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Memories Await Mission Viejo on Historical Football Trip to Washington, D.C.

Memories Await Mission Viejo on Historical Football Trip to Washington, D.C.

Mission Viejo High School in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Sept. 18, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

9/18/2023

Updated: 9/19/2023

MISSION VIEJO, Calif.—An emotional letdown would be only natural for Mission Viejo High School’s football team after its thrilling 34-28, triple-overtime victory in last week’s collision with fellow Orange County power Los Alamitos.
The Diablos, though, should have no such concerns given that they will spend this week on what amounts to a dream high school field trip. Mission Viejo is set to face nationally renowned St. John’s College High School on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C.
They’re also scheduled to visit some of this country’s most famous sites, including the White House, the U.S. Capitol building, and the Lincoln Memorial.
The five-day trip beginning Sept. 20 continues a long Mission Viejo tradition of such excursions, not only for sports teams, but also for the school’s choir, drumline, drama club, and other entities.
Draiden Trudeau, No. 10, on Mission Viejo High School’s football team. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)

Draiden Trudeau, No. 10, on Mission Viejo High School’s football team. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)

“We’ve always thought it was important to take kids on meaningful, historical trips,” Assistant Principal of Athletics Troy Roelen told The Epoch Times. “We think we owe it to our kids and our surrounding community to provide these opportunities for growth.”
That philosophy is a perfect fit for Coach Chad Johnson, who is in his sixth year leading the Diablos’ football program and his 23rd year as a high school history teacher.
“The only times I’ve been to our nation’s capital have been on football trips,” Mr. Johnson told The Epoch Times. “Some of these kids will never be there if not for us doing this. There are so many times where you have kids who haven’t even been on an airplane before.”
A former assistant coach at Trabuco Hills in Mission Viejo and St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Mr. Johnson admittedly got “a little choked up” when recalling the famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington.
“It is such a powerful thing, and you can’t really explain it until you’re there,” Mr. Johnson said. “I can talk about it in my class. It’s one thing to see it in a book. It’s one thing to see it on YouTube. It’s another thing to be standing right there. You can just feel the gravity and power of it.”
In addition to pre-arranged tours of the White House and the Capitol, plans also call for visits to the Library of Congress and Arlington National Cemetery, a practice session at the University of Maryland, and a tour of a nearby Under Armour facility.
The visit to Washington is a fitting follow-up to last week’s Mission for the Armed Forces Game, an annual Mission Viejo tradition complete with fireworks to honor military veterans. It marked the only time all season that the Diablos will wear names on the back of their jerseys, and they weren’t players’ names, but rather those of veterans.
“Our kids are pretty cognizant of the fact that people are defending this country and the freedoms we have to play football on Friday nights,” said Mr. Roelen, the assistant principal of athletics.
Mission Viejo High School in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Sept. 18, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mission Viejo High School in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Sept. 18, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Perhaps no Diablos player is enjoying this window in time more than junior safety Eli Reyes. Making his first career varsity start last week because of an injury to standout senior Travis Anderson, Reyes recovered a third-quarter fumble and then sealed Mission Viejo’s pulsating victory with a pass interception on the final play of the third overtime.
“It’s surreal,” Reyes told The Epoch Times. “I’ve never been on a plane before. I’ve never been out of state, so I’m just excited to be on a plane, to travel to Washington. We’re going to the White House, so that’ll be really fun. I’m excited about the whole thing. We are very fortunate. We have lots of good sponsors and people, family members who are willing to donate to the trip and help us do these fun things.”
Junior quarterback Draiden Trudeau, who shares time at football’s most visible position with sophomore Luke Fahey, is a self-described “big history fan.”
“Coach Johnson is a history teacher, so I bet he’s the most excited out of all of us,” Trudeau told The Epoch Times. “To build memories like this, things we can talk to our kids about in some years, I’m really grateful to this program and all it’s given me.”
Draiden Trudeau, No. 10, on Mission Viejo High School’s football team. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)

Draiden Trudeau, No. 10, on Mission Viejo High School’s football team. (Courtesy of Anthony Miller)

Mr. Johnson predicted the players’ gratitude will be considerably more profound after the fact, even on the airplane flight home.
“My thing is I want to make memories, man,” he said. “Most of my most fond memories are with my high school teammates, and I think this is a special time in young men’s lives. It’s part of my job to get them from 14-year-old boys and turn them into men and teach them all the things football can teach – the character, the teamwork, perseverance, all those great things. But I also want to make memories for my players, and that’s what this trip is about.”
And, oh yeah, there will also be a football game to play.
The Diablos will put their 4-1 record on the line against a St. John’s team that is 2-1, with its only loss to another national power, American Heritage of Plantation, Florida.
“They’re really good, really big,” Mr. Johnson said. “We have our work cut out for us.”
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Dan Wood

Dan Wood

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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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