October 07, 2011 11:05 PM
TUSTIN – The storylines pulsated as Yorba Linda and Tustin took their tight, Empire League game deep into the fourth quarter Friday.
Yorba Linda, with its first senior class, would collect a breakthrough victory or traditional Orange County power Tustin would rally from a two-touchdown deficit.
The Mustangs emerged with the triumph, stopping the Tillers’ final two possessions to seal a 14-12 victory at Tustin.
The Mustangs (6-0, 2-0) forced Tustin (3-3, 1-1) to turn the ball over on downs with 3:19 left in the fourth and then ran out the clock before celebrating the victory over the defending league champion and the No. 3-ranked team in the CIF-Southwest Division.
Last season, Tustin defeated Yorba Linda, 42-7.
“We’re on the (football) map somewhere — (the school) is on Bastanchury and Fairmont,” Yorba Linda coach Jeff Bailey said. “Hopefully (people) know where we’re at now.”Yorba Linda took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and then turned to its defense to secure the victory. On the strength on a five-man defensive front, the Mustangs held Tustin to 133 yards of offense (123 on the ground).
Tustin started its final drive at its 24 with 7:28 left in the fourth. Trailing 14-12, the Tillers faced a fourth-and-6 from their 38, but Lorenzo Ruiz broke up a lofty pass by up-ending a leaping Malik Shakur with 3:19 left.
Yorba Linda used a 3-yard run by Dallis Ellis to convert a fourth-and-inches play from the Tustin 30 for the knockout blow with about two minutes left.
“We worked really hard to prepare for this game,” said Ruiz, who also made a key fumble recovery in the first quarter. “We’re just really happy that we pulled through and won this.”
Yorba Linda took advantage of three Tustin miscues in the first quarter to open its 14-0 lead.
Tustin forced a punt on Yorba Linda’s opening possession but Ruiz recovered a fumble on the play at the Tillers’ 15. Three plays later, quarterback Alex Bernstein threw a 10-yard touchdown to Shad Pace on a short slant with 8:56 left in the opening quarter.
Tustin’s defense also appeared to force a punt on Yorba Linda’s second possession. After fumbling the previous punt, the Tillers didn’t send a return man back to field the kick but they had another challenge. Tustin was flagged for a personal foul on the punt from the Yorba Linda 44.
The penalty extended the Mustangs’ drive and Yorba Linda moved to the Tustin 13 where it faced fourth-and-1. Yorba Linda drew the Tillers’ offside for the first down. Two plays later, Pace caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Bernstein. On this route, Pace first broke in before darting to the side of the end zone for the score.
The extra point by Matt Barr gave Yorba Linda a 14-0 lead with 1:06 left in the first quarter.
Tustin responded with one of its signature scoring drives. The Tillers marched 84 yards on 18 plays to trim the Mustangs’ lead to 14-6. Christopher Quintero capped a drive that lasted almost 10 minutes with a 2-yard run. The extra point failed with 3:21 left in the half.
Tustin drew closer in the third quarter after Edward Tandy made a leaping interception near his 38 and returned the ball to the Yorba Linda 32. Tandy later scored on a 2-yard run with 5:11 left in the third and then narrowly missed the end zone on the 2-point conversion run.
Tustin kept the pressure on by recovering the ensuing, low kickoff at the 50. But the Mustangs stopped Tustin on a fourth-and-1 with 1:56 left in the third. Tustin fumbled on the play but didn’t lose the ball.
Yorba Linda received strong defensive line play from ends Austin Thomas and Daniel Deedrick and interior linemen Ellis, Brandon Stewart and nose guard Sean Kanne.
Tustin’s longest run from scrimmage was nine yards. All-County running back Tyler Siudzinski finished with 32 yards on 15 carries.
The Mustangs were especially tough against Tustin’s inside runs.
“We didn’t give up the big play – that’s the key,” Bailey said.
Yorba Linda plays host to an improved Western next Friday.
“I know that this team is going to do great things,” Bernstein said. “Our leadership is there. We have the potential .. and it showed tonight.”
Tustin coach Myron Miller had high praise for Yorba Linda before the game.
“They’re good now but they’re going to be a great program,” Miller said.
Tustin’s defense also played well. The Tillers held the Mustangs to 150 yards of offense.
Tustin played without four starters because of injuries.