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Santa Margarita Slips, University Wins

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With two minutes remaining in the game, Santa Margarita High School quarterback Sean O’Brien slipped almost unnoticed into the Eagles’ lineup.

But it was his last slip that everyone noticed.

O’Brien, out because of injuries most of the fourth quarter, led Santa Margarita’s final touchdown drive, but tripped on the two-point conversion run with 30 seconds left and University held on for a 13-12 victory Thursday night at Irvine High School.

“It was in (O’Brien’s) hands,” University Coach Mark Cunningham said. “What happened, happened.”

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Santa Margarita, which beat University on a last-second field goal last season, dropped to 0-2. University (1-1) was led by running back Sammy Hunt’s 128 yards rushing in 20 carries.

O’Brien, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior who had been slowed with a sore knee and hand, directed the final seven plays of the Eagles’ 12-play, 64-yard drive that ended with his eight-yard touchdown pass to Brian Finneran.

Santa Margarita Coach Jim Hartigan, deciding to go for the victory with the two-point attempt, called for a goal-line sweep to the left. But O’Brien slipped and went down at the three. Santa Margarita’s hopes went with him.

“He just tripped,” Hartigan said. “It was my decision. We wanted the win. Unfortunately, he slipped.”

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Jerry Apana caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Chris Peake with 4:06 left in the third quarter to give University a 13-0 lead. On the ensuing play, Santa Margarita got the ball at the University 44 when the Eagles’ Matt Lucas recovered an onside kick.

Running back Josh Ireland, who finished with 92 yards in 19 carries, capped the Eagles’ drive with a 12-yard run with 12 seconds left in the third quarter. O’Brien’s extra-point kick sailed wide left, and University led, 13-6.

University’s other touchdown came on a 28-yard run by Hunt with 4:41 left in the second quarter.


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