One perfectly thrown pass by Mission Viejo High School quarterback Troy Kopp made up for a night of mediocrity and gave the Diablos' a 9-7 victory over El Toro Friday night in a South Coast League opener for each team.
The Diablos (5-1 overall, 1-0 in league play) trailed, 7-3, with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. To that point, Kopp had completed 3 of 10 passes for 23 yards. Two of those completions came on this drive in which Mission Viejo went from its 27-yard line to the El Toro 13 in 10 plays.
On third and 10, Kopp took a two-step drop, then lofted a pass into the right corner of the end zone. The ball just cleared the helmet of defender Brendan Bailey and landed in the arms of Diablos receiver Steve Miller for the winning score. Eric Ekdahl missed the conversion kick.
More than 6,000 people showed up at Mission Viejo Stadium, which has a capacity of 5,000, to watch this game between two of the county's best teams. El Toro was ranked fourth in the Orange County Sportswriters' Assn. poll. Mission Viejo was ranked eighth. But the teams seemed just a bit off Friday.
El Toro (4-2, 0-1) could drive no further than its 43 in the first half. Jason Vivonia, subbing for the injured Bret Johnson at quarterback, completed 6 of 13 passes for 61 yards.
Mission Viejo wasn't setting any land speed records either, recording only 67 yards of total offense in the first half. But it did manage to put together a 10-play drive midway through the second quarter that resulted in a 34-yard field goal by Ekdahl for a 3-0 lead.
On that 42-yard drive, running back John Burns rushed for 30 yards in 5 carries. Burns ended the game with 98 yards on 22 carries.
El Toro took the lead midway through the fourth quarter when David Nemeth scored on a two-yard run. Ken Romaniszyn's conversion kick put the Chargers ahead, 7-3. That scoring drive had started on El Toro's 46. The Chargers drove to the Mission Viejo 40, but the drive bogged down. On third and 10, Vivonia dropped back to pass, but, feeling the pressure of the pass rush, stepped up and scrambled 10 yards for a key first down.
On the same drive with a fourth and four at the Mission Viejo 24, Vivonia rolled out for six yards and another first down. Three plays later, with 8:21 left in the game, Nemeth scored.