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San Clemente prevails over Mission Viejo for first league title since 1999

The San Clemente high school football team rid itself of two weights it has been lugging for the last 19 years with a 21-20 win Friday night over Mission Viejo.

The Tritons beat the Diablos for the first time since 1999, and San Clemente won its first South Coast League title in the same time frame.

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And the Tritons did it all without their starting quarterback for the last three quarters.

Postgame MVP chants rained down on junior backup signal caller Drayton Joseph after he entered the game for an injured Brendan Costello early in the second quarter.

Joseph completed 17 of 28 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Tritons to the victory.

Joseph’s 24-yard strike to Jaydel Jenkins gave San Clemente (6-4, 4-0)a 21-14 lead with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.

Mission Viejo (4-5, 2-1) cut the deficit to 21-20 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Joey Yellen to Akili Arnold with 3:05 left in the game.

After an encroachment penalty on the Tritons, the Diablos called a timeout and opted to try a two-point conversion, which was stuffed by the San Clemente front line.

Joseph sealed the victory with a 59-yard completion to Cian Smith up the left sideline, and Tritons fans shook the wooden stands with their feet as the black-clad team rushed the field as the clock hit zero.

The first half was marred by a couple of serious injuries and numerous penalties on both teams.

San Clemente went three-and-out on the very first possession of the game, and on the ensuing punt, a Mission Viejo player was involved in a collision that stalled the game as he was tended to by trainers and paramedics.

The game resumed after a 24-minute stoppage and the Diablos opened the scoring on a one-yard touchdown run from Jacquez Robertson, taking a 7-0 lead at 8:25 of the first quarter.

The Tritons also fell victim to injury in the opening half as starting quarterback Costello was hit hard at the end of a run on the first play of the second quarter. Costello walked off the field under his own power but was replaced by Joseph, who proceeded to throw a game-tying touchdown on athree-yard pass to Jay Bagg.

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