Los Angeles Preps: Alex Bridgford

I.E.: Games of the Week

October, 6, 2011
Is this the week that Redlands East Valley jumps into the mix with a huge upset against an out-of-county foe? Can J.W. North become just the second team to ever win a Big VIII league game against Corona Centennial? Will some key additions for Corona Santiago help the Sharks get over the hump against Norco? These are just a few of the questions awaiting Week 5.


(ESPNLA top 25 rankings included)

No. 23 J.W. North (4-0, 1-0) at No. 6 Centennial (3-1, 1-0), Friday ( 7 p.m.) – Forget that little matchup over in Redlands, this game actually means something to the Inland Empire landscape. J.W. North shocked the Southland in Week 2 when the Huskies went for two in the final minute to topple Alemany, 36-35, the same night Centennial came from behind in the second half to beat Mater Dei, 28-20. Neither team has trailed since. Centennial quarterback Hayden Gavett has settled in as a first-year starter, and running back Romello Goodman is doing his best Barrington Collins imitation, picking up where last season's main ball carrier left off. Centennial hasn’t faced a team as athletic as J.W. North. Justin Gheorghe is just the third Inland Empire quarterback to surpass 1,000 yards passing this season, and he has a sensational deep threat in 6-foot-3 senior receiver Aaron Peck, who is averaging just over 26 yards a catch with five touchdowns this season.

Calpreps.com computerized projection: Corona Centennial 42, J.W. North 26

ESPNLA: Corona Centennial 48, J.W. North 38


No. 2 Mission Viejo (4-1) vs. No. 21 Redlands East Valley (4-0) at University of Redlands, Friday (7:30 p.m.) – One of the surprise teams out of the gate has been Redlands East Valley, not so much that the Wildcats are still undefeated at this point, but how they got there. Three shutouts in four games and 12 points allowed overall will earn some attention, and a lot of folks in Mission Viejo are approaching this game with some concern. The Wildcats have a second-year quarterback in Austin Decoud, their leading rusher from last season in Jesse Riley, and four returning starters on the offensive line. They're just as stacked with experience on defense, especially up front with junior defensive lineman Kylie Fitts recording 4 1/2 sacks through three games, and senior strong safety Trevor Douglass having a hand in four of the team’s 12 takeaways. Mission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford hasn’t been flashy but he has been efficient, passing for at least 200 yards every game this season. The running game hasn’t been slowed too much by the loss of Buzzy Yokoyama, out since Week 1 because of a foot injury.

Calpreps.com: Mission Viejo 17, Redlands East Valley 14

ESPNLA: Mission Viejo 28, Redlands East Valley 14

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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.

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Football: No. 3 Mission Viejo 31, No. 22 Carson 0

September, 30, 2011

CARSON -- No Jahleel Pinner, no problem for unfazed Mission Viejo.

An ankle sprain limited Pinner to cheering duty and the Diablos' leading rusher had plenty to root for, as Mission Viejo breezed past Carson, 31-0, on Friday night. The replacements, Marcus Collins and Daniel Marx, combined for 164 yards of total offense while filling in for the USC commit.

"We have guys that can step in," Mission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford said. "Marcus Collins stepped in very well and Daniel Marx, who we got back from a concussion, is a great player. He's huge, he's fast, he's a hard worker ... and he's just a sophomore."

Bridgford did his part, too, bouncing back from a shaky first half to finish with 207 yards and three touchdowns on 7 of 18 passing. D.J. Wilson, the Diablos' other dynamic weapon, had only two receptions -- one of 75 yards and another of 27 -- but he reached the end zone on both.

Mission Viejo (4-1), the No. 3 team in the ESPN Los Angeles top 25 rankings, took a narrow 10-0 lead into the locker room at the break. The Diablos emerged a more determined bunch, with Bridgford hitting Max Redfield for a 74-yard score on his first pass of the second half.

"We had those earlier in the game, but I just missed those reads," Bridgford said.

The offensive improvements weren't needed, really. Mission Viejo's defense was superb, shutting out a Carson spread that had put up 26 points against Mater Dei and 21 against Santa Margarita. USC-bound Darreus Rogers was targeted often but was held to only one catch, for a mere 13 yards.

