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Fryer: Mission Viejo’s defensive line earns big chunk of the credit for state football championship

MISSION VIEJO — Before his team’s state championship game Friday against Concord De La Salle, Mission Viejo football coach Chad Johnson was asked to identify his team’s unsung unit.

Johnson quickly replied: “The defensive line.”

The defensive line quickly presented what Johnson was talking about in the early moments of Mission Viejo’s 27-14 win over De La Salle in the CIF State Division 1-AA championship game at Saddleback College.

Mission Viejo quarterback Luke Fahey, center, reacts as the Diablos win the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship against De La Salle in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Mission Viejo middle linebacker Jack Matranga, right, hugs wide receiver...

Mission Viejo middle linebacker Jack Matranga, right, hugs wide receiver Travis Anderson to celebrate winning the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship against De La Salle in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

De La Salle wide receiver Dom Gallwitz is brought down...

De La Salle wide receiver Dom Gallwitz is brought down as he makes the catch by Mission Viejo’s Travis Anderson in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae, left, is grabbed from...

De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae, left, is grabbed from behind by Mission Viejo’s Travis Anderson on a quarterback keeper in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

De La Salle cornerback Jaden Jefferson tries to get past...

De La Salle cornerback Jaden Jefferson tries to get past Mission Viejo outside linebacker Jonavan Asuncion, left, and Zachary Foeldi, right, in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae is sacked by Mission...

De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae is sacked by Mission Viejo defensive end Jaden Williams (9) in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson reacts after the Diablos intercept...

Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson reacts after the Diablos intercept a pass to clinch winning the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship against De La Salle in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Mission Viejo center Ryan Karby (52) lifts an assistant coach...

Mission Viejo center Ryan Karby (52) lifts an assistant coach as the Diablos celebrate winning the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship against De La Salle in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson, right, celebrates with kicker Michael...

Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson, right, celebrates with kicker Michael Salgado-Medina after winning the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship against De La Salle in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

De La Salle’s Jayden Nicholas makes the behind-the-back catch late...

De La Salle’s Jayden Nicholas makes the behind-the-back catch late in the second quarter against Mission Viejo in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. De La Salle was unable to convert the advantage into to a score, failing a field goal as time ran out at the half. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Mission Viejo wide receiver Phillip Bell (1) celebrates his touchdown...

Mission Viejo wide receiver Phillip Bell (1) celebrates his touchdown catch against De La Salle in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae runs for a touchdown...

De La Salle quarterback Toa Faavae runs for a touchdown in the first quarter against Mission Viejo in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Mission Viejo wide receiver Phillip Bell (1) makes the touchdown...

Mission Viejo wide receiver Phillip Bell (1) makes the touchdown catch over De La Salle’s Anthony Dean to tie the score at 7 in the CIF Division 1-AA state football championship in Mission Viejo on Friday, December 8, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

De La Salle’s third play from scrimmage after taking the opening kickoff was a 3-yard loss on a running play, with Diablos defensive linemen Kane Nolte and Jaden Williams making the tackle.

Defensive linemen often tie up the blockers on the opposing offensive line so that others can make the tackles.

Mission Viejo’s safety had back-to-back tackles for loss on second and third downs, forcing De La Salle to punt.

Mission Viejo would score its only first-half touchdown on the ensuing possession to tie the game 7-7.

After that touchdown, Diablos defensive linemen Titus Miller and Damian Coblentz teamed to stop De La Salle quarterback Toa Fa’avae for a 2-yard loss on a third-down play that put the Spartans into another punting situation.

Late in the second quarter Williams and Miller blasted Fa’avae just as Fa’avae released the ball, a third-down incompletion that was followed by a De La Salle punt.

Mission Viejo put together a quick drive that led to Michael Salgado’s 22-yard field goal that gave the Diablos a 10-7 lead.

The Diablos’ defensive front continued its excellent play in the second half.

It’s not the biggest defensive line one will find among Orange County’s top football programs.

“Most people know we’re really not that big up front,” said Coblentz, a senior who is 5-10 and 235 pounds. “So we just fight. We have that dog mentality.

“Every single day, every single lift, every single practice, we just go all out. Because we’re small that’s what we have to do.”

Mission Viejo defensive line coach Chase Moline, an All-Orange County defensive lineman himself at the school during his playing days, said the group makes up for its lack of size with an abundance of determination.

“They do whatever we ask of them,” said Moline. “Their motor is high motor all the time. Obviously we’ve got some serious talent there. Jaden Williams has 17 sacks on the year. There’s Titus inside and Damian Coblentz. (Coblentz) is the undersized one but he plays with the biggest heart.”

Mission Viejo’s Trey Tolmaire made a third-quarter interception, an outstanding leaping grab that was partially the product of a hurried throw by Fa’avae who had Williams and Miller on top of him as he released the ball. The high-arc throw stayed in the air long enough for Tolmaire to make the play.

After Mission Viejo increased its lead to 24-7 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Luke Fahey to sophomore receiver Vance Spafford, De La Salle’s first-down play was a running play that lost 2 yards. Williams was in on the tackle.

It continued that way through the final minutes. Williams (6-4, 235), a junior, went into Friday’s game with a team-high 37 tackles for loss. Coblentz was in on 79 tackles and had eight sacks going into the state game.

It takes contributions from all units of a football team to finish 13-3 and win CIF Southern Section, CIF regional and CIF State championships, as Mission Viejo did this season.

That defensive line unit sure made its contribution.

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