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O.C.: Five things from the weekend

10/4/2011

1. If you want to know how tough it is to play a difficult schedule, one needs to look no further than La Habra, which lined up No. 1 Servite, No. 10 Orange Lutheran and No. 14 St. John Bosco in consecutive weeks ending Friday. The Highlanders played the first two games tough, then got pasted against Bosco in a home game, 41-6, in which they scored on the last play of the game on a short pass from Sean Sparling to Gabriel Sahegian. The physical pounding, not to mention the talent of the skill players, and the mental duress, add up even for a program that has won four consecutive Division VI-level championships. A year ago, the Highlanders played the same three teams, but in games 1, 3 and 5; La Habra lost to Orange Lutheran, 21-17; Servite, 23-0; and Bosco, 35-17. It's that week after week after week pressure -- which can really take its toll in the third week -- that makes the gauntlet so hard. It brings into sharper focus the performance of a program such as Servite over the past 2 1/2 years in which it has had an all-comers type of schedule.

2. It was a very uncharacteristic performance by Servite, which for the last two seasons would be hard-pressed to find a game in which it lost the battle of special teams or gave up back-to-back scores in the waning moments of the half. Yet that's what happened Friday at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman; ranked No. 10 in the nation in the ESPN Rise Powerade Fab 50, the host Gaels scored one touchdown on a kickoff return to open the game, and scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half. Servite may give up one score late in the half, but two? Never happens. Well, not until now. Add to that the game-winning 39-yard field goal with 1:03 remaining, and that accounts for 24 points in a 31-28 loss. Very uncharacteristic, even against a national power. Servite, by the way, went into the game ranked No. 13 but dropped to 28th.

3. Has the offense at Mission Viejo caught up to the defense? Without Jahleel Pinner in the lineup because of an ankle injury, the Diablos ripped off 31 points against then-No. 22 Carson. Although it ended up being a blowout, Carson hung tough through the first half, trailing 10-0. But touchdown passes from Alex Bridgford -- 74 yards to Max Redfield and 75 yards to D.J. Wilson -- on his first two completions of the second half broke the game open. In consecutive games against Long Beach Poly and Carson, the Diablos have not allowed an offensive touchdown.

4. Good teams win on off nights, and it's fair to say that with 165 yards in penalties and four fumbles -- three of them inside the red zone -- that San Clemente had an off night. Nevertheless, the Tritons prevailed against Newport Harbor, 24-12, behind Travis Wilson and Mike Elespuru. It was the lowest-scoring game of the season for San Clemente, which will no doubt be refocused when it returns to action Saturday against West Adams Prep. The outcome was a testament to the talent of San Clemente, but the Tritons will never get away with that against Mission Viejo in the South Coast League on Oct. 28.

5. Newport Harbor's girls' volleyball team took third over the weekend at the 24-team Asics Challenge in Chicago. Cinnamon Sary earned all-tournament honors for the Sailors, who were beaten in the semifinals by eventual champion Louisville (Ken.) Assumption, but who came back from a game down to beat Chicago Mother McAuley in the third-place match. They don't waste time in Sunset League play this week as Newport -- ranked No. 4 in Southern Section Division 1-AA -- plays host to No. 1 Los Alamitos on Thursday and No. 3 Edison on Saturday.