IRVINE — Estancia High traveled to the city of Irvine to play a football game on Thursday night. The city prides itself on being one of the safest in the country.
While the city is safe, no lead was for Estancia on the city's lone high school field with lights. Twice the Eagles took 14-point leads in the second quarter, only to see host University come back and tie the game right before halftime.
The Trojans made up a lot of ground. The best way to catch Estancia was by attacking on the ground, and once the Trojans did, they never stopped.
University ran past and over Estancia en route to a 45-28 victory. The Trojans rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns, punishing whoever was in the way.
Estancia, ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll, left Irvine High hurting. The Eagles (2-2) lost their second straight game to a Pacific Coast League opponent and two key senior starters, fullback DeionTe Haywood (ankle) and defensive lineman Kevin Peters (knee).
The Eagles entered the nonleague contest without Robert Murtha, their star tailback. Murtha, who was out with an ankle injury, still dressed for the game.
Haywood performed well, rushing 20 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Then he left early in the fourth quarter with what Coach Mike Bargas called a serious injury. The backfield is limping.
"We could've played Robert, but we need to get him ready," said Bargas, whose team plays Sonora next week before opening Orange Coast League play against rival Costa Mesa on Oct. 5.
The Battle for the Bell isn't too far away. If Bargas needed a reminder, he got one on Thursday.
The former head coach at Costa Mesa was on University's sideline. Jeremy Osso, the defensive coordinator, has matched wits with Bargas before and he and the rest of the University staff made the necessary second-half adjustments.
What was a 28-28 game at the break turned into a Trojan rout, thanks to the team's defense and special teams.
University intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt in the third quarter. The miscues led to 17 points for the Trojans (2-2-1).
"I thought we were going to come out [in the third quarter] and take control," said Bargas, whose team had the ball to start the second half. "We were off the mark offensively.
"I told the guys, 'We don't want to play tag with these guys because you're going to end up behind the eight ball and play catch up.' We didn't answer back in the second half."
University's wing-T offense was too much for the Eagles.
Jassiem Jenkins and Keyvan Bardia Aminzadeh used their speed to get around the corner, while Chase Alibrando ran right at the defense.
Jenkins led everyone with 150 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, and Aminzadeh was right behind him with 148 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries. Alibrando rushed 17 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns.
When longtime coach Mark Cunningham learned that his offense amassed 450 yards rushing, he was even surprised.
"That's pretty good," said Cunningham, whose team scored its most points in five years.
By halftime, his backfield totaled 295 yards and four touchdowns. The only time Estancia stopped University was on the game's opening drive.