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ORANGE COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

Mission Viejo's Big Gains Produce Only Narrow Victory

September 23, 2000|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mission Viejo Diablos keep proving that they have a prolific offense and a devastating tailback in Robbie Dubois. But they also keep showing that they can stop themselves and that they have a hard time stopping other people.

The Diablos punted only once and piled up more than 400 yards of offense, but they still barely squeaked by Laguna Hills Friday night, 35-27, in front of 4,000 at Mission Viejo High. Dubois rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns and caught four passes for 82 yards, but it almost wasn't enough.

"That's the minimum amount of points we can score for gaining all that yardage," Mission Viejo Coach Bob Johnson said. "We're very good offensively. If we can come along defensively, we can stay in some games."

Laguna Hills (1-2) stayed in the game, played during a driving rainstorm, despite forcing Mission Viejo (2-1) to punt only once. The Diablos lost their home opener to Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon largely because of turnovers.

Laguna Hills took advantage of two Mission Viejo fumbles--one by Dubois and another by quarterback Billy Hart--and got another big game from running back Matt Chandler, who rushed for a touchdown and scored another on a 99-yard kickoff return.

Chandler scored his first touchdown on an eight-yard run, nine plays after Dubois fumbled on his 46 after being drilled at the line of scrimmage. Dubois gave the Diablos a 7-6 lead with six straight rushes starting at the 50-yard line, the last coming on a six-yard draw.

Chandler quickly gave Laguna Hills the lead again when he broke loose on a kickoff return down the left sideline.

Hart (11 for 17, 134 yards) threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Wyatt Kraft and Dubois dove over from the two just before the half to give Mission a 21-14 halftime lead. It appeared Dubois' third score--from one yard--would ice the game.

But Laguna Hills put together 80- and 63-yard scoring drives to close to 28-27 early in the fourth quarter. Chandler's second missed extra-point attempt gave Mission Viejo the one-point margin.

Dubois and bruising fullback Ryan Powdrell (70 yards, nine carries) led the Diablos on their game-clinching 63-yard drive, which was capped by Hart's nine-yard pass to tight end Matt Cole with 8:25 left.

Mission Viejo got the ball back at its 18 and drove to the Laguna Hills five before being stopped with 30 seconds left. On the drive, Dubois had 40 yards in 10 carries; Powdrell 20 in three. Laguna Hills reached its own 24, but the game ended on an interception by Manny Mendoza at midfield.

"They played us really tough," Dubois said. "We had to get our heads on after the fumbles. This was a lot closer than we thought it was going to be."

Said Johnson: "We'll take the W. Laguna Hills is a very good football team. They played one heck of a game."

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