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Unbeaten Capistrano Valley Set for South Coast League Challenge

Unbeaten Capistrano Valley Set for South Coast League Challenge

Capistrano Valley High School Football Coach Sean Curtis leads the team onto the field, with No. 19, junior quarterback Tommy Acosta, to the right, in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

10/9/2023

Updated: 10/9/2023

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After having played seven games, with victories in each, Capistrano Valley High School is ready for what feels like the beginning of its football season, all over again.
The Mission Viejo, California-based Cougars will open South Coast League play Oct. 13 at Tesoro looking to keep the ball rolling.
“This is what we’ve been building for,” Coach Sean Curtis told reporters after Capistrano Valley broke open a close game in the second half, on its way to a 42-19 triumph Oct. 6 at Aliso Niguel. “If we’re going to continue to build this program in the direction we want, we have to start playing with some of these teams.”
Formerly members of the Sea View League, the Cougars did not fare well in their inaugural South Coast foray last season. After going 4-3 in non-league play, Capistrano Valley finished 0-3 in league, losing to Tesoro 42-10, San Clemente 51-7, and Mission Viejo 63-7.
The same gauntlet awaits this season, though the Cougars will get San Clemente and Mission Viejo at home, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27, respectively.
“In our minds, this is the league we wanted to be in,” said Mr. Curtis, who is in his fifth season guiding the Capistrano Valley program. “I think when we got put in there, some people were a little concerned with us making the jump, because South Coast is one of the best leagues in California, in public school. These teams deserve every bit of our respect, and we’re excited about the opportunity to play in big games the next three weeks.”
Members of Capistrano Valley High School's football team walk onto the field in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

Members of Capistrano Valley High School's football team walk onto the field in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

The Cougars are the only South Coast League team to have gone undefeated through the non-league schedule, and one of just six Orange County squads without a loss, joining Laguna Hills, Mater Dei, San Juan Hills, Tustin, and Villa Park.
“We’re a team that, I think, a lot of people may have overlooked coming into the season,” Mr. Curtis said. “We lost our star quarterback and had to replace some pieces that we weren’t sure about, so it was good to start fast and kind of keep it going. I think we’re a pretty good football team. We’re 7-0, just beat a pretty good [Aliso Niguel] team. I think coming into this game, people said we didn’t play anybody, we’re not ready for the South Coast, and I disagree. I think this is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been at Capo.”
Indeed, the role of quarterback was among the areas of uncertainty after the graduation of Trey Kekuk, who is now playing at nearby Saddleback College.
Junior Tommy Acosta, however, has provided stability and then some in his first season as a full-time starter. The 6-foot-1, 189-pound speedster is a run-first signal-caller, and did he ever run against Aliso Niguel.
Capistrano Valley High School junior quarterback Tommy Acosta in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

Capistrano Valley High School junior quarterback Tommy Acosta in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

After the Wolverines had received the opening kickoff and driven 82 yards for a touchdown, Acosta took off to his right on the first Cougars play from scrimmage, broke multiple tackles, cut back to the left, and sprinted 80 yards for a game-tying touchdown. In 17 seconds, Acosta matched what Aliso Niguel needed eight minutes, three seconds to accomplish.
“The whole team just lifted up from Tommy Acosta,” junior running back and linebacker Reily Walker told The Epoch Times. “He’s just a perfect example of a Capo football player. He has so much heart. He just loves to do what he does. He carries the ball, gets hit, gets right up, and just yells, ‘Let’s go.’”
Acosta, “a running back playing quarterback,” as Mr. Curtis put it, finished the game with 204 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 14 carries. He also completed 14 of 20 passes for 121 yards and two scores, both to junior wide receiver Hudson Campbell. Six Cougars caught passes, five of them hauling in at least two apiece.
“We run the same offense on all three levels, so [Acosta] has been kind of groomed for this since he was a freshman,” Mr. Curtis told The Epoch Times. “He kind of got thrown into the fire last year when Trey Kukuk went down. His first two starts were versus San Clemente and Mission. I think now when he steps on the field, after that experience, it’s not anything he can’t handle. He’s special back there.”
Members of Capistrano Valley High School's football team kneel on the field in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

Members of Capistrano Valley High School's football team kneel on the field in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

Senior Jackson Sievers, a 6-2, 224-pound four-year starter who teams with Walker to comprise a formidable linebacker tandem, leads a defense that is built on speed and team pursuit. Senior Ryan Isenhart, a 6-4, 223-pound converted tight end, anchors a deep line that is part of a unit with “not a lot of holes in it,” according to Mr. Curtis.
“This whole offseason, we’ve been working and working, and just doing so much over the top, all the extra days,” Walker said. “We’ve been working since spring, practicing like every day for four hours. We knew this team was special. No one has not bought in on this. Everyone knows what the game plan is, and it’s just what we want to do.”
Certainly, no one could argue that the extra effort hasn’t paid off to this point. The next three weeks, and perhaps beyond, however, will determine how this Capistrano Valley team is remembered.
“It’s a special group of kids,” Mr. Curtis said. “It’s fun to see them have success. I feel this group, more than ever, is deserving of what they’ve done so far. We’ve been trying to take this next step and be a South Coast League team, and we haven’t been able to do it. So, we’re kind of feeling, like I told the team, that the season is just starting.”
Members of Capistrano Valley High School's football team run onto the field in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

Members of Capistrano Valley High School's football team run onto the field in Aliso Viejo, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Monica Acosta)

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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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