The sixth-ranked Mission Viejo High football team is still unblemished on the season after a 28-14 home victory Friday night over La Habra, but first-year head coach Chad Johnson had some stern words for his Diablos postgame.
“This might count as a win on paper,” he yelled to his tightly huddled team. “But we might as well count this as a loss.”
The reason Johnson was so upset was a direct result of the lackluster second-half effort, a final 24 minutes that featured the Diablos scoring only seven points while punting twice and giving up a safety because of poor field position.
“We played really poorly,” Johnson said. “That was pretty embarrassing. We were just out to lunch and I think we had a penalty on every offensive drive in the second half. It was just bad.”
Despite the tongue-lashing from Johnson, there were some bright spots for Mission Viejo (3-0), a majority of those coming in the first half.
The Diablos moved the ball with efficiency on their first two drives as senior quarterback Joey Yellen, an Arizona State commit, hit receivers JoJo Forest and Deavyn Woullard for gains of 18 and 19 yards, respectively, to set up an eight-yard touchdown run from Jamari Ferrell on Mission Viejo’s opening drive of the night.
After forcing La Habra to a quick three-and-out, the Diablos struck again as Ferrell capped a 12 play, 90-yard scoring drive with a three-yard run with 31 seconds left in the first quarter, giving Mission Viejo an early 14-0 cushion.
Forest opened the second quarter by intercepting La Habra’s Ryan Zanelli and taking it back 51 yards for a touchdown, providing more breathing room for the Mission Viejo offense that would sputter shortly after the halftime break.
La Habra (0-3) earned its first six points at the 7:24 mark of the second quarter on a jump-ball pass from Zanelli to Clark Phillips III. Phillips’ acrobatic sideline catch just inside the pylon sealed the score for the Highlanders.
Mission Viejo opened the third quarter with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Yellen to Forest, extending its lead to 28-6, at the 11:06 mark of the quarter, but would need some goal-line defensive heroics to keep La Habra at bay.
The Diablos stopped the Highlanders twice on short-yardage fourth-and-goal situations with key pass breakups in the secondary.