No. 17 San Clemente had its starting QB Sean Donnelly back from the injured list and was looking to give El Toro, ranked No. 6 in the county and No. 22 in the state, a rude welcome back to the South Coast League on Thursday night at Trabuco Hills High.
It looked like the Tritons might do just that when they jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Donnelly struck with a 21-yard TD pass to Sam Darnold. Then Kelsey Benoit picked off El Toro QB Conner Manning and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown seven seconds later to make it 14-0 Tritons.
San Clemente was bigger and more physical and was pushing the Chargers around in the trenches early on.
But then Manning got El Toro’s no-huddle offense humming. San Clemente was no longer able to take advantage of its size as Manning picked the Tritons apart with three-step drops and quick passes to his sure-handed receivers.
The two teams started trading touchdowns, but San Clemente couldn’t keep up with El Toro’s frenzied pace.
San Clemente has at least seven two-way starters and they were worn down by the second half when El Toro started to pull away.
It will be interesting to see how El Toro does against teams such as Mission Viejo and Tesoro. The Diablos and Titans are both big and physical, but they are both much deeper than San Clemente.
Manning was 27 of 37 for 349 yards and three TDs against the Tritons. He did have two interceptions returned for TDs. (Read the game story.)
Sure, El Toro played a soft nonleague schedule (some said it was a little cupcake and tomato can heavy), but South Coast League teams better start realizing than Manning and the Chargers are for real.
THE THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL MADNESS STUDS:
John Barnes, Los Alamitos: The Griffins defeated Marina, 46-0, to give Coach Barnes his 300th career victory. Barnes, who was already the county’s winningest coach of all-time, became the fourth California coach to accomplish the feat.
Cody Marshall, Los Alamitos: The quarterback passed for three TDs and rushed for two TDs in the Griffins romp over the Vikings.
Jeffrey Nelson, El Toro: The 6-1, 225-pound defensive lineman wreaked havoc all night, sacking Donnelly five times. Nelson was as impressive as Mission Viejo DL Garrett Marino, who had five sacks against Redlands East Valley last week.
Jacob Furnari, El Toro: The 5-9, 190-pound running back had his biggest game of the season, rushing for 194 yards and four TDs on “36″ carries. Those are TNFM Stud stats.
Quinn O’Dell, Beckman: The quarterback completed 13 of 26 passes for 174 yards and two TDs to lead the Patriots to a 20-7 upset over Irvine, which was ranked No. 5 in the Southern Division. Patriots coach Ken Mushinskie said it was O’Dell’s best game of the season.
Donald Rice, Edison: The running back rushed for 91 yards and two TDs on 20 carries to help the Chargers defeat Newport Harbor, 35-0.
Jonathan Gutierrez, Godinez: The running back rushed for 136 yards and two TDs to lead the Grizzlies past Calvary Chapel, 36-18.
Jesse Godoy, Valencia: The QB passed for 187 yards and three TDs and rushed for 107 yards on nine carries to give the Tigers a much-needed 48-0 Empire League victory over Western.
David Fludd, Westminster: He rushed for 83 yards and one TD to help the Lions pull out a 13-7 Golden West League victory over Orange.
Aaron Aguilar, Orange: The Panther running back rushed for 164 yards on 13 carries in a losing effort for Orange.
Follow me on Twitter @LosOCVarsity.
EL TORO … SHOW ME YOUR LIGHTNING BOLT!!!!:
More football news from the OCVarsity blog: