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    Tustin football shuts out Crean Lutheran to stay unbeaten
    • October 14, 2023

    IRVINE — Tim Ioane had seen that Wildcat formation before.

    The sophomore outside linebacker for Tustin sprung out of his defensive stance against Crean Lutheran on Friday night and took two strides into the backfield before realizing what was coming next.

    He stopped in his tracks after the ball was pitched out wide to Crean Lutheran quarterback Jeremiah Finaly, who then tried to throw a screen pass to his running back on the opposite side.

    Ioane leaped up, however, tipped the pass in the air and then wrapped it in his arms as he sprinted into the end zone for a 45-yard interception return, the key defensive play in the 21-0 Empire League victory at Crean Lutheran.

    “I seen the toss to the quarterback and as I seen the toss, I seen the running back flare out, so that was the key,” Ioane said. “I was like ‘Oh yeah, I know that’s a setup.’ “

    The Tillers (8-0, 3-0) made it difficult for the Saints (6-2, 2-1) to gain momentum all night.

    The closest Crean Lutheran came to scoring was a 45-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half, but it fell short.

    “They played out of their mind,” Tustin coach Anthony Lopez said of his defense. “They did a great job. To hold that team to zero points, that’s something special.”

    Tustin took a 7-0 lead on its first drive of the game. Facing a fourth-and-10 from the 20-yard line, Jack Stupin connected with Marques Guzman in the end zone with 6:38 left in the opening quarter.

    Crean Lutheran kept the game close thanks to interceptions by Troy Hill and Ben Byszewski on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter.

    Crean Lutheran reached midfield following Byszewski’s fourth interception of the season. Facing a third-and-4, the Saints tried a trick play out of the Wildcat formation and Ioane made them pay.

    “We always work on retracing a lot of screens and trick plays and everything,” Ioane said. “Shout out to my coaches for doing those drills. … If we didn’t do that, if we didn’t have the right preparation, it might not have been the same.”

    The Tillers took the 14-0 lead into the half after holding Crean Lutheran to 48 total yards.

    Tustin leaned on running back Eimesse Essis in the second half as the junior rushed for 103 of his 161 yards after halftime, giving him 1,186 rushing yards on the season.

    Tustin’s success on the ground opened up for another big play in the air, as Stupin hit MacKenzie Alleyne on a deep post and he broke several tackles before completing the 55-yard touchdown reception, stretching the lead to 21-0 with 7:18 left in the game.

    All that was left was securing the shutout and the Tillers stopped Crean Lutheran on downs at the Tustin 25 with just under two minutes left to fulfill that goal.

    The Tillers have allowed a combined seven points in their past three games.

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    ​ Orange County Register