April 24, 2024

Ahead by 13 points late in the first half of Saturday night’s Southern Section Division 2 championship football game, Mission Viejo lined up for a field-goal attempt to tack on three more.

To the surprise of many in the stadium, holder Luke Fahey took the snap and instead of placing the ball down he got to his feet, spun to his right and tossed a pass to wide-open tight end Jack Matranga in the flat for a five-yard touchdown that embodied the Diablos’ aggressive approach throughout their 34-15 victory over Servite.

“We just put that play in this week — our coaches emphasize special teams and that was an ideal time to call it,” said Matranga, who proved his sure-handedness with another grab on a trick play, this one from punter Michael Selgado-Medina, to keep a drive alive in the fourth quarter. “I was nervous because I haven’t caught a pass since my freshman year, but it worked as perfectly as it could. I caught it at the two- or three-yard line and walked in.”

As it has all season, Mission Viejo used two quarterbacks on alternating possessions, and while both were effective, this was Fahey’s night to shine.

He threw three touchdown passes — two to his favorite target and longtime friend Vance Spafford. Fellow junior Draiden Trudeau threw for 57 yards and engineered the Diablos’ other two scoring drives, which ended on runs by Davonte Curtis and Hinesward Lilomaiava.

Mission Viejo running back Davonte Curtis celebrates his four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter Saturday night.

Mission Viejo running back Davonte Curtis celebrates his four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the Southern Section Division 2 championship game victory over Servite on Saturday night.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Lilomaiava finished with 80 yards in 16 carries.

Sixth-year coach Chad Johnson became a believer in the two-quarterback philosophy when he was the offensive coordinator at St. John Bosco and witnessed Corona Centennial score 62 points against his team rotating two quarterbacks in the Southern Section Pac-5 championship game in 2015.

Spafford caught four passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including a 33-yard reception on Mission Viejo’s first drive and a 90-yarder in stride that put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.

“They both do a great job and both are good at finding me when they need to,” Spafford said of the Diablos’ duo. “It’s not hard adjusting to having two quarterbacks at all because both are capable of making great plays running or throwing. On the last one we called a deep pass and I just ran past them.”

Mission Viejo was just as impressive on defense, limiting Servite’s rushing leader Quaid Carr to 49 yards in 14 carries— the first time in seven games he was held under 100 yards. Carr did score on a five-yard run in the third quarter, but by then the Friars were far behind.

“Servite is a great team with great players and coaches, but we made sure we knew where No. 21 was at all times,” said Matranga, who also plays defensive end and linebacker. “We knew stopping the run would be a key.”

Mission Viejo linebacker Jack Matranga tackles Servite tailback Quaid Carr in the backfield Saturday night.

Mission Viejo linebacker Jack Matranga tackles Servite tailback Quaid Carr in the backfield in the first quarter of the Southern Section Division 2 championship game Saturday night.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Dijon Lee and Jeron Jones each had an interception for the fourth-seeded Diablos (11-3), who captured their eighth Southern Section crown and first since the last of their five titles under coach Bob Johnson (no relation to Chad) in 2015.

When brackets were released, Division 2 was pegged as one of the most unpredictable and that was the case as the three highest seeds (Rancho Cucamonga, Long Beach Poly and Gardena Serra) were all upset, the last two by Servite in back-to-back weeks.

Seventh-seeded Servite (8-6) was denied its sixth section title and first since winning the Pac-5 Division in 2009 and 2010. Servite lost the Division 1 final 27-7 to Mater Dei in 2021.

Friars quarterback Leo Hannan threw for 170 yards and Aidan O’Callaghan caught eight passes for 105 yards. Sophomore backup quarterback Camren Hughes scored the game’s last touchdown on a 78-yard run with 1:46 left.

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