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MISSION VIEJO -- The one sticking point in Mission Viejo's game this season was supposed to be its defense. The offense? Loaded. The defense? Well, everyone wanted to talk about the offense.

But if there was disparity between the two sides of the ball, the gap closed Friday night as the home Mission Viejo defense led the way in a tough 17-12 nonleague victory over Long Beach Poly.

It's the fourth time in four games that Mission Viejo (3-1), ranked No. 4 in the ESPNLA top 25, has beaten Poly (3-1), which came into the game ranked No. 2.

The defense, led by Ryan Harris and Colin Dzubnar, limited Poly to just two field goals. The only touchdown created by the Jackrabbits came when Randall Goforth returned an interception 85 yards for a score with 5 minutes 16 seconds left. The two-point conversion failed. Still, it made the final five minutes a lot more interesting as Poly was just one play from winning.

The Mission Viejo defense set up the offense for 10 points. Garrett Marino recovered a fumble on the game's first play that led to a 27-yard drive, and Anthony Pierce's interception late in the third quarter -- with a 23-yard return -- gave Mission the ball at the Poly 14; Zach Christensen kicked a 28-yard field goal for a 17-6 lead.

"I'm very happy, I'm ecstatic," said Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson. "We beat a good team. They were revved up and ready to go. That's a good football team and I'm sure they'll be in the playoffs, and I'm sure we will too. I'm happy. There was some sputtering here and some sputtering there -- it's high school football.

"Our defense, I'm so proud of them."

Poly gained only nine yards in 18 rushing attempts, and quarterback Chaiyse Hales completed 10 of 18 passes for 92 yards.

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Credit Mission Viejo for seeking out the No. 1 team in the nation despite losing, 35-7, to Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep. Coach Bob Johnson told ESPNLA that he never had to plan harder for an opponent in all his years of coaching.

Although he didn't want to use injuries as an excuse, Johnson said losing center Kevin Carroll to injury on the second series didn't help as Bosco sacked Alex Bridgford six times; he was intercepted four times.

Johnson told the Orange County Register he couldn't remember the last time his team lost by so many points. No wonder Johnson couldn't remember, it was more than 40 years ago, according to the Register's Steve Fryer, that a Johnson team had lost by more. In his first season as a head coach, at Los Amigos in 1970, Johnson's team lost 42-0 to Garden Grove Santiago.

No matter the score, there were a lot of other reasons that the Diablos had a memorable trip.
The Mission Viejo football team had a wonderful trip to the Tri-State area, one of those once-in-a-lifetime memory-makers. Then came the football game Saturday against the No. 1 team in the nation, Don Bosco Prep from Ramsey, N.J.

It might be a while before the Diablos shake that game loose from the memories, too.

That's because the Ironmen gave Mission Viejo something to remember with a 35-7 beating in an East-West showdown that matched the five-time defending state champion against one of the perennial powers of the Southern Section. It was the 36th consecutive victory for Don Bosco, and the 60th in 61 games.

Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said the result was mostly due to Don Bosco's effort, particularly on defense.

"They're very talented, as good as any team I've ever planned for," he said. "They have eight legit D-1 guys on defense. We knew it when we scheduled them. You can't take anything away from them. On defense, they have off-the-chart talent."

He said his team did have its chances, though, but missed on a halfback pass in which the receiver was behind the defense, and twice got inside the 20-yard line but came away empty. Also, he said, "we got a rash of injuries" including his fullback and center—on the second series—that also changed the dynamic.

"Not much went our way," he said. "We're better than the score. But I was real proud—the kids never stopped fighting."

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Alex BridgfordMartin Henderson for ESPNLA.comMission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford had only 10 completions but accounted for 260 yards and four touchdowns through the air.

MISSION VIEJO -- For Mission Viejo, its season-opening victory over Bakersfield Centennial was a lot of hit and miss, and in the end, a lot of fingers crossed.

