The Marina High football team might have found its bread-and-butter combination on offense Thursday night.
The Vikings pounded the ball to running backs Pharoah Rush and Brantt Riederich to the tune of 55 carries for 328 yards and four touchdowns as they defeated Laguna Hills 34-25 in a nonleague home opener at Westminster High.
Rush, a junior, led the way, posting career highs in three categories, carries (39), yards (196) and touchdowns (three). Riederich, a sophomore, finished with 16 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown.
“I was just going off of pure instinct,” Rush said. “I was following my blocks and I can’t do anything without my linemen, so I have to thank them.”
Marina won its second straight game and improved to 2-1. The Vikings will host Katella at Boswell Field on Sept. 7.
“That was a little thunder and lightning action,” Marina coach Jeff Turley said of the running game. “The offensive line coaches are doing a great job and we made some good adjustments at halftime that really started to open up the run.”
Those adjustments proved to be key for Marina as it trailed 18-8 at halftime. But the Vikings quickly cut Laguna Hills’ advantage to 18-15 on Riederich’s one-yard touchdown run to finish Marina’s opening drive of the second half.
The Vikings had a chance to tie the game with 2:38 left in the third quarter, but fumbled the snap on a 25-yard field goal attempt.
Fortunately for Marina, it made amends in the fourth quarter. Junior defensive back Eric Church picked off quarterback Matt Der Torossian in Laguna Hills territory to set up a one-yard score from Rush, giving Marina a 21-18 lead with 9:50 to go.
It looked as if Rush had given the Vikings all the momentum, upping their lead to 28-18 on a 36-yard touchdown run with four minutes to play. But Marina let a big defensive stop on third down get away when it fumbled a punt with under three minutes left, giving the ball back to Laguna Hills with good field position.
The Hawks capitalized on that mistake, scoring on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Hayden McKenna to Mitch Leigber with 2:16 to play.
Marina went back to its “thunder and lightning” to run out the clock, scoring on a one-yard run by John Robinson as time expired, a play Laguna Hills coach Mike Maceranka seemed none too pleased with after the game.
“It took a while for us to wake up,” Turley said. “The coaches saw it on the bus ride over and pregame. They just weren’t acting the same as the last two weeks. It’s still August, but I think we bounced back and executed our adjustments.”
The Marina defense held Laguna Hills to only 21 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Laguna Hills struck first midway through the opening quarter on a 47-yard field goal from Jake Woolgar.
The Vikings answered to open the second quarter on a seven-yard run from Rush and tacked on a two-point conversion on a run from Gavin Dykema to take an 8-3 advantage at the 10:56 mark of the quarter.
Laguna Hills (1-1) closed out the first half with 15 straight points on two long touchdown passes from Der Torossian to Leigber.
The first of those two connections came on a 50-yard strike across the middle with 6:10 to go in the opening half and the second on a 72-yard pass-and-catch down the left sideline with 1:47 left.
Marina 34, Laguna Hills 25
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Laguna Hills 3 – 15 – 0 – 7 — 25
Marina 0 – 8 – 7 – 19 — 34
LH – Woolgar 47 FG, 6:41.
M – Rush 7 run (Dykema run), 10:56.
LH – Leigber 50 pass from Der Torossian (A’hearn pass from Der Torossian), 6:10.
LH – Leigber 72 pass from Der Torossian (Woolgar kick), 1:47.
M – Riederich 1 run (Stitt kick), 7:45.
M – Rush 1 run (kick failed), 9:50.
M – Rush 36 run (Stitt kick), 4:00.
LH – Leigber 7 pass from McKenna (Woolgar kick), 2:16.
M – Robinson 1 run (run failed), :01.
LH – Der Torossian, 4-24.
M – Rush, 39-196, 3 TDs.
LH – Der Torossian, 7-26-3, 170, 2 TDs.
M – Miller, 7-18-2, 92.
LH – Leigber, 5-135, 3 TDs.