By: Max Jonnaert | Sports Editor
January 4, 2017
For the first time in San Clemente High School’s 51 year history, the Tritons are D-1A State and CIF champions after defeating Del Oro 22-17 in Sacramento on December 16, 2016.
But it wasn’t an easy victory for the Tritons, who struggled early in game. Down 17-0 late in the second quarter, the Tritons were in trouble. The sideline was growing quiet and concerned as the punt team marched onto the field to give the ball back to Del Oro.
Did they come all this way for it to end like this?
But that’s when the Triton defense responded with a resounding No.
Senior defensive lineman Garrett Silverman knew it was now or never and on 1st and 10 at the 19-yard line, Silverman sacked the Golden Eagle quarterback, forcing a fumble. The Tritons smothered the football, taking over possession, and making it 1st and goal at the 8.
“The quarterback did a play action and I got pressure from the inside and blind-sided him, forcing the ball loose, ” Silverman said. “I knew we needed some big plays heading into the half and it was a turning point for us as a team.”
Capitalizing on the turnover, senior Jack Sears found junior wide receiver Chase Berman for a score to cut the score down to 7-17.
Again the San Clemente defense came up big, forcing a three-and-out, and then a bad snap from the opposition led to a safety, giving the Tritons a 9-17 score heading into halftime.
“The big change for us was that we knew Del Oro could make mistakes – that they were uncomfortable,” Silverman added. “When our defense can get the other team uncomfortable, that’s when we’re most comfortable.”
A scoreless third quarter saw both teams trading defensive blows, until senior Brandon Reeves punched in a 1-yard touchdown run, capping off a 66-yard drive. The Tritons were now within striking distance at 15-17.
Only a minute and ten seconds later, Reeves returned a punt 54 yards for the score, bringing the Tritons their first lead of the game at 22-17. The team had scored 22 unanswered points, while the Triton defense had kept the Nighthawks scoreless.
As the final moments of the game ticked away, the San Clemente defense continued to hold, not allowing Del Oro to go anywhere.
“We didn’t let up and kept the same intensity that we had going into the half,” senior linebacker Ryan Russell said. “We knew it was going to come down to us to show that we’re a State Championship defense and we rose to the occasion.” Russell led the Tritons with 16 total tackles.
In the final play of the game, a Hail Mary throw, Sears came in as a safety and finished his high school career with an interception.
And that was all she wrote – the Tritons had done it. Making history for small beach town, after a 51 year wait.
“It was a great team victory because we were able to battle through adversity so many times,” said senior team captain Zach Cochrun. “Not only in this state game but so many other times throughout the season.”
The coined slogan “One town, one team” really shined through for the team as fans eagerly huddled in the cold, waiting for the players to arrive home on their buses at the high school. Later on in the week, the zealous town hosted a parade down Del Mar to commemorate the players for their success. The street was flooded with fans, all holding signs, and cheering loudly for their young champions.
“When we came home to the parade, it was like nothing any of the guys had seen before,” Cochrun said. “We always talked about the whole ‘One town, one team‘ but this really emphasized it for us. It was the perfect end for our season.”
In the end, the story of this football team was not just that it had won a D1-A State Championship. It was a story of a team who had lost back to back CIF Championships and wasn’t expected to make it back there this season. It was a story of a small town with loyal fans who backed their team until the very end. Most importantly, it was a story of underdogs who triumphed and overcame adversity, and it is one that will forever be revered by this city.