The 35-6 nonleague victory in the Mission Viejo Classic was pretty complete, even though the central figures said there was a lot of room for improvement. But Diablos players walked off the field hoping for the best from Buzzy Yokoyama, who started at running back and got a sack from the nickel position on defense.

Yokoyama went to the hospital with a possible foot or ankle injury.

"We're really knocking on wood, praying, for any kid," coach Bob Johnson said. "He was a real contributor to us in a fast way and good way. he's a wonderful kid.. We haven't had him but for a few months, but he's fit in like a glove, like he's been here for four years. For anybody I feel bad their senior year like that, who's done a lot."

A senior transfer from Newport Harbor who missed three games last year because of a knee injury, Yokoyama carried five times for 35 yards, including a 26-yard run — his final carry of the night. That was part of a five-play, 72-yard drive capped by Jahleel Pinner's six-yard run for a 28-6 lead with 6:31 left in the third quarter.

Pinner carried 13 times for 57 yards and also caught a short pass that he took in for a 15-yard score and a 7-0 lead.

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Any of the top three teams in these preseason rankings could have been No. 1.

On the surface, Mission Viejo might be the best of the lot with a returning quarterback in Alex Bridgford and the return of a strong running game that includes Jahleel Pinner that is made stronger by the arrival of senior transfer Buzzy Yokoyama from Newport Harbor. They'll be running behind a strong offensive line, and a formidable defense will be there to complement the effort.

Yet in the last two seasons, they have been undone by Servite in the Southern Section Pac-5 semifinals in 2009, and the finals in 2010. What do they need to do to get over the hump?

"We're not going to change a thing," said Bob Johnson, who has a 267-89-1 record in 26 seasons of coaching, including 126-16-1 at Mission Viejo. "If we get to the finals again, no excuses. They beat us both years. We'll come back and try again."

Here is a closer look at the Diablos:

Coach: Bob Johnson, 13th season

2010 Record: 13-1, lost to Servite in the Southern Section Pac-5 championship.

Returning starters: 11 total. Six on offense, five on defense.

Key players on offense: QB Alex Bridgford, OL Austin Maass (San Diego State), RB Jahleel Pinner (USC), OL Colby Cyburt, TE Austin Reuland, C Kevin Carroll.

Key players on defense: LB Ryan Harris, DL Colin Dzubnar, LB Daniel Marks, MLB Wes Hardman, CB Anthony Pierce, FS Max Redfield, SS Doug Ruggles.

Difference maker: Pinner was a handful when he was a sophomore fullback, but now he is a senior who has dropped from 238 pounds to 218 and is stronger and faster. As a tailback, he's going to be tough to bring down. If opponents can't stop the running game, it's game over.

Newcomers: RB/DB Buzzy Yokoyama, a transfer from Newport Harbor.

Not to be missed: Mission Viejo at Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep, Sept. 10. Not only is it an East vs. West matchup, but it’s two of the top programs in the nation. Many have Don Bosco ranked No. 1 in the nation, and the national sentiment regarding Mission is very high, too. A win on the road by the Diablos might have everyone rethinking their rankings.

Coach’s comment: "I like the team. I like it a lot," Johnson said. "I don't know if they have more than one loss in the last three years. I like them. It's always fun to have a quarterback returning. I like everyone around here. We have to stay healthy. A couple of key injuries could be really tough."

Final analysis: Mission Viejo is going to score a lot of points. It has a terrific nonleague schedule; besides Bosco, it plays Long Beach Poly, Carson, La Quinta and Redlands East Valley. There are also two terrific league matchups against San Clemente and Tesoro. But it all comes down to the playoffs. Mission's going to be there, but they haven't been able to make the plays to get past Servite. This might be the year.

Orange County: Five things from the weekend

December, 14, 2010
1. Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said he wasn't trying to make excuses, but he recognized that the first half of the top-seeded Diablos' 41-27 loss to second-seeded Servite was “a disaster,” as his team made too many mistakes and dropped too many passes. Servite coach Troy Thomas quipped, “We dropped a lot of their passes too.”

