The moments were important on Friday night. The moment of silence, the moment of victory, the moment of remembering.
Trabuco Hills won its season opener for the fourth consecutive year, a 17-14 nonleague victory over visiting Dana Hills. The game uncovered needed areas of improvement for both teams, but one got the feeling that the game was only part of the picture—at least for the winners.
Greeting fans as they walked to the home side of the field was a table that anchored balloons and a large picture of Eric McKinney, a Mustangs line coach who died July 25 without warning. He was 46.
The table also had a drop box for fans to make a donation to the family fund. On the back of the Mustangs blue helmets was a white sticker with the letters "EM" inside.
McKinney was always harping on conditioning. He often told head coach Scott Orloff that the team needed to be able to run 20 40-yard dashes in a row—full-speed, none of that trotting to get to the end stuff.
Orloff was asked afterward why his team won a three-point game and not the Dolphins.
"I think we were better conditioned than they were," he said, perhaps not even recognizing the tribute to the fallen coach.
But that's what it was. The "McKinney 40s" were the difference.
McKinney had three children, including sophomore Kevin, a fullback and linebacker, and freshman daughter Carly, who excels at three sports.
"My heart bleeds for him," Orloff said of Kevin, who was upbeat at the end, finding solace and therapy in football.
"I just wanted to win the game for my dad," Kevin McKinney said.
The Mustangs scored only two touchdowns. A 39-yard field goal by Blake Cuzzupoli with the wind behind him in the second quarter—which gave Trabuco a 10-7 lead—was the difference.
Trabuco tied the score at 7-7 on a six-yard touchdown pass from Nate Perry to tight end Spencer Herson, and took a 17-7 lead with 1:50 left in the third quarter on a 21-yard run by sophomore Chris Reck.
Reck finished with a game-high 69 yards rushing. Perry had about 150 yards passing.
Dana Hills made a game of it in the fourth quarter, pulling to 17-14, when McCain Vail passed 25 yards to Logan Warren with 5:11 remaining.
But the Mustangs hung on, a moment to savor.