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PREP EXTRA / SATURDAY FOOTBALL PULLOUT : Villa Park Rebounds for Victory


MISSION VIEJO — After a sluggish start, the Villa Park defense stiffened to help the ninth-ranked Spartans pull out a 21-17 victory over host Mission Viejo in a nonleague football game Friday night.

Villa Park linebacker/running back Tony D'Amato intercepted a pass with 1 minute 1 second remaining to seal the victory and he scored two touchdowns to lead the offense.

But the Spartans (4-0-1) trailed throughout the game, thanks to a great performance from Mission Viejo sophomore quarterback Austin Moherman, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown.

Moherman riddled Villa Park's defense in the first half, helping the Diablos build a 17-7 lead at halftime. In its four previous games, Villa Park did not allow a point in the first half.

"I did some loud talking at halftime," Villa Park Coach Pat Mahoney said. "We haven't been doing the little things lately, even in practice, and I think we've been a little complacent."

The Diablos (1-4) took advantage of that complacency from the start with Mike Rogers returning the opening kickoff all the way to the Villa Park 37. Mark Fiore kicked a 32-yard field goal to give Mission Viejo an early 3-0 lead.

Then, after Mission Viejo's Todd Himes intercepted a pass at the Diablo four-yard line to halt a Villa Park drive, Moherman cashed in.

Facing a third and 13 inside the one, Moherman dropped back into his end zone and completed a 99-yard touchdown pass to Michael Smith with 11 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The play set a school record, equaled a Southern Section record, and gave Mission Viejo a 10-0 lead.

Todd Fielding scored on a 14-yard run with 15 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Mission Viejo a 10-point halftime lead.

But Villa Park began running the ball effectively in the second half with D'Amato gaining 88 yards in 13 carries and Franklin Haynes gaining 71 yards in 17 carries for the game.

Quarterback Sean McMahon, who completed 11 of 14 passes for 115 yards, scored on four-yard bootleg to cap a 13-play, 65-yard drive to open the third quarter and Villa Park trailed, 17-14.

The Spartans took the lead on their next possession when D'Amato, who caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from McMahon in the first half, scored on a one-yard run with 9:48 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Spartan defense took care of the rest.

The Diablos gained three yards rushing in the second half. With Villa Park protecting its 21-17 lead, Bo Barnes intercepted a Moherman pass at the Villa Park 25 with five minutes remaining.

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