REDLANDS -- What do they have to lose? That's what coach Kurt Bruich said before the game, this notion of playing a team such as Mission Viejo that was nationally ranked. "If you win," Bruich said, "it puts you on the map."
Rand-McNally may be looking for the Redlands East Valley football program any day now after the Wildcats, ranked No. 21 in the ESPNLA Top 25 rankings, delivered the biggest victory in school history, a 10-7 decision over No. 2 Mission Viejo.
The Diablos, visitors on the University of Redlands campus stadium, weren't just any No. 2 team; they were ranked No. 31 in the nation in the Powerade Fab 50.
"We just beat a national ranked, state-ranked, perennial powerhouse, and we beat them on defense," Bruich said. "Special teams and defense. ... It's a big win for the Inland Division."
No question, Mission Viejo (4-2) was beat up; the Diablos were missing their top three running backs, Jahleel Pinner, Buzzy Yokoyama and Daniel Marx. But REV was missing its top two runners, Darreus Parrison and Taylor Thompson.
That left the quarterbacks to shoulder much of the load. Austin Decoud led REV with 45 yards rushing, and he completed eight of 14 passes for 68 yards and an interception. Alex Bridgford completed 11 of 28 passes for 196 yards and two interceptions, and he was sacked three times -- once on the game's final desperate drive.
Ultimately, the game was a battle of solid defenses, and in the end, REV (5-0) made more plays that mattered.
The biggest of those came in the second quarter with REV holding a 3-0 lead. A REV punt hit the ground and bounced into the back of the leg of Mission Viejo's Max Redfield at the 25-yard line, then bounced toward the end zone with a den of Wildcats in pursuit.
Eventually, Tanner Shreve got his hands on it and fell the last yard into the end zone for a touchdown. David Massuere's point-after made it 10-0, a lead taken into the fourth quarter.
"This is the biggest win ever," Shreve said. "We just made REV history. I've got to give it up for the defense."
The defense, led by cornerbacks Jamal Ellis and Daniel Gonzales, limited Mission to 267 yards, 196 passing. But Gonzalez intercepted a pass before halftime in the end zone with Mission firing from the nine-yard line, and in the fourth quarter the defense produced a goal-line stand that left Mission's 23-play drive empty. The Diablos had first and goal at the six, and three times tried to score from the two or closer only to be turned back, one of the biggest plays coming on third down when Edmund Faimalo stopped Brett Tenhoff.
Trevor Douglass added another interception in the fourth quarter, with 2:33 remaining, at the 10-yard line.
Mission Viejo gave the kind of defensive performance that deserved a victory, too. It limited REV to 145 yards, 77 rushing, and made a couple of big stands. On first and goal from the eight, the defense forced REV to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Massuere.
With REV driving downfield to open the second half, Redfield intercepted a pass at the 19.
Mission Viejo scored in the fourth, on Tenhoff's three-yard run following a 40-yard pass from Bridgford to Brandon Neville.
Their last chance came with 54 seconds remaining with 51 yards to go. Mission reached the 28 before two passes, the last to Redfield, fell incomplete.
At that point, the packed REV side of the stadium erupted and the Wildcats had their signature victory.
"This," Bruich said, "is as good a team as I'll ever have."
He can tell that to Rand-McNally.