COLUMN: Utah game is close to home

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first_imgDrive a little less than 60 miles south of USC, and you will find the small beach town of San Clemente, California — my hometown.Unlike many of the surrounding cities who have multiple high schools, there’s only one in San Clemente, which is perfectly described by the school football team’s motto: one town, one team.Come Saturday, though, this one town will be represented by players on two opposing teams.Utah senior quarterback Travis Wilson hopes to march into the Coliseum on game day and get his first ever win back home in Southern California, while taking the No. 3-ranked Utes to 7-0.On the other side of the ball, a trio of former San Clemente Tritons including redshirt junior wide receiver Christian Tober, freshman quarterback Sam Darnold and freshman walk-on wide receiver Jake Russell, and the Trojans will attempt to spoil Wilson’s homecoming in a game they desperately need to keep their season alive.Wilson and Tober, who was recently awarded a scholarship, along with Stanford offensive lineman Kyle Murphy and Oregon State offensive lineman Sean Harlow, were teammates on the San Clemente team that reached the CIF-SS Pac-5 Championship game in 2011.The younger generation in Darnold and Russell continued the tradition of San Clemente players going on to play in the Pac-12, which currently has six in the conference.In proper fashion, USC and Utah match up during friends and family weekend in a game that carries more than just Pac-12 South implications —  for these San Clemente natives, bragging rights are on the line.One of USC’s priorities has to be trying to stop a dual-threat in Wilson, who helped lead a game-winning drive to overcome the Trojans in Salt Lake City last year.Standing at 6-foot-7, Wilson is probably one of the greatest athletes to ever come out of our city of about 65,000. Growing up alongside side Wilson and playing on a couple of youth sports teams with him over the years, I always knew that Wilson would make an incredible athlete one day.I just hoped it would never come against a team in which I had ties to — wishful thinking, I guess.USC’s secret weapon against Utah might very well be a player that doesn’t even see the field this Saturday in Sam Darnold, who is probably the closest thing the Trojans have to Wilson. He’s got an arm, is large in stature and can do a lot of damage with his feet.Darnold, who was a freshman in high school when Wilson was a senior, is following in his footsteps — on track to continue the lineage of former San Clemente quarterbacks to start in the Pac-12. However, before he takes his first snaps under center in a game, he was given the task of simulating his elder in the Utes read-option offense.USC coaches employed Darnold, a highly touted recruit out of high school, as the scout team quarterback against the USC first team defense.San Clemente head  football coach Jaime Ortiz said that it is so awesome to see Darnold living his dream at USC, while watching Wilson help Utah become a force to be reckoned with on the national stage.When Wilson originally committed to Utah, he told Ortiz that he wanted to make the Utes a national contender before it was all said and done, and he has done exactly that in his senior year.In the process, he has also inspired a new recruiting pipeline in his home town with two San Clemente players already committed to play for the Utes. High school seniors Cole Fotheringham and Tucker Scott will try to build on the success that Wilson established, while class of 2017 quarterback Jack Sears has been extended an offer by the program.Utah also intrigued a lot of interest in Darnold before he decided to commit to the Trojans.Conversely, Wilson was never offered by USC and enrolled early at Utah in the spring of 2012, in which the Utes were coming off just their first season as a Pac-12 school. Just four years later, he has the Utes at the national forefront.Wilson has overcome a lot to get to where he is today — the passing of a close friend in former UCLA player Nick Pasquale — and an almost career-ending brain injury.In Wilson’s homecoming, the only thing standing in his way of a Pac-12 south crown now is the Trojans.Darian Nourian is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Persian Persuasion,” runs Fridays.last_img

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