But Higa's performance, coupled with the Pirates' staunch defense, allowed OCC to turn things around in time to get the win.
Glendale scored the game's first touchdown on its first possession of the game, which followed a 3-and-out by OCC. A 9-play, 69-yard drive ended with a 1-yd TD run by RB Justin Smith. Four OCC penalties (for 32 yds) helped Glendale move down the field, but that wouldn't be the last time penalties would frustrate OCC.
Following another 3-and-out by the OCC defense, Glendale had the ball deep in its own territory when DL Jesse Mahelona sacked QB Adam Freeman. The ball came loose and was scooped up by a Pirate for an apparent touchdown, but the officials ruled Freeman's knee was down when he lost the ball. The call appeared to be the correct one, but it nullified a big play and kept the score 7-0 Glendale, where it would stay until the second half.
After a Glendale punt, OCC moved the ball down the field behind the strong running of Chris Vega, reaching the Vaquero 14. But then the Pirates sabotaged their own effort when QB Beau Budde's pitchout to Vega missed connections. Vega recovered the ball at the GC 25, forcing OCC to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt. Bryce Sheridan's kick sailed wide, keeping the score 7-0.
By now the Orange Coast defense was keeping the Glendale offense in check – Glendale had just 10 first downs all day in 13 possessions following their opening drive – but the Pirate offense continued to stop itself. Following another Glendale punt, the offense drove to the GC 14. But then Budde fumbled a snap, and Glendale's Leon Walker recovered at the 16. That ended the day for Budde, opening the door for Higa.
The second half began with the score still 7-0, and Glendale received the kickoff. Again, the OCC defense held, forcing a 3-and-out, and again Orange Coast drove into Glendale territory. And again they came away frustrated. Facing a 2nd and long at the Glendale 40, Higa dropped back to pass. The rush flushed him out of the pocket, and he scrambled towards the right sideline. Just as he got to the 40 (the line of scrimmage), he lofted the ball to Coleman Menke, who had gotten behind the defense, for an apparent touchdown. But the officials ruled that Higa had crossed the line of scrimmage, nullifying the play, though it appeared he had released the ball in time. Nonetheless, the score remained 7-0 when two plays later OCC had to punt.
On Glendale's next punt, Una Latu of OCC got a finger on the ball which resulted in a 22-yard kick. But once again, the Pirates stopped themselves when Higa missed connections with Vega on a handoff. Robert Elisha recovered for Glendale at the GC 16, which set the stage for the game's most bizarre play.
Justin Smith took a handoff and broke through the line and into the open field. OCC's Kelvin Beatty, the only defender with a chance to stop Smith from scoring, pursued him from behind. As he caught Smith, Beatty reached for the ball and stripped it loose at the Pirate 30. But trailing the play was Glendale's Getro Elize, who scooped up the bouncing ball at the 23 and carried it into the end zone for the score! The extra point, Daniel Mazal's second of the day, made it 14-0 Glendale.
But then things changed dramatically, and the rest of the game belonged to Orange Coast. First, return man Josh Black took a short kickoff and returned it 32 yards to the Glendale 47. On the next play, Higa found Justin Humalon behind the defense and got him the ball for the TD, getting OCC on the board. The XPA went wide, but now OCC had closed the gap to 14-6.
Glendale mishandled the ensuing kickoff, pinning the offense inside its own 15, and the OCC defense made it worse when Mahelona dropped Vaquero RB Justin Tyler for a a 6-yd loss at the 7. On the next play, Glendale QB David Parker's pass was intercepted by Nick Dominelli near midfield.
The Glendale defense held tough though, stopping Orange Coast inside the 20. On a 4th and 2, Vaquero DB Robert Harris wrestled Humalon out of bounds at the 17 for a 1-yard gain with 13:05 left in the game.
But the Glendale offense was unable to move the ball, and again had to punt, and Black made another big play when he returned the punt 23 yds to the Glendale 21. One play later, the Pirates reached the end zone when Higa found Menke for a 21-yd scoring play. Yet OCC was unable to tie the game when Higa's pass on the conversion attempt fell incomplete.
