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Football: Game blogging No. 21 Dana Hills at No. 7 Mission Viejo

November 13, 2009 | 10:50 am

The South Coast Championship is on the line tonight when No. 21 Dana Hills meets No. 7 Mission Viejo.

Dana Hills is 8-1, 4-0 in the South Coast, and its loss came against Huntington Beach Edison. The Times' Eric Sondheimer has seen the Dolphins play this year and says their record is "no fluke."

Coach Brent Melbon is in his second year and has instilled a cultural change to a team that went 1-8-1 in 2007. Melbon, who coached Dana Hills to a 5-5 record last season, told The Times' Ben Bolch his team "might just be a .500 team" if not for senior quarterback Josh Dean, who has gone 98 of 160 for 1,345 yards with 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions and runs a balanced running and passing game.

The running game features senior tailback Cole Altuzarra (93 carries for 513 yards and 10 touchdowns) and senior tailback Brandan Howe (97 carries for 696 yards and five touchdowns). The passing game features senior wide receiver Zach Alario (26 catches for 484 yards and nine touchdowns) and senior wide receiver Tanor Crowley (20 receptions for 410 yards and five touchdowns). Then there's junior Chris Kearney filling a jack-of-all trades role: He has caught 50 passes for 558 yards and five touchdowns, has rushed 25 times for 319 yards and one touchdown, has punted 18 times for 692 yards and has returned eight kickoffs for 290 yards.

Despite the number of options Dana Hills presents, Mission Viejo has history on its side. The Diablos (9-0, 4-0 in league play) haven't lost to the Dolphins since 1998. And Dana Hills hasn't won a league title since the school opened in 1973.

Mission Viejo hasn't outscored opponents a combined, 415-73, by accident. Senior quarterback Dallin McEwen has gone 67 of 108 for 1,383 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. Senior wide receiver Joey Branker has been McEwen's primary target, making 34 catches for 825 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Diablos also boast a solid running game. Senior tailback Exavier Edwards has led the way with 87 carries for 574 yards and 15 touchdowns, and junior tailback Dallas Kessman has 59 rushes for 487 yards and eight touchdowns.

Still, Mission Viejo Coach Bob Johnson doesn't want his team to rest on its laurels. There's tonight's game to play, and Varsity Times Insider will be there providing game updates throughout the night.

--Mark Medina