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BILL ALKOFER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Tustin's DeVon Anderson manages to slip away from Foothill defender Ed Bain during the first half of the Knights' 13-7 nonleague victory.

Foothill defense holds its ground vs. Tustin

STAFF WRITER

TUSTIN – An overflow crowd filled the stands and hung over the fences at Tustin on Friday night to watch longtime rivals face off.

Foothill and Tustin kept them hanging onto the drama until the final seconds.

Foothill used a defensive stand from its 5-yard line in the final 1:20 of the fourth quarter to seal a 13-7 victory in its season opener.

“Another classic Foothill-Tustin game – unbelievable,” said Foothill coach Doug Case, whose school extended its lead in the series to 28-23-2. “It was a nail-biter (but) it shouldn’t have been.”

After some wild plays late in the fourth quarter, Tustin (1-1) had first-and-goal at the Foothill 5 with 1:20 left, but the Knights’ defense held, forcing the Tillers to turn the ball over on downs with 11 seconds left.

Tustin’s final play came from the 19 but quarterback Alema Pilimai’s pass to the end zone for Tyler Noble was broken up by cornerback Joey Schlemmer.

On third-and-goal from the 19, Foothill (1-0) broke up a halfback pass into the end zone from Noble.

Foothill defensive tackle Chris Yaghi took care of second down. The Cal commit sacked Pilimai for a 5-yard loss to the 19.

Tustin earned the first-and-goal at the 5 after a pass interference penalty against Foothill with 1:20 left ,but a fumble on first down resulted in a 4-yard loss and was followed by a 5-yard penalty.

“Big stand by (our) defense there at the end to close it out for us and pick up the offense,” Case said. "First game, the kids did a great job."

Tustin drove for the potential go-ahead points after Kenneth Phillips blocked a Foothill punt with just under six minutes left in the fourth. The Tillers recovered at the Knights 49 and got a key first-down run by Pilimai to the 37. But after a holding penalty against the Tillers, Pilimai helped Tustin recover by lofting a pass to wide out Jonathan Di Maio, who made a leaping catch for a 32-yard gain to the 17 with about 3:30 left.

But once the Tillers reached the 5, Foothill's defense held.

"It was a tough game," Tustin coach Winter Welz said. "I would love to play these guys again."

The Knights’ defensive stand supported their offense that racked up the yards but only scored 13 points. Foothill lost a fumble at the Tillers’ 2 in the first quarter and missed a 31-yard field goal in the third but got 108 yards on 23 carries from Jared Copeland.

Foothill quarterback Preston Moebius looked improved, passing for 195 yards and rushing for another 65.

The Knights outgained Tustin, 382-174, but the score was tight throughout.

Foothill led, 13-7, at halftime behind two field goals by Evan Mickelson and a 3-yard touchdown run by Copeland.

The Knights’ executed their two-minute offense at the end of the first half, driving from their 30 for a 28-yard field goal by Mickelson as time expired.

Mickelson’s boot helped Foothill respond to a 35-yard touchdown run by Noble with 1:14 left in the second quarter.

Mickelson capped a nearly five-minute drive in the second quarter with a 23-yard field goal.

Copeland scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 39 seconds left in first quarter, punctuating a 60-yard drive. Moebius set up the score with a 46-yard completion to Gunnar Perales.

Next week, Foothill takes on Beckman at Tustin on Friday while the Tillers play host to Aliso Niguel on Thursday.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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