With one swift kick, Tim Kotlar erased 31 years of frustration for Tustin High School.
Kotlar kicked a 40-yard field goal with 9:11 remaining in the fourth quarter to lift the Tillers to an improbable 9-7 victory over Saddleback Friday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 4,000 on Northrup Field.
The victory was significant for two reasons. First, it clinched at least a tie for the Sea View League championship for Tustin. The Tillers haven't won a league title since 1955.
Second, it snapped Saddleback's 17-game winning streak spanning two seasons. The streak was the longest by any county team.
The margin of victory wasn't much, but then neither was the Tillers' offense. Kotlar provided all of the scoring for Tustin, kicking a 28-yard field goal with four seconds remaining in the first half, adding a 31-yarder in the third quarter and then connecting on the game-winner.
"I had a feeling the game was going to be close and perhaps I might be kicking a field goal," Kotlar said. "I really didn't think about a game-winning kick. All I was trying to do was concentrate on making the kick."
Tustin (4-0 in league, 8-1 overall) didn't do anything fancy in the upset. The Tillers played ground-control football with tailback Lani Machado providing the key plays. Machado gained 103 yards in 23 carries.
Machado set up Kotlar's winning kick with 48 yards in 6 carries after teammate Brian Hardin had recovered a fumble by Saddleback tailback Nate Primous at the Tiller 39. The Tillers gained 190 yards against a Saddleback team that had allowed an average of only 5.1 points per game coming into the showdown.
"This was one of the greatest games I've ever been associated with," Tiller Coach Marijon Ancich said. "This is the first time in 31 years this school has won a football title. No school should have to go that long without winning a title.
"We are the Sea View League champions and nobody can take that away from us. This was just a great game and a great win."
Saddleback (3-1, 8-1) played with third-string quarterback Hector Santa Cruz. Starter Sean Therien suffered a broken collarbone against University two weeks ago and his replacement, Neil Carter, suffered a deep thigh bruise against Newport Harbor last week.
The results were predictable. Santa Cruz completed only 2 of 13 passes for 31 yards, but he did score the only touchdown of the game on a two-yard run in the first quarter. On defense, Santa Cruz had two pass interceptions to give Saddleback 21 for the season.
Offensively, the Roadrunners were a dud. They crossed midfield only once, and tailback Nate Primous was the only effective performer as he gained 123 yards in 22 carries.
"Obviously, we weren't able to do much passing," said Jerry Witte, Saddleback coach. "But give Tustin the credit. They put the pressure on us and deserved to win.
"Machado is a great back. He had some big runs where we hit him, and we would break a couple of tackles for the extra yardage. But when you stop and think about it, they never scored a touchdown on us. We got beat by three field goals."
Corona del Mar 35, Estancia 0--The Sea Kings scored their first Sea View League win in front of 1,800 at Davidson Field.
Corona del Mar is 1-3, 3-6.
Estancia is 0-4, 0-9.
Defensive back Bill Artukovich intercepted two passes for Corona del Mar, one for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Halfback Matt Tatterson gained 135 yards in 18 carries for the Sea Kings.
The Sea Kings scored their first touchdown with 1:05 left in the first quarter on a six-yard run by Jim Kniest, and Brian Vaughn made his first of five extra-point kicks to make it 7-0 at the quarter.
With four minutes left in the half Kniest scored from the one and Vaughn's kick made it 14-0 Sea Kings.
Corona del Mar scored 21 third-quarter points on Keven Maas's 17-yard pass reception, Artukovich's pass interception and a 43-yard run by Sean Woolsey.