2. All the respect in the world for Alex Bridgford, the Mission Viejo QB who finished 21 of 48 for 274 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Bridgford got crushed on the final play of the game and fumbled one yard from the end zone. In tears during the postgame award presentation, the junior showed the leadership mettle that will serve him well in the long run. He stood in and answered questions about the only loss his team suffered all season. That was in contrast to one of his senior teammates who refused to even acknowledge the reporter without so much as an “I'd rather not talk.” From where I stand, Bridgford is the Man.

3. Helping top-seeded Garden Grove win its first-ever football title, Josh Webb's performance in a 31-30 Southern Division victory over Beckman might have been the single-most exciting football performance I've seen in 30 years of covering high school sports. I was there the night Santa Margarita quarterback Carson Palmer outdueled Tustin running back DeShaun Foster, and I've seen plenty of highlight reel footage from the pressboxand the sidelines. I'm not sure anything compared to the dynamic performance by Webb on the biggest stage Garden Grove can play; his five-yard touchdown run (with a somersault) after taking a backward pass and then his conversion run (with a 360-degree rotation across the top of two defenders) with 1:27 left in the game was the best set of back-to-back plays I've seen. Ever.

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Pac-5 championship: Servite 41, Mission Viejo 27

December, 12, 2010
ANAHEIM – They had been on a collision course all season. Both teams had lived up to the hype as they went through the playoffs. And when they met at Angel Stadium on Saturday to determine the undefeated Pac-5 champion, an unstoppable offense and a bruising defense both showed up.

For the same team.

Second-seeded Servite scored four times in the first half and rode the arm and legs of Cody Pittman, the continued excellence of Malik Felton, and the trademark defense to a decisive 41-27 victory in front of 15,582 fans over the one team that figured to have a chance to beat them. It's the second consecutive championship for Servite (14-0), which also won the Division II State Bowl championship last season.

Instead, top-seeded Mission Viejo (13-1) found the defense of Servite (14-0) just as physical as advertised. The Diablo offense dropped balls – perhaps knowing the jarring hit that would come with every completion – and threw interceptions and didn't look anything like the team that averaged 45.1 points this season.

“They rattled some of us,” said Mission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford, a junior who fumbled at the one-yard line on Mission Viejo's final play with 52 seconds to go. “We had to come back at the end but it was too late.”

This game had seemingly been in the making since last season when Mission Viejo was turned away on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of a 19-18 loss to Servite in the semifinals.

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Pac-5 Division: Mission Viejo 42, Mater Dei 21

December, 3, 2010
SANTA ANA – Mission Viejo and Mater Dei, who have played such an important role in Orange County football over the past two decades, met for the first time in a playoff game on Friday and delivered terrific drama.

For a half.

But as has been the case all season, you've got to roll for four quarters to keep up with top-seeded Mission Viejo, which overcame an early deficit and scored a 42-21 victory in the Southern Section Pac-5 semifinals at Santa Ana Stadium.

The Diablos (13-0), who have been part of a season-long debate involving Servite as to who is No. 1, have done their part. They will be in the finals next Saturday at Angel Stadium. On the other sideline will be second-seeded Servite (12-0) or third-seeded Alemany (12-0), which play Saturday night at Cerritos College.

The opening moments of the game were fantastic. Mission Viejo needed only three plays to score, with Alex Bridgford passing to Austin Reuland for a 53-yard scoring pass.

Then Mater Dei (8-5) scored in two plays as Freddie Mora scored from 17 yards after Treavon Coley returned the kickoff 52 yards.

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Orange County: No. 3 Mission Viejo 30, No. 17 Tesoro 7

November, 6, 2010
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."

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Orange County: Five things from the weekend

October, 11, 2010
1. Maybe it takes a little investigation to find the real meat and potatoes, but JSerra's uber-convincing victory over Damien definitely makes one take pause. The reason? The 42-7 victory by JSerra is the exact same score that Damien had when it lost its other game this season – to highly touted Bishop Amat. If JSerra QB Jake Hall, RB Joey Kimpler and the rest of the offense – not to mention the defense – are posting Amat-type performances, then JSerra has transcended into the category of formidable. Bishop Amat led Damien at halftime, 35-0; JSerra led at halftime, 28-0, and also held a 35-0 lead. It provides added interest to the Lions' Trinity League opener against Servite, which figures to be far more revealing than beating another team by a comparable score.

