Forget the injuries, the history, and being outplayed for almost an entire game.
Forget about all that stuff, and just play ball when it counts. That's what Laguna Hills did Friday, and it provided an memorable ending for the 3,500 who watched the Hawks' 16-13 nonleague victory over Mission Viejo.
Missing one starter on offense and two on defense, including last year's Pacific Coast League defensive player of the year Brandon Lamas (separated shoulder), Laguna Hills (2-1) defeated Mission Viejo for the first time in school history. Brandon Champlin completed a 59-yard pass to Brian Anderson with less than two minutes remaining on the pivotal drive, then scored on a sneak with 22 seconds left.
"We just kept fighting through," said Champlin, who had two passes intercepted, including one in the end zone while at the nine-yard line. "We had the heart."
Champlin completed 11 of 19 passes for 208 yards, but 128 of those came on Laguna Hills' only scoring drives (70 and 80 yards), ending in touchdowns with six seconds left in the first half and 22 seconds left in the game.
"Unbelievable," said Bob Johnson, whose 0-3 Diablos have lost their games by a combined 14 points. "We won everything tonight, and lost."
Twice in the fourth quarter, holding a 13-8 lead, Mission Viejo failed on fourth-down attempts. The Diablos needed one foot for a touchdown with eight minutes to go, and were turned away by Laguna Hills linebacker Brandon Blocker. With four minutes left, the ball snapped from the nine, Nate Atkinson pulled wide a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Then, Laguna Hills made magic. Needing 67 yards to score, Champlin completed a swing pass underneath to Anderson in an effort to gain 10 yards and stop the clock. But Anderson eluded two tacklers, then sprinted down the sideline before being tackled by Garrett Fitzpatrick at the eight.
Four downs later, needing to convert their own critical fourth-down play, Champlin struggled into the end zone from the one-yard line on a sneak.
He passed to wide-open Mike Spraitz for a two-point conversion for the 16-13 lead with 22 seconds remaining. Justin Hallenbeck, who holds on point-after kicks, had scored a two-point conversion earlier when a bad snap forced him to dash into the end zone.
"They got the right drives at the right time," said Johnson, whose team got a 12-yard scoring pass from Billy Hart to Justin Shultz and a 21-yard run from Robbie Dubois (29 carries, 164 yards).
Mission Viejo had the field possession to put the game away in the first half, at its 46, 40, 44 and the Hawks' 39. It yielded seven points.