Villa Park players celebrate after beating Tustin, 35-34, on Friday night in the CIF-SS Southwest Division semifinals Friday night at Tustin High.

Villa Park knocks off Tustin in Southern thriller


TUSTIN - Tustin had ended Villa Park's season the past two years and came in as the favorite to send the Spartans home again when they met in the CIF-SS Southwest Division semifinals on Friday night at Tustin High.

Villa Park had other plans.

The third-seeded Spartans rallied from an early 14-point deficit to beat the second-seeded Tillers, 35-34, in what turned into a wild shootout.



It was the Spartans' first victory over Tustin since a 28-21 victory in 2004 and it put them in the finals for the first time since they beat Los Alamitos, 21-0, in the 1977 Southern Division championship game.

Villa Park (12-1) will face Edison, a 22-16 winner over Foothill in the other semifinal, for the championship next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Angel Stadium. Edison beat Villa Park, 27-7, in a nonleague game on Sept. 6.

"I got two words for you," Villa Park coach Dusan Ancich told his players after the game, "Angel Stadium!"

Tustin eliminated the Spartans in the quarterfinals last season and in the semifinals in 2010.

"This is very special for our school," Ancich said. "1977 was the last time we sent a team to the finals. It was an emotional game with a lot of ups and downs. He (Tustin coach Myron Miller) is a great coach. They have great athletes. You saw, they can score on any play."

The game was tied 28-28 heading into the fourth quarter. Villa Park's defense shut down Tustin's first possession of the fourth quarter to force a punt.

Running back Meki Tafuna and the Spartans offense went to work from there, putting together and 11-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Tafuna had eight carries on the drive as he bulldozed his way to first downs. But quarterback Dylan Osborne completed a crucial 23-yard pass to Dustin Harrison to get the Spartans to Tustin's 15.

Tafuna eventually scored on an 8-yard touchdown run to give the Spartans a 35-28 lead with 4:30 remaining.

Tustin had shown its big-play capability all night and it was on display on the very next play from scrimmage. Terence Martinez appeared to be stopped for a short gain, but he broke the tackle and sprinted for an 80-yard touchdown.

Villa Park called a timeout when Tustin lined up for a 2-point conversion. Tustin was going to go for the 2-point conversion, but then the Tillers called a timeout and decided to kick the extra point. Adrian Hernandez's attempt fell wide right and Villa Park was clinging to a 35-34 advantage.

Villa Park recovered the ensuing onside kick, but was forced to punt it back to the Tillers with 3:06 remaining.

Tustin was able to pick up a pair of first downs before Wilson fumbled and Villa Park's Grant Klasna recovered with 34.3 seconds remaining to secure the victory for the Spartans.

"It means so much to all of us," said Tafuna, who finished with 171 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries. "I had to older brothers and they came up just a little short (against Tustin). I'm glad my mom was able to be here to see this."

The Tillers (12-1) took advantage of a pair of Villa Park miscues to take an early 14-0 lead. Villa Park took the opening kickoff and marched to Tustin's 2-yard line. Villa Park decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line and Martinez stuffed Tafuna for a loss and the Spartans had to turn it over on downs.

Tustin repsonded with a 9-play scoring drive. Martinez, who had 14 carries for 159 yards and two TDs, capped it with a 42-yard touchdown run.

Villa Park put together another long drive before Tafuna fumbled and Tustin's Marshaun Daniel recovered at Tustin's 6-yard line. Three plays later, Wilson threw up a jump ball to Martinez, who came down with the catch and went 89 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 11:08 left in the half.

Tafuna scored on a pair of 3-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter to tie it, 14-14, by halftime.

The fog rolled in at halftime and both teams came out swinging in the third quarter. Tustin's Davonte Young, who had 203 yards on 17 carries, scored on a 45-yard run to make it 21-14 with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter.

Villa Park quarterback Dylan Osborne answered with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Ralph Valle to tie it, 21-21, with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter.

Tafuna's 10-yard touchdown run and Young's ensuing 82-yard touchdown run made it 28-28 after three quarters.

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