By MAVERICK FREEDLANDER
The Trojans prepared to face Woodbridge High School (WHS) on Friday night for one of the most anticipated games in the last decade of UHS football. UHS was 8-1 overall and 3-1 in league play going into the game, while its crosstown rivals were 5-4 overall and 3-1 in league play. This game determined which team won the Fence Post trophy, which is awarded to the Irvine school with the best league record.
Although both UHS and WHS had already clinched CIF playoff berths, this was by far the most important game of the season in terms of pride. After a close loss in 2014, UHS was determined to prevent the same outcome.
WHS quarterback Connor McBride shone from WHS’s first possession. Less than a minute into the game, McBride ran for a 38-yard touchdown, giving WHS an early 7-0 lead.
In response, UHS began to drive but faced a seemingly impossible 3rd & 27 on its own 22. UHS quarterback Neil Boudreau (Sr.) dropped back, rolled right and with nobody open near the first down marker, threw to running back Sam Winder (Jr.). Winder managed to make several WHS defenders miss and gained 57 yards to bring the offense within striking distance. On a reverse trick play with 6:19 left in the game, wide receiver and safety Andre Campbell (Sr.) ran the ball to the right on an end-around play for a 6-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing drive, WHS started off running it with McBride. With UHS over-committing to stopping the run, WHS threw long off of a play-action play and scored a 47-yard touchdown to take back a 7-14 lead with 3:18 left in the first quarter.
Matt Abellaneda (Sr.) returned the following kickoff to UHS’s 37-yard line and then, because of a penalty on WHS, UHS started its drive at their 42-yard line. UHS’s offense was able to put together an efficient drive, with Winder being the featured ball carrier, capping the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run less than a minute into the second quarter, tying the score at 14-14.
WHS, however, was able to break the 14 point tie in less than three minutes. UHS had been kicking off short to WHS to avoid letting Alex Young get any returns, and the team continued this strategy on this drive, giving WHS excellent field position on its 45-yard line. McBride pounded the ball through UHS’s front, slashing for gains of 21, 16 and 27 on that drive alone. On a 4th & 2 on UHS’s 4-yard line, McBride finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown, reclaiming the lead at 14-21.
The final nine minutes of the first half featured no scoring on either side. On the drive in which UHS came closest to scoring, Boudreau threw an interception on 4th & long just outside WHS’s 20-yard line.
UHS received the ball to start the second half and put together a seven-minute drive in which they drove 59 yards from on their own 21-yard line to the opposing 10-yard line, easily within Nick Loveland (Jr.)’s range. Loveland was able to split the uprights and bring UHS within four points with plenty of time left in the game.
On the following kickoff by Ameen Beheshtaein (Sr.), he was finally able to show off his leg as he kicked the ball out the back of the end zone for a touchback. McBride and the WHS offense responded with a 10-minute drive in which they drove from their own 12-yard line all the way to UHS’s four-yard line, but they were forced to attempt a field goal with 7:31 left in the game. This field goal would have put WHS ahead by seven points, but the kick was wide, giving UHS the ball.
UHS had the ball on its 20-yard line, 80 yards away from the win. Winder helped UHS establish its ground game with a first down to start off the drive. UHS then performed a trick play in which backup quarterback Campbell was handed the ball, which he threw to Daniel Dolan (So.), who was able to gain 21 yards and move UHS down to its 45-yard line. After a series of runs by Winder, another reception by Dolan for seven yards and a penalty on WHS for roughing the passer, UHS was on WHS’s 18-yard line with less than three minutes of game clock left.
Abellaneda ran for no gain on 1st down, and then Boudreau threw an incomplete pass on 2nd down. On 3rd & 10, tight end Michael Jung (Sr.) was able to haul in a reception for 9 yards, creating a 4th & 1 on WHS’s nine-yard line. There was just over a minute left in the game. If UHS had gotten to a first down, the team would have had four chances to score a touchdown for the win. The handoff went to Winder, who initially did not have the yardage, but on the second attempt was able to get past the marker. On the way down, though, Winder lost control of the ball and the fumble was recovered by WHS.
Many felt that Winder was down before the ball came out. If this was indeed true, the fumble would not have counted. Because of the lack of a review process in high school football, the first call is the final call. WHS was able to kneel twice for the win.
After falling to WHS 17-20 in 2014, UHS was once again defeated, this time by the score of 17-21. This loss hurt the Trojan’s seeding in the playoffs, and they faced the 10-0 Valencia High School Tigers (VHS) at VHS on Friday night, where they lost 14-37.