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San Clemente Embracing Huge Football Challenge Against St. John Bosco

San Clemente Embracing Huge Football Challenge Against St. John Bosco

Students play a high school game of football in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

11/7/2023

Updated: 11/7/2023

It is a daunting assignment, to be sure, but San Clemente High School’s football team is not about to back away from the challenge.
After missing out on an unbeaten regular season by the narrowest of margins, a 39–38 loss to a solid Murrieta Valley team on Sept. 22, the Tritons from Southern California’s Orange County coast landed a date opposite mighty St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
The Braves, top-ranked in California and third in the nation according to MaxPreps.com, will be the home team for the 7 p.m. Nov. 10 matchup.
“Our mantra at San Clemente High School is we only control what we can control,” Tritons Coach Jaime Ortiz told The Epoch Times. “To have an opportunity to go against St. John Bosco is a testament to our program, our coaches, and our players. They’re excited. There’s a reason we’re both in this game. They’re 9–1. We’re 9–1. Two quality teams. We wouldn’t be there if we didn’t deserve it. May the best team win.”
The Tritons are one of five Orange County teams that will be facing top-seeded opponents in their respective divisions this week, with all but Division 1 beginning the second round.
Yorba Linda will be at home against Loyola of Los Angeles in Division 4, Foothill of Santa Ana will face Newbury Park in a Division 5 game at Tustin High, Huntington Beach will host Ontario Christian in Division 6, and Orange will take on Rio Hondo Prep of Arcadia in a Division 9 game at Fred Kelly Stadium in Orange. Each is set for a 7 p.m. Nov. 10 kickoff.
Yorba Linda High School varsity football players celebrate on the field on Oct. 13, 2023. (Courtesy of Emma Perron Photography)

Yorba Linda High School varsity football players celebrate on the field on Oct. 13, 2023. (Courtesy of Emma Perron Photography)

It is San Clemente, however, that figures to have its hands the fullest.
St. John Bosco blew through the powerful Trinity League, winning all five games by at least 22 points, including a 28–0 victory over Mater Dei of Santa Ana, the second-ranked team in California and fifth in the nation. The Braves’ lone defeat was a 30–23 decision at Kahuku of Hawaii on Sept. 16.
The computer power rankings used by the CIF’s Southern Section to determine its playoff fields and matchups had the Tritons eighth overall, and with an eight-team Division 1 bracket, that meant a first-round matchup with St. John Bosco. An argument could be made that San Clemente would have been better off to be ranked ninth, and thereby top-seeded in Division 2, or in a better situation under a different playoff format, such as those used in other California sections.
“This year, they took eight [in Division 1] and we’re one of the top eight, so let’s roll,” Mr. Ortiz said. “But I do think how they format the brackets is something the CIF needs to take a closer look at.”
The other opening-round games Nov. 10 in Division 1 are Orange Lutheran at Centennial of Corona, Santa Margarita at Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, and JSerra of San Juan Capistrano against Mater Dei at Santa Ana Stadium.
The Southern Section’s current post-season setup, now in its third year, has also created an added challenge in terms of preparation.
High school football player Brady Edmunds (8) pitches the ball at Huntington Beach’s 34–21 victory over Mayfair in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Aug. 18, 2023. (Jeremy Westerbeck/JPWest Media)

High school football player Brady Edmunds (8) pitches the ball at Huntington Beach’s 34–21 victory over Mayfair in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Aug. 18, 2023. (Jeremy Westerbeck/JPWest Media)

“That’s the interesting part about these playoffs,” Huntington Beach Coach Brett Brown told The Epoch Times. “It used to be kind of regional. Now you don’t have any idea who you’re going to play or what division you’re going to be in. There’s not a ton of scouting that goes on. Obviously, we have film, but it’s hard to judge speed and size off film.”
The Oilers, 5–6 after last week’s 29–21 victory over visiting Glendora, received an at-large berth to the playoffs despite a sub-.500 record that included a 1–4 mark in the very strong Sunset League. Ontario Christian is 9–2 overall, including a 45–13 triumph over Dana Hills of Dana Point to open the playoffs.
“We think our schedule and our league have prepared us to play anybody that we will probably see in this division,” Mr. Brown said.
Orange and its opponent this week, Rio Hondo Prep, have playoff history, but that came in 2017, when the Panthers won the Southern Section Division 13 championship. While Orange is 7–4 after beating Diamond Bar 19–12 last week, Rio Hondo is 10–1.
“They’re exactly who everybody thinks they are, well-coached, with a great running attack and well-disciplined,” Panthers Coach Robert Pedroza told The Epoch Times. “They do things right. Their system works. It’s going to be a real tough test for us.”
The good news for Orange is that after dealing with numerous injuries all season, the team is healthy. Multi-talented junior quarterback Hype Grand returned last week after missing two games because of an injury, and teams with prolific senior running back Ardwon Morris to form a formidable 1–2 offensive punch.
“I like where we’re at right now,” Mr. Pedroza said.
Corona Del Mar's wide receiver Russell Weir (8). (David Woolbert/David Woolbert Photography)

Corona Del Mar's wide receiver Russell Weir (8). (David Woolbert/David Woolbert Photography)

In addition to Yorba Linda, three other Orange County teams will play Nov. 10 with Division 4 semifinal berths on the line. Corona del Mar will be at Santa Barbara, Capistrano Valley will visit Culver City, and Trabuco Hills will travel to La Serna of Whittier.
Yorba Linda Coach Jeff Bailey felt somewhat fortunate to escape the first round, the Mustangs overcoming some earlier struggles with a big fourth quarter to beat visiting Moorpark 34–30.
“The momentum went our direction, we made some plays, and we were lucky enough to win,” he told The Epoch Times. “I’m not sure we were 100 percent ready to play mentally, and then got into the game and figured out how hard and focused we have to be. I think it was a little bit of an eye-opener.”
While Yorba Linda is 8–3 overall, Loyola is ranked higher despite a record of only 6–5. The Cubs, winners of five consecutive games, played a very strong schedule and gained a share of the Angelus League championship at 4–1.
“They are a big private school, and they have a bunch of good kids,” Mr. Bailey said. “We want to make sure we’re doing the best preparation to really compete with them and maybe find a way. We have a few good kids ourselves.”
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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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