2. Mission Viejo looked very good against Redlands East Valley. They have a lot of offensive weapons – Alex Bridgford, Dallas Kessman, Jahleel Pinner, Bryan Keller, Austin Reuland – and they are a load for any team facing its defense as well. But fair warning: Servite, even though it has been far more modest this season in its scoring, will get plenty of ideas from watching that game film against REV. And don't forget – Mission had more talent than the Friars last season, too, before losing that epic Pac-5 semifinal, 19-18. Mission might be the best team around, but as good as it looked, someone out there will test the Diablos before it's over.

3. Can you believe what's happened to Newport Harbor? Losing a running back to injury is part of football. Injuries happen. You hate to see it, but it's a fact of life. Buzzy Yokoyama, who now may be lost for the season, was a converted wide receiver who made the switch because Cedric Whitaker didn't return to the team for his senior season. Yokoyama was the county's second leading rusher. Now, gone. He has had to be replaced by Drew Diller. But then on Friday in a loss to Mira Costa, quarterback Austin Rios went down with a concussion. He may or may not be back next week (I'd bank on not). Tough as it is, a team can deal with an injury to a running back. But an injury to a running back and a quarterback? That's a disaster.

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Orange County & Inland Empire: No. 3 Mission Viejo 42, Redlands East Valley 14

October, 8, 2010
MISSION VIEJO – It was a bolt out of the blue, but not totally unexpected. Not with this offense that averages 45 points per game. But it was a singular moment in third-ranked Mission Viejo's 42-14 victory over Redlands East Valley that showed, once again, just how dangerous the Diablos are. Doesn't matter if you're good, bad or indifferent, they are an equal-opportunity butt-kicker. They can strike from anywhere on the field.

Martin Henderson/Special to ESPNLA.com
Mission Viejo's Dallas Kessman rushed 18 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns on his 18th birthday.

Which they did.

Right away.

Redlands East Valley (3-2) came into its game Friday ranked No. 6 in the Inland Division. The Wildcats are no pushover. REV was on defense first, and it held Dallas Kessman to no gain, then gave up a tough four yards. So far, so good. Then Alex Bridgford passed deep to Bryan Keller in stride – and 74 yards later Mission had a 7-0 lead.

Just like that, REV was in the hole.

Mission (6-0), the top-ranked team in the Southern Section Pac-5 Division, scored on three of its first four possessions. REV showed the kind of resilience most teams hope for against the Diablos, scoring on a 44-yard drive with some long runs by Jesse Riley that culminated in Austin Decoud's eight-yard score to tie, 7-7. So yeah, Mission was in a game.

But not for long.

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LA North & Orange County: No. 3 Mission Viejo takes care of business

September, 10, 2010
It was supposed to be a matchup between two of ESPN Los Angeles.com’s top football programs, but Friday night’s showdown between Mission Viejo and Los Angeles Loyola turned out to be a one-sided affair as one team looked every bit the part, and the other, not so much.

John Lazar/Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
Loyola's QB Ryan Develle looks for a reciever in the first half of the varsity football game between Loyola and Mission Viejo played at L.A. Valley College on Friday, September 10, 2010.

Mission Viejo backed up its lofty No.3 ranking by dominating the No.15 Cubs from start to finish in a 42-7 victory at Valley College in Van Nuys. The effort was impressive, to be sure. Apparently, the Diablos wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“We have a lot of pride and we wanted to come out here and make a big statement,’’ said Mission Viejo senior Tre Madden, who is committed to USC. “We are for real, we proved that tonight and I think people will realize that when they see the final score of this game.’’

All signs pointed to the Diablos (2-0) being disappointed with their 14-0 halftime lead given that they came out after intermission and promptly drove 80 yards in seven plays, with the drive capped on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Alex Bridgford to Ryan Keller. Before the Cubs (1-1) knew it, they trailed by three touchdowns midway through the third quarter.

Mission Viejo was just getting started too.

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