Mission Viejo’s front seven are magnificent once again against La Habra

(Daniel Thornberg)

There were plenty of stories written and tweets sent over the last few weeks about how difficult it is to run against the Mission Viejo front seven.

Coming into Friday night’s nonleague game against La Habra, Diablos coach Chad Johnson said the Highlanders’ offense would be the biggest test for his defense.

Mark it down as another message sent by the Mission Viejo defense.


The Diablos, a week removed from allowing only three yards rushing to Santa Margarita, built upon that performance against La Habra, holding the Highlanders to minus-12 yards rushing in 11 carries en route to a 23-6 road victory.

“They are as good as advertised,” La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said. “It wasn’t a mystery and we had some ideas, but our quarterback needed more time.”

Mission Viejo (3-0), No. 4 in The Times’ rankings, gave up a first-half score to No. 22 La Habra (2-1) after a short punt and a personal foul penalty gave the Highlanders good field position, but pitched a second-half shutout.

A look at how The Times’ top 25 high school football teams fared on Friday.

“This is probably the best front seven I’ve been around,” Johnson said. “We’re special up front and it allows our secondary to fly around and make plays. When you have four guys up front like we have, it’s a nightmare for an offensive coordinator.”

Mission Viejo’s offense turned in a slightly better performance than it did last week and opened the scoring with an 11-play, 80-yard drive and a seven-yard touchdown run from Tyson Scott. The Diablos added two more points after John Burns blocked a La Habra punt that was recovered by the Highlanders in the end zone for a safety, giving the Diablos a 9-0 advantage with 32.4 seconds left in the opening period.

The Mission Viejo defensive line did its job in the first half, holding La Habra to 42 yards of offense, including minus-six yards rushing, but the Highlanders got on the board after taking advantage of a short field. The Diablos mis-hit a punt that landed out of bounds at their own 43-yard line. Mission Viejo was then penalized 15 yards on a personal foul, giving La Habra the ball on the 29.

Highlanders quarterback Ryan Zanelli connected on an 18-yard completion to Brandon Vasquez and moved to the six after a face-mask penalty on the Diablos.

After two incomplete passes, La Habra took a chance on fourth and four, and Zanelli found Kristopher Koontz in the right corner of the end zone, cutting the deficit to 9-6 at the 6:04 mark of the second quarter.

Mission Viejo also converted a fourth down, running a fake punt for a 39-yard gain. Jacquez Robertson scored two plays later on a 10-yard run for a 16-6 lead at the break.