SANTA ANA — Jackson Dionne calls it his own personal five-second rule.
It's the time he allots himself to think about a failed field-goal attempt before moving on and beginning to focus on the next try.
But the 20 seconds of futility his rule created on Saturday will ultimately give way to an off-season of celebration. For after having missed four field-goal tries, one off an upright and another off both an upright and then the crossbar, the freshman booted a 24-yard field goal with 31 seconds left that proved to be the difference in the Pirates' 25-22 East Division triumph over Santa Ana at the Santa Ana Bowl.
The field goal for Dionne, who had missed just four of 13 attempts all season coming into Saturday, capped a valiant comeback for the Pirates (4-6, 2-3 in the East Division), who scored 18 points in the final period.
OCC freshman tailback Domenic Betts, the state's leading rusher, carried 38 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He finishes the season with 1,758 yards, breaking the previous school single-season record by more than 300. He also scored 20 rushing touchdowns, 21 overall, the second most in OCC season annals.
The Pirates, who gained 299 yards on the ground, including 114 on 14 carries by freshman Josh Hawkins, also came up big on defense and special teams.
OCC intercepted four passes, including two in the end zone by sophomore cornerback Evan Law, and another at the Pirates' 12-yard line by freshman outside linebacker Austin Bennett.
Bennett's pick set up a 75-yard touchdown drive that Betts capped with a one-yard run that put OCC up, 22-15, with 7:32 remaining.
Hawkins also returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with time expired in the third quarter. The subsequent Betts conversion run, after a penalty wiped out a defensive stop on the first two-point run attempt, created a 15-15 deadlock.
Penalties nullified two would-be touchdowns for OCC, including a 91-yard sprint by Betts that came back due to off-setting personal fouls late in the second quarter.
Santa Ana (5-5, 2-3), ranked No. 13 in Southern California and No. 25 in the state, took the lead on the game's first offensive snap, as receiver Joshua Webb hit receiver Ario Winston for a 79-yard double pass.
A bad snap on the ensuing conversion created a scramble and two-point pass to give the Dons an 8-0 cushion just 19 seconds in.
OCC marched 58 yards on nine plays to pull within 8-7 with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
Dionne, who won a game in double overtime at Southwestern with a 51-yard field goal and who had nailed three-pointers from 53, 51 (twice) and 48 yards in 2011, came up just short on a 48-yard try on the Pirates' first possession.
Dionne was wide left from 37 yards late in the first quarter and put his helmet in his hands after the double-carom misfire from 38 yards early in the third quarter.
His 48-yard try late in the third quarter kissed wide, high off the left upright, prompting another groan from the OCC rooters.
"You've got to take one kick at a time," said Dionne, whose 10 field goals this season are topped only by four others in program history. "I always have this rule where I have five seconds to worry about the last kick, then I flush it. And, fortunately, that strategy worked out and I was able to put [the game-winner] through."
The winning kick came after OCC moved 43 yards on seven plays following Dons quarterback Andrew McDonald's one-yard touchdown run with 3:12 left. Dylan Freiberg, like McDonald a Newport Harbor High product, kicked the PAT to knot things at 22.
McDonald threw two interceptions and had another one dropped when Law, falling on his back, hit the ground to jar the ball from between his outstretched hands.
OCC's lone turnover, a fumble on a sack at its own 17, led to a one-play touchdown drive for the hosts near the end of the third quarter.