There Ted Mullen stood, on the damp Tustin football field, receiving congratulations for coaching his football team to another playoff victory.
But it wasn't a flashback to Mullen's coaching days at Foothill High School.
This time, Mullen was the visitor at Northrup Field, Foothill's home field. And though, once again, he was facing the Tustin Tillers--as he had every season in his six years at Foothill--this time it was Anaheim High School taking the field for Mullen.
And the Colonists made Mullen's return to Tustin a triumphant one. They shut out the Tillers, 9-0, in the quarterfinals of the Central Conference playoffs, advancing to the semifinals for the second straight year.
Mullen, coaching a playoff team for the 13th time in 17 years, came into the game with a 143-52-6 record, compiled at Villa Park, Foothill, and one season at Anaheim. Across the field, Tustin Coach Marijon Ancich, the winningest active coach in the Southern Section, had even more impressive numbers: a 214-47-6 record that includes four seasons at Tustin.
And both teams played like they were unwilling to tip the victory scale in favor of either coach.
The teams were deadlocked in a frustrating defensive battle for most of the game, missing scoring opportunities and hurting themselves with penalties. The game was scoreless until Anaheim's Robert Aldaz kicked a field goal with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Before the game, each team had specific goals. Tustin wanted to stop Anaheim's running back Joaquin Garcia. Anaheim wanted to stop Tustin quarterback George Menges. And each team was able to achieve that goal, but for only half of the game.
Unfortunately for the Tillers, their defensive half was the first one, when they held Garcia to just 43 yards in 9 carries.
But in the second half, Garcia, running straight up the middle, gained 118 yards, finishing with 161 yards in 25 carries.
Menges, on the other hand, was hot-handed the first half, completing 10 of 17 passes for 140 yards. But, though Tustin moved the ball, Anaheim's defense and Tustin's mistakes kept the Tillers out of the end zone. Two Tustin drives ended in missed field goals by Jason Lavin, attempts of 45 and 32 yards. Another drive ended with Anaheim's Joe Rodriguez's interception of Menges' pass, and a final drive ended with a sack by Saul Lopez.
Tustin's frustrations continued in the second half and Menges was less effective, finishing 17 of 31 for 223 yards.
Anaheim, which was ineffective on offense in the first half, came alive with the running of Garcia. After going up 3-0 in the third quarter, Aldaz scored a touchdown on a one-yard sneak to seal the victory with 3:08 left to play.
Anaheim (9-2-1) will meet Saddleback, a 36-33 winner over Bolsa Grande Friday night, in the semifinals. Tustin finishes at 7-4-1.