH – The best season for a Huntington Beach High football team in nearly two decades came to an end Friday night before a full house at Cap Sheue Field.
The Oilers traded punches with No. 2-seeded Mission Viejo in their CIF Southern Section Pac-5 quarterfinal game but it was the visiting Diablos who were left standing after scoring a wild, 41-31 victory.
Huntington trailed, 31-10, after three quarters but scored 14 straight points early in the fourth quarter to pull within 34-24 with 8:11 left to play. The Oilers could get no closer.
The win sends Mission Viejo (10-2) to next week's semifinals. The Diablos will face Santa Margarita on Dec. 2.
Huntington finished 9-3 for its best showing since 1993,
Oilers fifth-year head coach Eric Lo said two days before the big game that Mission Viejo would be the toughest opponent his team would face this year. After four quarters Friday, nothing changed his mind.
"They're a very good, sound football team and the best we faced this year," he said. "But I was proud of our guys. [Mission Viejo] is one of the top teams in the county, and we were right there with them.
"We competed very hard and never gave up. We fell behind but kept fighting and our guys gave it everything they possibly could. They left it all on the field and that's all we [coaches] could ask for. We just never gave up."
The Oilers didn't. They could have, after the Diablos took their biggest lead, 34-10, on a three-yard touchdown run by Buzzy Yokoyama with 13 seconds left in the third quarter. It was the third TD run of the night for the transfer from Newport Harbor.
"It's tough to come back from that much down but our guys just kept fighting," Lo said. "The game could have been over at that point but our guys have a lot of pride and I was proud of how they charged back. We got the momentum on our side in the fourth quarter and it could have been even closer."
Huntington drew to within 34-17 when sophomore Kai Ross took in a 13-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Michael Chislock with 8:11 remaining. The Oilers got the ball right back when senior strong safety John Bridges recovered an onside kick at midfield. Three plays later, Chislock threw across field to a wide open Chris Ogilvie in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. Thomas Harer's conversion made it 34-24 with 7:35 to go.
Huntington appeared to have the chance to do even more damage when senior cornerback Jacob Lainson intercepted quarterback Alex Bridgford on Mission Viejo's first play from scrimmage after the Chislock-to-Ross score, but the Oilers were called for a late hit on Bridgford and the Diablos retained possession. Huntington got the ball back with 5:16 left but on fourth-and-10 from his own 37, a Chislock scramble fell six yards shy of first down and the Diablos took over on downs. Seven plays later, Yokoyama scored his fourth touchdown on a 15-yard, tackle-breaking run.
Mission Viejo had a 41-27 lead with 1:47 left but Huntington scored a minute later when Ross caught his second TD pass from Chislock to again make it a 10-point game, 41-31. The Oilers failed on an ensuing onside kick and the Diablos were able to run the clock out.
Huntington, which went on the road last week and knocked off Loyola in a first-round game, showed no intention of playing it safe Friday. They went for it on fourth-and-two from their own 49 on the game's first possession. Although Chislock's pass fell incomplete, the Oilers showed they would not back down.
They didn't, either, when Yokoyama scored on a 17-yard run that made it 7-0 with 3:21 left in the first quarter. The run came one play after the Diablos were successful on a fourth-down gamble of their own. Receiver Austin Reuland made a high, one-handed catch along the Mission Viejo sideline and landed just inbounds for a gain that went for 14 yards and got the first down by just inches. Huntington retaliated when Chislock lofted a fourth-down pass toward Ramon Vargas and the speedy senior receiver got under the ball at the three and went into the end zone to complete a 36-yard pass play. Harer's kick tied the score, 7-7, with 1:42 left in the quarter.
Yokoyama scored on a 13-yard run on the final play of the first quarter. The Diablos fumbled the snap on the point-after and were left with a 13-7 lead.
Huntington reached the Mission Viejo five-yard line early in the second quarter but couldn't get into the end zone. After three incomplete passes, Harer came on to boot a 23-yard field goal. The Oilers had closed the gap to 13-10 with 9:29 left in the quarter. The Diablos, though, took control by scoring twice in the final 6:58 of the half. First, Bridgford sent a screen pass to running back Jahleel Pinner and the USC commit turned it into a 23-yard touchdown. Bridgford later hit Max Redfield for a 26-yard gain on the Diablos' next possession to put the ball at the Huntington 21 and on the next play, teamed with Redfield again for a 21-yard scoring pass to make it 27-10.
The Oilers moved 45 yards down to the Mission Viejo 35 with 24 seconds left in the half but four-straight incompletion passes gave the Diablos the ball back with six seconds before intermission.
In other local CIF football action Friday:
Beckman 62, Ocean View 24
The Seahawks, who won their first postseason game in school history last week, were knocked out of the playoffs Friday by top-ranked Beckman at Ocean View.
Ocean View, the second-place team from the Golden West League, defeated Santa Ana Valley, 26-21, in a first-round game on Nov. 18. The Seahawks end their season at 6-6.
The Patriots, now 10-2, advance to face Estancia in the division semifinals on Dec. 2.