Orange players celebrate their two point victory over Santa Ana during a Golden West League game at Santa Ana Stadium in Santa Ana on Thursday, October 6, 2016. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

Orange uses its defense to escape with win over Santa Ana


SANTA ANA – This season has seemed too good to be true at times for Orange’s football team.

Last week, the Panthers became the school’s first team since 1925 to start a season 5-0.

Defense has been at the heart of the effort, and it again saved the day in the Golden West League opener Thursday.

Luis Correa came up with the winning interception with two minutes remaining, and Orange escaped against Santa Ana, 31-29, at Santa Ana Stadium.

The play before, Correa had been stopped by Santa Ana’s Tui Levao on a 4th-and-2 play. Correa followed by picking off Julian Gomez near midfield, and the Saints (5-1, 0-1) never sawhad ball again.

“Defense always wins, and we held them,” Correa said.

Defensive captain Noah Tiliaia-Faletoi had an interception, as did senior cornerback Brandon Warren. Tiliaia-Faletoi said Correa’s redemptive interception couldn’t have been scripted better.

“He had to make that game-winning interception which flipped the whole game over,” Tiliaia-Faletoi said. “It was like something in a movie. You don’t see something like that.”

Orange (6-0, 1-0) had led, 31-9, after Aaron Murray’s second touchdown at 10:09 of the third quarter.

Gomez relieved Damian Macias at quarterback to give Santa Ana a boost. He threw touchdowns of 34 and 85 yards to Chris Nava spur a comeback attempt.

Macias also had a 67-yard interception return as the Saints scored 20 consecutive points.

Santa Ana led, 9-0, following a Jonathan Briseno rushing score.

The Panthers rallied, thanks to a pair of pooch-kick recoveries by Arian Solis. Those special teams contributions resulted in Orange running 34 offensive plays to Santa Ana’s 20 in the first half.

Murray and Correa scored rushing touchdowns to give Orange a 17-9 lead. The Panthers capitalized on the second recovery for a 21-yard touchdown pass from Miguel Orendain to Keion Craig with five seconds left in the half.

Orange plays host to Segerstrom next week. The Jaguars also entered the week undefeated at 5-0.

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