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ORANGE COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

Tritons Awaken Too Late in Loss

Football: Elsinore prevails, 22-13, and afterward San Clemente coach blasts his team's effort.

September 09, 2000|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The football season didn't exactly get off to a flying start for the sixth-ranked San Clemente High Tritons.

Unable to run their deceptive "fly" offense with any proficiency and unable to slow down Wildomar Elsinore's running game, the defending South Coast League champions lost, 22-13, Friday night before about 2,000 at Elsinore High.

The Tritons fell behind 15-0 and closed to within 15-13, but they were soundly beaten by a Division VIII team. San Clemente Coach Eric Patton could have blamed the loss on the absence of Dan Coviello, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Instead, he blamed his team for a lackluster effort.

"We slept-walked through the whole thing," he said. "We played completely uninspired football. That's probably the worst exhibition of football of any team I've ever coached. If the effort doesn't get better, we're in for a long season."

Elsinore, which reached the Southern Section Division VII quarterfinals last year, had the ball for all but six plays in the first 21 minutes as it plodded its way to a 15-point lead. The Tigers gave San Clemente's defense a taste of what it might be like to stop "the fly." They ran counters, traps and even a statue-of-liberty play that picked up 15 yards.

San Clemente, which started sophomore Beau Budde at quarterback, attempted to run the fly on its first two series. But it went nowhere.

By the end of the second quarter, the Tritons were running a more conventional one-back offense.

"As people start to catch on to it, it has some limitations," Patton said. "It's something that wears on people and we never had the ball long enough to get a rhythm going."

Both teams had a Chris Smith at tailback and both Smiths had big games. Elsinore's Smith rushed for 119 yards--and he had some help. Josh Farrell also reached triple digits--grinding out 110 yards in 27 carries.

San Clemente's Smith almost single-handedly brought his team back into the game. With the Tritons trailing 15-0 late in the second quarter, he took the kickoff back 55 yards to the Elsinore 40. Five Smith runs--one of 26 yards--set up a Budde one-yard sneak with 55 seconds left in the half.

The Tritons closed to 15-13 when Budde hit Tim Burnette on a five-yard scoring pass that was set up by a Elsinore fumble on its own 25. Farrell's 14-yard run made it 22-13 and San Clemente's next two possessions ended in a fumbled snap and an interception.

Elsinore Coach Mark Chandler didn't take his team's victory lightly.

"This is probably the biggest win for our program, ever," he said. "We've never played a team of this caliber. These guys are good."

On this night, Patton would not agree.

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