LONG BEACH -- No Tre Madden, no problem.
No. 3-ranked Mission Viejo stormed into Veterans Stadium on Friday without its star player and flat-out dominated No. 16 Long Beach Poly behind a steady dose of power running from Dallas Kessman and Jahleel Pinner and an especially stout defense. The two backs -- often lining up together in a dual-threat I-formation -- combined to rush for 247 yards and five touchdowns as the Diablos rolled to a big nonleague victory, 37-7.
Mission Viejo forced five turnovers and blocked a punt early in the first quarter that pushed the momentum in its favor. Both Jackrabbits quarterbacks, juniors Chaiyse Hales and Emmanuel Lara, struggled mightily to get passes off against a fierce Diablos pass rush, and Mission safety Max Redfield seized the opportunity with two first-half interceptions.
"We played real well tonight," Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said. "We had some good breaks early on and we made some of our own breaks too."
The Diablos (4-0) had sometimes started slowly early this season on offense, but Friday's game was a complete turnaround. Their first drive saw Kessman and Pinner run straight through Poly's defense and into the end zone, as the two totaled 89 yards on eight carries on the drive, capped off by a four-yard touchdown run from Kessman.
Three plays later, Mission Viejo had the ball again after Andrew McPeak jumped on a blocked punt at the Poly 31-yard line. Another four plays and the Diablos had a 14-0 lead, with Pinner taking it in for a 10-yard score.
Mission took a 20-0 lead before the half and kept the shutout going until the waning seconds of the game when Poly's Kameron White took a desperation handoff and ran up the Mission sideline 92 yards for a score.
It was Poly's second consecutive embarrassing home loss, as the Jackrabbits fell 32-7 to visiting Marmonte League power St. Bonaventure two weeks ago. In between, Poly traveled to Narbonne and came away with an impressive road win, but bad habits came back to haunt coach Raul Lara's team.
Just as it had against the Seraphs, Poly found itself unable to do anything through the air. And with seven and eight defenders crowding the box, the Jackrabbits soon couldn't gain much on the ground either. That led to punt after punt all game long as the Diablos dominated time of possession.
"We knew they had an efficient offense," Lara said Friday. "By that, I mean, if we didn't score, we knew we were in trouble.
"And so, obviously, their defense did a pretty good job and shut us down."
Asked if he expected his team to beat Poly to such a degree, Johnson admitted surprise.
"Look at the score," he said. "I expected a war all the way through and it wasn't."
Madden, a linebacker/wildcat quarterback for Mission Viejo, broke his foot in the Diablos' 56-34 win over Corona last week. Both coaches knew his absence could change things with the matchup -- but it didn't, after all. At least not significantly.
"I'm so proud of my team right now," said Madden, who was sporting a boot on his fractured right foot while in his jersey and jeans on the sideline. "We came out here and we just fired on all cylinders."