SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS : Tustin Thwarts University Drives in Fourth Quarter : Division VI: Tillers advance to final for second consecutive season with 14-6 victory.
University High School’s football team, playing in its first Division VI semifinal game, had a miserable fourth quarter Friday night at Irvine High.
Tustin’s defense made sure it didn’t happen any other way in a 14-6 victory, which sends the Tillers to the title game for the second consecutive season. Tustin plays the winner of tonight’s Valencia-Woodbridge game in next week’s final.
Third-seeded Tustin is 12-1. University, which had never won a playoff game before this season, ends its season 7-6.
Trailing, 14-3, entering the fourth quarter Friday, University needed a touchdown desperately. It didn’t get one, though it didn’t lack for chances.
Three times University got close, but the Trojans could manage only a field goal.
University moved to the Tustin 20-yard line where running back Jerry Apana fumbled and Tustin defensive end Adam Schulenburg recovered with 11 minutes 27 seconds left.
University then drove to the Tustin 13 where linebacker Nick Cantu intercepted quarterback Chris Peake’s pass with 7:18 left.
Standing at the 15, Cantu reached up to bat the ball into the air. Without a moment’s hesitation, he plucked the spinning ball above him and cradled it to his body.
Later, University got to the Tustin six, was whistled for illegal procedure on third and one, and settled for a 27-yard field goal by Nathan Morreale with 3:59 left.
From there, Tustin ran out the clock, gaining its second victory over University, its Sea View League rival this season. Earlier, Tustin defeated University, 12-6, on its way to winning the league championship. University had to win its final regular season game just to qualify for the playoffs as an at-large entry.
“They were as good as anybody we’ve played this season,” Tustin Coach Marijon Ancich said. “They played really, really great defensive football.”
One long punt return early in the game, had an impact on the outcome, Ancich said.
Tustin’s Ramsey Alexander returned Morreale’s first quarter punt 45 yards to the University 14-yard line, setting up a nine-yard touchdown run by Jason Reynolds.
“That (the punt return) was a crucial play,” Ancich said. “They had to come back after that.”
Reynolds added a 12-yard scoring run in the second quarter, giving Tustin a 14-0 lead by halftime.
University went nowhere in the first half, rushing for 15 yards and passing for minus-two.
“I don’t think they had a first down in the first half,” Ancich said.
He was right, University didn’t. All five drives were the same: three plays and a punt.
The Trojans moved the ball better in the third quarter. Morreale kicked a 52-yard field goal that skimmed the crossbar on the way over, cutting the lead to 14-3.
Tustin’s defense held strong in the fourth quarter, though.