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Familiar foes, different ending as Villa Park holds on
TUSTIN - Villa Park football coach Dusan Ancich and Tustin coach Myron Miller are no strangers to the CIF-SS playoffs or to each other.
Between them they have seen just about everything
However, Friday night’s CIF-SS Southwest Division semifinal game at Tustin High surely opened a new chapter in their book of football memories.
The No. 2 seeded Tillers defeated the third-seeded Spartans in the 2010 and 2011 playoffs, but it was a different outcome the third time as Villa Park (12-1) squeezed out a 35-34 victory.
The Spartans advance to the championship game for the first time since 1977 (they won 21-0 over Los Alamitos) and will face Edison next Friday at Angel Stadium for the title.
After going down 14-0 in the first half the Spartans didn’t panic.
“It was a scary start,” Ancich said. “We just kept telling our players to go on the next play and we’ll come back.”
Villa Park also snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Tillers and Tustin’s 20-game winning streak.
“It’s a phenomenal feeling,” said Ancich, who played high school football at Tustin. “It’s a great win for our school, for our fans and for the community.”
Meki Tafuna’s two TD runs in the second quarter tied the score at 14 at halftime.
But when the two teams took the field in the second half, heavy fog had rolled in and the spectators could barely see the game action.
“I liked it (the fog),” Ancich said. “It was exciting. Our team seems to play good in weird situations.”
Miller made no excuses.
“They controlled the offensive and defensive lines tonight,” he said. “The fog didn’t have anything to do with it. The turnovers killed us and we missed an extra point. My hat is off to them.”
Dylan Osborne’s 9-yard TD run with 4:34 to play gave the Spartans a 35-28 lead. However, one play later Terence Martinez raced 80 yards for a touchdown. The Tillers then lined up for a 2-point conversion but called a timeout.
Tustin kicker Adrian Hernandez came onto the field but missed the extra point and the Spartans maintained a 35-34 edge.
Mike Harlin recovered a fumble with under a minute to go to seal the victory for Villa Park.
The Spartans players were jubilant following the game.
“This is the biggest thrill of my life,” defensive back Derrick Kendrick said.
“This is the most amazing moment in my life,” linebacker James Stamos echoed.
“We’ve been working hard for three years for this to happen,” defensive back Christian Castro said. “We weren’t afraid of them and we knew all along we could win.”