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ROD VEAL, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Villa Park's Meki Tafuna wiggles out of a tackle by Yorba Linda's Dillan Cazares, center, and Ryan Faithe Friday night at Newport Harbor High.

Villa Park escapes with victory over Yorba Linda

FOR OCVARSITY.COM

ORANGE - For the second consecutive week, Villa Park had to survive a shaky third quarter and recover in the final 12 minutes to pull off a victory.

On Friday night at Ed Modena High, the Spartans nearly gave away a comfortable lead but regrouped late and went on to defeat Yorba Linda, 21-12, in the opening round of the CIF-SS Southwest Division playoffs.

The Spartans (10-1), ranked No.3 in the Southwest Division and No. 7 in the county, advance to the second round and will play Newport Harbor next week.

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Meki Tafuna rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns (22 TDs for the season) to lead Villa Park to its eighth consecutive victory.

"It was pound and ground," Tafuna said.

Trailing 14-3 at halftime, the Mustangs (8-3) took the second-half kickoff and used 14 plays to reach the Spartans' 1-yard line. However, Yorba Linda could not punch it in and settled for a Matt Barr field goal to cut the lead to 14-6.

The Mustangs then recovered an onside kick and quickly moved down field. Brandon Summers tossed a short TD pass to Shad Pace to make it 14-12 but Summers' 2-point conversation pass attempt was intercepted in the end zone.

One play later, Yorba Linda recovered a Villa Park fumble but was unable to move the ball. The Mustangs ran 26 plays in the third quarter to the Spartans' 4.

Late in the final quarter, after a Yorba Linda turnover, Tafuna scored on a 9-yard run to seal the victory for Villa Park.

"I'm proud of our guys," said Spartans coach Dusan Ancich. "It got scary in the third quarter, but we were able to gain some momentum back on the scoring drive and didn't make any mistakes."

Pace had eight catches for the Mustangs. Tafuna had an 11-yard TD run, and Kyle Gordon caught a 36-yard TD pass from Dylan Osborne (10 of 13 for 132 yards) in the first half to give the Spartans a 14-3 lead at intermission.

The Spartans defense forced three turnovers and held running backs Brayden Massie and Angel Ochoa to a combined 44 yards rushing.

"They're a big and physical team and they have an excellent running attack," said Yorba Linda coach Jeff Bailey.

Friday was the first time the two schools have played each other.


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