PUBLISHED: August 27, 2021 at 11:56 p.m. | UPDATED: August 27, 2021 at 11:57 p.m.
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MISSION VIEJO — The scene was all too familiar for the Capistrano Valley football team. The Cougars jumped out to an early lead behind a dynamic offense but then struggled to put away their visiting opponent.
Only this time, Capo Valley made the plays in the fourth quarter to protect their lead and came away with a 38-30 win over Sunny Hills on Friday night.
In their season opener against Tustin, the Cougars held a 14-point lead at halftime but wound up losing in overtime.
“I just felt we became a team tonight,” Cougars coach Sean Curtis said. “We told them (after last week’s loss) we were probably going to be in this moment again so let’s be smart.”
The Cougars were led by quarterback Trey Kukuk, who threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns and had two receivers finish with 100-yard nights. Dane Benedix caught seven passes for 120 yards and two TDs and Owen Taylor who finished with 103 yards receiving.
Taylor’s touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone with 4:35 left in the game gave the Cougars an eight-point advantage and that proved to be enough for the victory.
“We knew they were gonna keep fighting until the last whistle, so to go up eight gave us that insurance,” Curtis said.
Juan Segura sacked Sunny Hills quarterback Max Spero twice in the final two drives to help secure the win.
The Lancers struck first with an 80-yard drive led by David Mahood and finished by Spero’s 20-yard pass to Dylan Lawson to make it 7-0. Mahood finished with 143 rushing yards.
Capo Valley responded with 21 consecutive points as Kukuk distributed the ball to Mark Hopkins and Benedix early and often.
“He can still get even better, that’s the fun part,” Curtis said of Kukuk. “He has such a good grasp of the offense, he’s managing it well and playing at a really high level.”
“They’re really athletic at quarterback,” Sunny Hills coach Pete Karavedas said. “He’s outstanding, and those receivers are outstanding. We did everything we could to stay with them.”
Sunny Hills scored a rushing touchdown — by Chris Pinawin — and then picked up a safety when the Cougars punter threw the ball out the back of the end zone after the snap went over his head.
The safety cut the Cougars’ lead to 21-16.
The Lancers took a 23-21 lead going into halftime after a 34-yard catch by Nick Wilde.
Capo Valley and Sunny Hills traded touchdowns in the third. Hopkins scored on a 15-yard catch, then Nick Wilde scored for the Lancers on a 10-yard run to give Sunny Hills a 30-28 advantage.
The Cougars took the lead for good on Dylan Fingersh’s 27-yard field goal to make it 31-30 early in the fourth.
Kukuk led the final scoring drive, using his legs to keep the drive alive on a third down with an incredible spin move for a 16-yard gain.
“When he does those things with his feet, the spin move at the end of the game, it’s just that added bonus,” Curtis said.