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    Irvine football uses another comeback to beat Beckman, clinch share of league title
    • October 20, 2023

    TUSTIN — Irvine’s football team erased a 12-point deficit to beat Beckman 20-12 Thursday and clinch a share of the Pacific Hills League championship.

    The Vaqueros most recently won a league championship in 2021. Thursday was the seventh game in which Irvine has trailed and its fourth comeback win.

    “We always start slow and I don’t know why,” Irvine coach Tom Ricci said. “I attribute it to my coaches making great adjustments at half and our players having a chip on their shoulder. We are a fourth-quarter team because our guys are in great shape and we played tough teams.”

    Irvine (6-3, 2-0) trailed 12-0 late in the third quarter when its running game really started to click. Junior running back Brandon Figueroa had 89 of his 96 rushing yards in the second half.

    “The mentality changed,” Figueroa said. “We knew we were losing because of internal mistakes and that they weren’t better than us.”

    Figueroa scored the first touchdown for Irvine late in the third quarter to cut the lead for Beckman (7-2, 1-1) to 12-7.

    Deacon Moss had a 31-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter to give Irvine good field position. Sophomore quarterback Sina Saferzadeh ran for a 9-yard touchdown to give Irvine the 13-12 lead.

    Thursday was only the third varsity start for Saferzadeh at quarterback and he threw only 10 passes in the team’s win over Woodbridge last week.

    Saferzadeh threw for just 43 yards Thursday, but the threat of him passing opened up the field for the running game to take over in the second half. He ran for 71 yards on eight carries.

    “He’s picking everything up and starting to understand what we want to do,” Ricci said of Saferzadeh. “He’s a dual threat who can run, pass and read defenses like a running back.”

    Figueroa ran for his second touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter to give the Vaqueros a 20-12 lead.

    Beckman attempted a potential game-tying drive in the fourth quarter. Austin Shepard threw a 10-yard pass to CJ Bertoni on a fake punt to extend the drive.

    Shepard completed two long passes to Dominic Thompson to give the Patriots the ball inside the Irvine 20.

    Jackson Shaffer and Moss deflected a fourth-down pass to seal the win.

    “My defensive coordinator, Kyle Jaeger, makes great adjustments at halftime,” Ricci said. “That’s part of why we feel so comfortable in the second half because we know he can fix things so quickly.”

    Beckman led 6-0 at halftime after two field goals by Gui De Luca. Shepard ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter to increase the lead to 12-0.

    Shepard completed 13 of 34 passes for 141 yards. Thompson had 84 yards receiving on five catches. Beckman held Irvine to just 76 yards of offense in the first half.

    Irvine will host University on Friday, Oct. 27. A win would make the Vaqueros the outright league champions.

    “It feels amazing to be league champs,” Figueroa said. “I was a freshman when we won it in 2021 and it feels way better to be able to contribute to it this time.”

    Beckman will play on the road against Woodbridge on Friday, Oct. 27. The Patriots can still share the league championship with a win next week and an Irvine loss.

    Beckman has not won a league championship since 2011.

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    ​ Orange County Register