Mission Viejo and Servite High Schools are all too familiar with each other, especially when it comes to post-season play. The opening round of the 2017 CIF Southern Section Division I Playoffs once again matched these two foes together last Friday night in Mission Viejo. Despite being one of those private, independent schools most public school programs have come to despise, Mission Viejo and Servite have more in common than do most public versus private.
Mission Viejo and Servite have long-standing football traditions, successful post-season successes, and namely multiple league and state championships. Their 2017 regular season records might indicate that this year was a mismatch. Servite came into the game with a 6-4 record, while Mission Viejo ran the table at 10-0. On paper, Mission Viejo was expected to win comfortably against Servite, and especially at home. Coach Bob Johnson has been around too long to fall for that, and he all but had his football team ready to face a relentless, and talented Servite team. By the way, Servite did not get the memo that they were supposed to show up and get beat!
The game was back and forth throughout. The final two possession ended with Mission Viejo’s kicker, Braden Russell made a 25 yard field goal to put the Diablos ahead 38-36 with 1:32 left to play in the fourth quarter. Servite would have time to come back and possibly score to win the game themselves. Servite worked their way into Mission Viejo territory, only to stall out on the 34 yard line. This left Servite with a very difficult 43 yard field goal to win the game, which went woefully left of the goal post giving Bob Johnson another playoff win, and another week to extend his final season coaching.
One of the more interesting match-ups in the night was between two future college prospects, wide receiver and defensive back, Julius Irvin of Servite and Olaijah Griffin, wide receiver and corner for Mission Viejo. Each of them had their moments where their talents truly helped each of their teams keep the game very close and competitive. Either one of them could’ve made the game winning play to give their team a chance to advance into the quarterfinals. But, perhaps the most compelling moment came at the conclusion of the game, after a tough, tough battle when the two warriors embraced at midfield and congratulated each other and likely talked about meeting again soon, as college standouts, or perhaps teammates. Don’t be surprised if this match-up continues on Sundays as well. These two young men have bright futures no matter what they chose to do. You can see more of them in the interviews I had with them last week before the game below.