COSTA MESA — If Orange Coast College football fans were looking for more to cheer about after a first half in which the Pirates dominated rival Golden West on Saturday, they had to settle for a halftime ceremony that recognized the latest inductees into the OCC Athletics Hall of Fame.
OCC rolled up a 14-point lead and a 313-114 yardage advantage in the first two periods in the 44th meeting between the two district neighbors.
But as thoroughly as the Pirates controlled the first half, the Rustlers reigned in the final two quarters to rally for a 27-20 East Division triumph.
Golden West (5-4, 3-1 in the division), ranked No. 12 in Southern California, scored on its first three possessions after intermission, then held on as a late OCC drive ended with an interception in the end zone.
Sophomore quarterback Raymond Huizar threw three second-half touchdown passes and his counterpart, OCC freshman Mike Frank, threw a pair of interceptions to help the Rustlers up their series advantage to 22-20-2.
OCC's turnovers in the passing game took some of the luster off another strong performance by freshman running back Domenic Betts. Betts, who bolted for touchdown runs of 38 and 57 yards, finished with 223 yards on 28 carries. The state's leading rusher now has 1,574 rushing yards this season, making him the school record holder. Betts surpassed Ray Holley, who gained 1,457 yards in 2009, on his 57-yard burst between the hash marks that put OCC up, 17-6, with 5:22 left in the half.
But Betts managed just 40 yards on 11 attempts in the second half and OCC's passing game could not pick up the slack.
Frank, who completed 17 of 25 for 140 yards and rushed for 38 yards on 10 carries, had shuffled three yards and a first down on a fourth-down quarterback sneak to the Golden West 19-yard line with 6:22 left and the Pirates trailing, 27-20. But two plays later, his pass to Steve Hauptmann inside the five-yard line caromed off Hauptmann's hands and into the arms of Rustlers safety Aaron Avilas.
The OCC defense, which was burned for 259 yards after intermission, forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. There was a 25-minute delay, however, before the ensuing punt with 3:29 left, as medical personnel attended to Golden West running back and punter Cody Johnson, who appeared to suffer a neck injury on the third-down run.
Johnson, who was motionless on the turf during the delay, raised his right arm and gave a thumbs up sign before being lifted into an ambulance and taken to a hospital.
But things didn't look as optimistic for the Rustlers when the punt by backup Donny Rugles netted just 23 yards, setting OCC up at the Golden West 45-yard line with 3:13 remaining.
Frank threw to Matt Carlyle for eight yards to the 24 on fourth-and-two to move the chains, then was stopped for no gain on a scramble, prompting a timeout with 1:11 left.
On the next snap, Frank scrambled away from pressure to his left and appeared to have open field in front of him. But he pulled up and lofted a pass intended for Chris Brown in the end zone. The ball, however, was intercepted by Rustlers cornerback Roth Mendoza, who downed it for a touchback.
Golden West took a knee on two subsequent plays to run out the clock and take possession of the perpetual Victory Bell trophy for the second straight year.
Johnson was involved in a key play that helped turn the momentum toward Golden West.
On fourth-and-four on the OCC 44-yard line early in the second half, Johnson broke from a huddle near the Rustlers sideline and was in punt formation. OCC, believing a timeout had been called, was also huddled near its sideline and had to scramble to get a defensive unit on the field before the snap.
OCC (3-6, 1-3) only had nine players on the field when Johnson ran eight yards for a first down on a fake that extended the drive, which eventually produced a touchdown.
"I thought there was a timeout," OCC Coach Mike Taylor said. "We should have taken a timeout once we had some confusion but we didn't do that."
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