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CIF STATE BOWL PREVIEW: Del Oro faces big-time QB in Saturday’s DI-A football bowl

By: Mike Ray of the Auburn Journal
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CIF State 1-A Football Bowl Championship

Del Oro (13-2) vs. San Clemente (12-3)

When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 4 p.m.

Where: Hornet Stadium, Sacramento State

Tickets: Adults $15, Seniors $10, Students $10

Parking: Autos $10, RVs $25

Ticket Pre-Sale: www.tikatap.com

On TV: CSNCA

Alert for high school football fans attending Saturday’s CIF D1-A State Championship game between Del Oro and San Clemente: this one may not be for the faint of heart.

Both Del Oro (13-2) and San Clemente  (12-3) come into Saturday’s 4 p.m. title game at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium playing their best football of the season. Each are loaded with high-powered offenses and graced with standout individuals.

“We’re happy to be here,” San Celemente coach Jaime Ortiz said. “We kind of knocked on the door last season but this year we finally got in.

“Del Oro looks to be playing at a very high level right now,” Ortiz added. “But we’ve been in some tight games to get here, so we’ll be ready.”

A year ago, the Tritons were defeated in their CIF section championship game on a last-second Hail Mary pass by La Habra. La Habra was then defeated in the regional game by Camarillo, which lost a week later to Del Oro in the CIF title contest.

But this season, San Clemente was able to seal the deal when the Tritons drove 80 yards in the game’s final four minutes last Saturday to pull out a thrilling 39-35 win over Edison of Huntington Beach.

Del Oro, which has reeled off 11 straight postseason wins dating back to last season, is averaging 53 points a game over the last six contests – an SFL win over Woodcreek, four CIF Sac-Joaquin Section games and last week’s 57-16 blowout of Bakersfield in the Northern California championship game.

San Clemente, meanwhile, isn’t far behind the Golden Eagles when it comes to offensive prowess. In their last three games, the Tritons have dispatched Valencia, 41-35; Murrietta Valley, 45-35; and last week’s regional championship game, 39-35 over Edison.

The San Clemente spread offense starts at quarterback with 6-foot, 3-inch, 200-pound USC commit Jack Sears. In two varsity seasons, Sears has thrown for more than 5,000 yards, ran for over 1,800 more and accounted for 75 touchdowns passing and running.

“They have a lot of weapons on offense and they use them all,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. “But their quarterback is outstanding.”

This season, Sears, who was an Elite 11 quarterback selection last summer, has been nearly perfect. He has connected on 66 percent of his passes for 2,504 yards, 36 TD passes and just four interceptions. He had earlier committed to Duke before more recent offers from Texas A&M and UCLA rolled in. He committed to USC just three weeks ago.

Sears is also the team’s leading rusher with 1,099 yards, although the high-powered Tritons also counter in the ground game with Austin Whitsett (1,065 yards) and versatile Brandon Reaves (708 yards rushing, 14 TDs, 805 receiving yards, 11 TDs).

Sears is the third in a line of three San Clemente quarterbacks to earn a Pac-12 scholarship over the last six years. Two years ago, Sam Darnold, now at USC, piloted the Tritons. In 2011, Travis Wilson led San Clemente to a 12-2 record before starting for two seasons at Utah.

If that is not enough, San Clemente is blessed with a pair of outstanding tight ends in BYU-bound Austin Rex (6-5, 235 pounds) and 6-5, 220-pound Chris Kane (28 receptions, 365 yards, 5 TDs). Another key component in the passing game is 6-2, 195-pound receiver Keith Jones, who has latched on to 53 passes for 622 yards and seven scores.

“We like to spread it around,” Ortiz said. “Every week we’ve been fortunate to have  someone step up for us and do a good job.”

For Del Oro, Saturday’s game will bring the end to a phenomenal run for several seniors, many of whom have played three years on the Golden Eagles’ varsity.

“We’re hoping to finish strong,” Taylor said. “This game could come down to the fourth quarter and who makes plays. We’re excited.”