LAS FLORES -- It was a chant that resonated throughout Titan Stadium, emerging from a small crease but growing louder and clearer as Friday night's game wore on.
"We are, M-V! We are, M-V!"
And with the way things unraveled, Mission Viejo's cheering section might as well have been yelling, "We are, envied." The Diablos, ranked No. 3 by ESPNLA.com, are the premier South Coast League team, proving it with a sound, 30-7, road victory over No. 17 Tesoro.
Backup quarterback Tre Madden led Mission Viejo with 213 yards of total offense, running for a touchdown and throwing another in the second quarter to help build a 21-0 cushion at halftime. Quarterback Alex Bridgford missed a majority of the second half as he dealt with a hip injury, but still managed to throw for 173 yards on 11-for-18 passing.
Tailback Dallas Kessman had 67 yards on 21 carries, tacking on a 19-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes to put the game away.
"I'm very proud of our kids," Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said. "We've had the roughest schedule in the county. We've gone through it [even though] everyone is playing very well against us."
Tesoro wasn't just looking for the upset. The Titans were seeking a repeat of 2008's win against Mission Viejo -- the Diablos' last league loss. Tesoro was so revved up that it drew a delay-of-game penalty before the opening kickoff.
With the pregame countdown clock already at 0:00, Tesoro's offensive starters began to be introduced individually. Each player ran through the team's blow-up replica helmet as his name was called. Meanwhile, Johnson threw his arms up in disbelief, constantly yelling, “What are we doing?”
Oh, but the Titans weren't done firing themselves up. With Mission Viejo’s kickoff unit lined up and ready to go, Tesoro’s entire squad gathered at midfield for one last talk. The head referee threw his flag and they were all set to go.
Madden broke a scoreless tie with a four-yard quarterback keeper early in the second quarter. A few minutes later, Jahleel Pinner capitalized on a Tesoro special teams turnover, scoring on a one-yard dive. Shortly after Bridgford left the game, Madden connected with Mack Powell on a 15-yard pass for the Diablos' (9-0) other first-half score.
"I thought we had a very good first half," Johnson said.
Tesoro (7-2) had its chances, too. In the second quarter -- when it was still a 7-0 game -- Skyler Cracraft took an interception 53 yards the other way to set Tesoro up at the Mission Viejo 22. The Titans couldn’t convert and were forced to punt.
Tesoro quarterback Matt Adam was 9 for 20 for just 87 yards.
"Our schedule has a lot to do with that," Johnson said of his team's strong defensive effort. "We've played tough people all the way through."