However, the OCC defense was now in complete control, and forced yet another punt. And this time the Pirate offense was ready to finish the comeback. A 11-yd pass from Higa to FB Jimmy Niutapuai with 5:44 gave OCC the lead, and finished the scoring for the day.
Glendale got the ball back twice more, but never threatened to score. A sack by Justin Williams, his second of the day, dropped Freeman at the GC 3 and ended any remaining doubt about the game's outcome.
The list of heroes for OCC begins with Higa, who entered the game midway through the second quarter and finished with 199 yds passing and 33 more rushing. Return specialist Black had a pair of big plays on special teams and finished with 101 return yds. RB Vega had 124 yds on 17 carries to lead Pirate rushers. On defense, All-American candidate Jesse Mahelona had a monster game as he dominated the interior of the line, registered 3 sacks and had the key tackle for loss on Tyler. Williams added a pair of sacks, and Dominelli had the game's only interception.
For Glendale, RB Smith led the way with 133 yds on 26 carries. But the offense mustered just 169 yds on the day and never got the ball across midfield after their opening series except for Smith's run-and-fumble that resulted in Elize's TD. Rony Zelaya had a busy day with 10 punts, averaging 35.5 yds per kick.
G – Smith 1 yd run (Mazal kick) 9:20 -- 0-7
G – Elize 23 yd advance of fumble (Mazal kick) 2:12 -- 0-14
OC – Humalon 47 yd pass from Higa (kick wide left) 1:54 -- 6-14
OC – Menke 21 yd pass from Higa (pass incomplete) 10:37 -- 12-14
OC – Niutapuai 11 yd pass from Higa (pass incomplete) 5:44 -- 18-14
G: 6-J.Smith 26-133, 4-Tyler 6-10, 8-Parker 4-0, 7-Freeman 3-(-30)
OC: 21-Vega 17-124, 10-Higa 7-33, 20-Black 8-22, 89-Humalon 1-7, 1-Budde 4-(-16)
G: 8-Parker 4-12-1-36; 7-Freeman 4-9-0-20
OC: 10-Vega 14-19-0-199, 3 TDs; 1-Budde 2-8-0-19
G: 46-Mazal 2-23, 9-Elize 2-6, 2-Riley 1-8, 12-McDaniel 1-8, 45-Zubia 1-8, 26-McGee 1-3
OC: 89-Humalon 6-79, 80-Snell 4-36, 8-Menke 3-55, 85-Escalera 1-26, 20-Black 1-11, 42-Niutapuai 1-11
G: 41-Zelaya 10-35.5 avg
OC: 97-Sherida 3-33.3 avg; 34-Howe 2-31.5 avg
G: 43-Kines 1-16, 24-Lipscomb 1-7
OC: 20-Black 1-32, 6-DeHart 1-27, 88-Lee 1-15
OC: 20-Black 5-69
OC: 47-Dominelli 1-0
G: 60-Elisha, 65-Walker
G: 9-Eliza 1-23
G: 66-Sebastiani 1-5
OC: 55-Mahelona 3-20, 74-Williams 2-21
OC: 97-Sheridan (wide right)
Notes: Season opener for both teams. Freeman (GC) and Budde (OC) started at QB; Parker (GC) and Higa (OC) both entered during 2nd quarter. Freeman returned for Glendale's last series. Latu partially blocked a punt for OC. Glendale's 2nd TD came when Smith ran for 54 yds, fumbled at the 30 when stripped by Beatty, but Elize picked up the ball at the 23 and carried it in. DeHart tried OC's 1st XPA (wide left). OC's 1st TD came 1 play after Black's ko return after the fumble TD; their 2nd TD came 1 play after Black's 23-yd punt return. Questionable calls – one probably right (but close) and the other maybe not – cost OC a pair of TDs before they started their rally. Glendale only got the ball across the 50 one time – on the fumble TD – after their opening drive. OC contributed 32 yds in penalties to GC's 69-yd opening TD drive.