MISSION VIEJO – De La Salle made the long bus ride from its Concord home aiming to add a new state championship trophy to its case for the first time in eight years.
But it wasn’t to be.
The Bay Area powerhouse struck first Friday night against Mission Viejo at Saddleback College, a venue located less than five miles from the Southern California team’s campus.
But by the time the Spartans scored again, with less than nine minutes to go, Mission Viejo was well on its way to winning the Division 1-AA championship.
The Diablos prevailed 27-14 behind quarterbacks Luke Fahey and Draiden Trudeau, running back Hinesward Lilomaiava and a defense that did its job to keep De La Salle controlling the clock and the scoreboard with its ground attack.
The loss was De La Salle’s sixth in a row in state championship games.
Mission Viejo led by three points at halftime, pushed the advantage to 17-7 when Fahey threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Bell and made it 24-7 on Trudeau connected with Vance Spafford from eight yards out.
De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae (13) runs for a touchdown against Mission Viejo in the first quarter of their CIF state football championship Division 1-AA game at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae had a big night running and completed some passes, too, but that wasn’t nearly enough to send the Spartans to victory. The junior rushed for 162 and one touchdown on 17 carries, and passed for 106 yards.
On Mission Viejo’s first touchdown drive of the third quarter, it was 2 for 2 on fourth down, which included the scoring pass. On its second TD drive of the period, it was 2 for 2 on third down.
It was that kind of night for DLS.
De La Salle couldn’t have scripted a better start. Still firing on all cylinders after last week’s rout of Clovis North, the Spartans needed only five plays to score as Faavae rolled around left side and found a whole wide enough for a semi-truck.
A sprinter on the track team, Faavae soared up the field, outrunning the defense to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown that made it 7-0 with 8:58 left in the first quarter.
A year ago on this field in a state championship loss to Lincoln-San Diego, Faavae scored on an 88-yard run.
Yeah, the kid likes the bright lights.
But like Lincoln, Mission Viejo figured to give De La Salle all it could handle, and that was made clear as the first half unfolded.
De La Salle forced a three-and-out on Mission Viejo’s first series and threated to add to its touchdown advantage.
But the drive stalled at Mission Viejo’s 32 and the Diablos soon got their offense rolling.
The Southern California school rotates its two quarterbacks because, as coach Chad Johnson said earlier in the week, it has worked.
Fahey took the field for Mission Viejo’s second series and led the Diablos on a 10-play, 68-yard drive to even the score 7-7. The sophomore’s 13-yard pass to another sophomore, Bell, accounted for the touchdown.
De La Salle’s Jacob Dartez (20) tackles Mission Viejo’s Hinesward Lilomaiava (5) while running for yardage in the second quarter of their CIF state football championship Division 1-AA game at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
With momentum on its side, Mission Viejo started moving the ball again on its next possession, getting big second-effort plays from Lilomaiava, the running back named after the former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver.
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Alumbaugh called a timeout and lit into his defense, which heeded the coach’s passion and got a stop.
But the Diablos went ahead 10-7 on Michael Salgado-Medina’s 22-yard field goal with 24 seconds on the clock.
De La Salle elected not to take a knee to run out the the rest of the half and was nearly rewarded for it. Faavae ran for 16 yards and then threw a 49-yard bomb to Jayden Nicholas that put the Spartans at the 11 with two seconds to go.
But De La Salle missed a 28-yard field goal as time expired and it went from bad to much worse in the second half for the Bay Area school.