IRVINE — Estancia High Coach Mike Bargas said his football team has to clean up the mess.
The offensive side did not help the Eagles Thursday night as they lost to University, 13-6, suffering their second straight loss.
Estancia's defense has done its job during the skid, while the offense has only mustered 19 points.
The Eagles (1-2) went scoreless in the final three quarters of the nonleague game at Irvine High. Out of the last eight quarters, opponents have shut out Estancia five times.
Despite turning the ball over twice in the final 7 minutes, 3 seconds of the game, Estancia's defense gave its offense a shot at the end to come from behind and win.
Defensive lineman Juan Mejia was a big reason for the late opportunity. He was everywhere, helping Estancia hold University's run game to a measly 16 yards on 19 carries before leaving the game with three minutes left to play with an ankle injury.
Estancia forced University to punt with 2:09 remaining. Eleven seconds later, the Eagles offense took over on its nine.
They were 91 yards away from keeping the Trojans winless in their first three games, all at home.
University prevailed for the first time, getting over the hump for its longtime coach, Mark Cunningham, who is not with the team because he is fighting cancer.
The Eagles gained only two first downs on their final possession, one due to a pass interference call on University.
The final four passes for the Eagles fell incomplete. No receiver stood a chance at making a catch.
The passing game has been a weakness at Estancia since Bargas took over three years ago.
"We were off target a little bit," said Bargas after seeing Jonathan Diego complete nine of 23 passes for 65 yards and throw an interception.
The pick came at the wrong time for the Eagles, who were on their 25-yard line. On third-and-long, defensive back Joe Teresi intercepted the pass on the 45 and the Trojans took over in Estancia territory with 3:59 to go.
Three minutes earlier, Estancia muffed a punt near midfield.
"The punt hurt us," Bargas said. "Just like last week, [when we lost at home to Buena Park, 21-13], we made mistakes and it's hard to recover from that kind of stuff."
A University turnover inside its own 20-yard in the opening quarter led to the Eagles' lone score.
Defensive lineman Alipa Peters forced running back Sean Martin to fumble and the Eagles recovered on the 15. Estancia needed eight plays and four minutes to get into the end zone.
Twice the Eagles went for it on fourth down and each time it resulted in something positive. With 45 seconds left in the first quarter, Diego scored a touchdown from two yards out on a sneak.
Estancia trailed, 7-6, and the score stayed that way in the second quarter.
The Eagles' ground attack never got going, mostly because of the lack of a passing game. Robert Murtha, who topped 100 yards in his first varsity game and 200 yards in his second game, finished with 54 yards on 22 carries.
Murtha tried to run east and west, even hurdling defenders. None of the moves worked for the sophomore.
Murtha not only ran the ball, but he also had the punting duties.
The first punt did not go too far, just 22 yards, setting up University with excellent field position early in the game.
Starting on the opponent's 40, the Trojans needed one play to take the lead.
Quarterback Zach Christy hit Martin on a screen pass. Martin cut inside before breaking it outside, going untouched down the University sideline for a 40-yard touchdown 21/2 minutes into the game.
That is all University really needed to beat Estancia for the fifth straight time.
"It's not going to get easier," said Bargas after playing the first of three road games against Pacific Coast League teams.
Northwood is next, followed by Beckman. Estancia hopes its offense finds the kind of rhythm it showed in the 55-0 season-opening win against Bolsa Grande.
"We've been playing [on] Thursdays every week and that hurts us not getting that extra day," said Bargas, whose Eagles have Northwood on a Thursday.
University 13, Estancia 6
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 6 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 6
University 7 – 0 – 3 – 3 — 13
Uni – Martin 40 pass from Christy (Luecke kick), 9:32.
Est – Diego 2 run (kick failed), :45.
Uni – Luecke 29 FG, 7:39.
Uni – Luecke 27 FG, 4:31.
Est – Murtha, 22-54.
Uni – Luecke, 3-14.
Est – Diego, 9-23-1, 65.
Uni – Christy, 15-21-0, 166, 1 TD.
Est – Carlyle, 4-31.
Uni – Stanek, 7-72.