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Tustin Turnovers Lead to 28-17 Irvine Victory

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irvine Coach Terry Henigan didn’t deliver a magical halftime speech to spark the fourth-ranked Vaqueros to a 28-17 Sea View League victory over Tustin Friday at Tustin High.

“I just tried to stay out of the way and let the kids play,” Henigan said. “We have a lot of talented kids, and I cost us a touchdown with poor play selection on the final play of the first half.”

The halftime strategy worked. Irvine (4-1, 2-0 in league), trailing, 10-7, at the intermission, came out and reeled off 21 consecutive points and 148 yards rushing in 31 carries from running back Tony Mathis.

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Lamar Barrett had scored on a three-yard touchdown run with 1 minute 6 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Tustin a 10-7 lead at the intermission.

Irvine had taken the ensuing kickoff and marched 76 yards in eight plays to the Tustin four with 27 seconds remaining. It was at that point that Henigan called a running play he later regretted.

Mathis was tackled at the three as time expired.

Irvine’s defense responded in the second half, coming up with two interceptions and two recovered fumbles while holding the Tillers to 50 yards and two first downs in the first 22 minutes of the half.

Meanwhile, the Vaqueros offense began to click with Mathis carrying the ball 19 times for 100 yards, and quarterback Mike Phelps completing seven of nine passes for 93 yards. Phelps finished 14 of 20 for 188 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

On Tustin’s first possession of the second half, Devin Pohl fumbled at the Tustin 25 and Irvine recovered.

Two plays later, Mathis scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to give Irvine a 14-10 lead.

Irvine forced Tustin to punt on its next possession, then marched 59 yards in seven plays with Mathis scoring on a three-yard run for a 21-10 lead.

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Tustin’s offense continued to struggle, and Irvine defensive back Chris Austin stopped the Tillers’ next drive with his second interception of the game at the Tustin 45.

But Irvine couldn’t knock out Tustin. Tustin defensive back Chris McDonald intercepted a pass at the three to stop the Vaqueros with 1:47 remaining in the third period.

Irvine put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter when Phelps connected with Geoff Noisy on a 34-yard pass play to the Tustin seven. One play later, Mathis scored on a three-yard run with 4:52 remaining to give Irvine a 28-10 lead.

“In the second half, we came out and killed ourselves,” Tustin Coach Tim Ellis said. “I thought our defense played tough against a very physical football team, but our offense gave them the ball inside our 40 too many times.”

Tustin scored the game’s final touchdown on a 90-yard pass play to Jason Reynolds from quarterback Brandon Wilson with 1:31 remaining. Wilson completed seven of 14 passes for 191 yards, but had three passes intercepted.

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