Long Beach had tied the game on a 4-yd TD run by Martin Acosta with 1:53 left, which came just more than 3 minutes after a Santa Ana score had threatened to clinch the game for the Dons.
But the defenses for both teams dominated most of the game. Until the final 5:04, there had been just one touchdown scored on offense all afternoon.
Long Beach got the best kind of start to the game when Jamar Barnes returned the opening kickoff 94 yds for a touchdown. Barnes took the kick about 10 yds from the right sideline, patiently waited for his blockers to clear a path and sprinted up the sideline and into the end zone. A mishandled snap doomed the conversion attempt, however, leaving the score 6-0. And for much of the game, that botched XPA looked large.
That's because Santa Ana answered back with a touchdown of their own on their first offensive possession. A 10-play, 75-yd drive ended when QB Cory Campbell plowed over a defender and into the end zone from 18 yds out. Pineda came on to kick the extra point, giving Santa Ana a 7-6 lead just less than 6 minutes into the game.
And then the defenses took over. Neither team was able to score again until late in the 4th quarter.
Long Beach kept Santa Ana's offense pinned deep in its own end for much of the first half. A pair of Mike Matuz punts rolled dead inside the SAC 5-yard line, though the Long Beach offense was unable to turn that excellent field position into any points. And eventually the powerful running of Santa Ana's Dartangan Johnson allowed the Dons to move down the field. Just before halftime, SAC drove to the LBCC 4-yard line, largely on Johnson's running. But the LBCC defense stiffened, forcing a 4th and 1 at the 4-yard line. Campbell fumbled the snap, and though SAC's Tai Asoau recovered the ball, he was tackled at the 12, turning the ball over to LBCC.
At the half, Santa Ana had controlled most of the play. They held the advantage in total yards (196 to 47), first downs (14 to 2) and time of possession (17:41 to 12:19). But all the Dons had to show for all that was a 1-point lead.
The second half began with another Santa Ana drive into LBCC territory, but when Johnson was stopped on a 4th down play the ball went back to the Vikings at the 39. Long Beach responded with a long drive of their own, as a pair of long runs by Paul Ier helped get the ball to the SAC 20. But when the drive stalled, LBCC had to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt, and Mike Matuz' kick was well wide, keeping the score 7-6 Santa Ana.
The first play of the 4th quarter gave the Dons a chance to add to their lead, but SAC was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. John Terrones broke through the LBCC line and blocked a Matuz punt, and SA's Ottis Ueligitone recovered the ball at the Viking 17. But the LBCC defense stiffened, and when a 4th down pass was just out of the reach of Johnson, the Vikings took over on downs at the 2.
But the next time Santa Ana got the ball, the Don offense extended their lead. A 15-yd TD pass from Campbell to Koa Bartlett capped the drive, making it 13-6. The Dons elected to try a 2-point conversion, which would have given them 9-point margin, but Campbell was stopped at the 1-yard line, keeping the score 13-6 with 5:04 left.
And then the Long Beach offense awakened. To this point, they had been held to just 6 first downs all day, and had never gotten inside the SA 20 (except on the kickoff return). But beginning with a 10-yd pass to 6-foot-7 Markee White (his first catch of the day), the Vikings tallied 6 first down on an 80-yd drive that tied the game. Three passes to White, another to Mike Willis and a pass interference call helped get LBCC close, and Acosta finished the drive with his TD run from 4 yds out. Chris Cary added the all-important extra point, tying the game at 13.
With just 1:53 remaining, Santa Ana might have been content to run out the clock and wait for overtime. But an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Vikings, followed by a pair of completions by Campbell to Todd Rigby, allowed the Dons to go for the win in regulation time. A short run by Dartangan Johnson got the ball to the 17 and in the middle of the field, setting the stage for Pineda's game-winning kick.
Dartangan Johnson had a huge game for Santa Ana, gaining 190 yds rushing on 40 carries. None of his runs went for more than 21 yds, and only 3 went for more than 11, but he wasn't thrown for a loss all day. Outstanding blocking by fullback Chris Shipp played a big role in Johnson's success. QB Cory Campbell finished 14 of 24 for 123 yds, 1 TD and 1 interception passing, plus 39 yds and a TD on 8 carries rushing. Koa Bartlett led all receivers with 6 catches for 49 yds, and that included a TD.
Long Beach was led by RB Paul Ier, who had 94 yds rushing on 16 carries. QB Jason Washington finished 9 of 17 for 111 yds, but had 4 completions on the Vikings' final TD drive. Markee White and James Wilson each had 3 catches to lead LBCC receivers.
Santa Ana won its third consecutive game of the season, their best start since 1989 when they finished the season 10-1. The last 3 years the Dons have been a combined 7-23, with no more than 3 wins in any of those seasons.