LAGUNA BEACH — Corona del Mar High football coach Scott Meyer said the Sea Kings' 41-14 victory over host Laguna Beach that ended a four-game losing streak in CIF semifinals dating back to 1992, meant they finally got over the hump.
But it's certainly easier to surmount any bump in the postseason landscape when your primary offensive strategy involves running downhill.
That's just the way it appeared for CdM (11-2) in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division semifinal, the Sea Kings' third semifinal appearance in four years.
The victory propels the No. 2-seeded Sea Kings into Friday's title game against top-seeded Beckman (11-3). It's a rematch of the two Pacific Coast League rivals' regular-season meeting, won by Beckman, 42-37, on Nov. 11 at Irvine High.
CdM, which was eliminated in the Southern Division semis last year by Beckman, is seeking the program's third section crown, its first since 1989.
Senior tailback Erik Fisher amassed 298 of the Sea Kings' 448 rushing yards and scored two of the team's five rushing touchdowns, as CdM temporarily ditched its penchant for burning teams primarily with the pass.
"We were able to run the ball," said Meyer, in his first season at the helm. "And once we started running, we never stopped. Erik Fisher is a great running back and our O-line blocked their butts off tonight."
The Sea Kings completed just one of their first six passes, four of which were drops by receivers, and Meyer said his team merely decided to take what the Breakers (10-3) were giving.
"We tried to throw it early and it was a little off," Meyer said. "We had a few drops, and the running game was there, so we just stuck with it."
CdM finished with 69 aerial yards on five completions, just two after halftime.
Fisher burst 34 yards for the opening score of the game to cap CdM's opening possession. The only pass among the five snaps was an incompletion.
Senior outside linebacker Frasier Anderson returned an interception 19 yards for a CdM touchdown, and the Sea Kings later plowed 54 yards on seven plays, all runs, to up its lead to 20-0.
Laguna Beach, making its first semifinal appearance in 47 years, answered when Robert Clemons returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown.
But CdM's ground game allowed it to score on three straight second-half possessions, eating valuable time off the clock along the way, before the Breakers added a score in the final seconds against defensive reserves.
CdM's starting defense had six sacks and six more tackles at or behind the line to stymie an offense that came in averaging nearly 48 points per game.
Senior outside 'backer Aaron White had two sacks and was in on a third, while senior inside linebackers Grant Garrett and David Moore also consistently wrapped up ballcarriers.
"I'm pretty happy," Meyer said of his defense's play. "They got us on a few plays early on, but, overall, that has been a high-scoring offense. We gave up 14, but our starters kept them out of the end zone. They got the kickoff return and they scored at the end, so, I thought that was pretty impressive to keep that offense from putting it [into the end zone]."
Laguna junior fullback Drake Martinez produced 159 yards on 17 rushing attempts and caught one pass for 48 yards. But he did not score and no other Breakers made a consistent offensive impact.
With tackles Nick Storm and Liam Duddy, guards Hunter Molnar and Giovanni Gentosi, as well as center Caden Stark doing the heavy lifting, CdM amassed 22 rushing first downs.
Fisher retired for the evening after the first play of the fourth quarter and junior backup Kai Wilson went for another 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns to close it out.
CdM, which has outscored its three playoff opponents, 129-28, will hope to get over the Beckman hump next week.
"We're very excited," Meyer said. "It's an exciting time to be a Sea King. We had a battle with [Beckman] the first time. They are a great, great football team; big, physical and athletic. So, it's going to be a heck of a ballgame."
CIF Southern Section Southern Division
Corona del Mar 41, Laguna Beach 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CdM 7 – 13 – 7 – 14 – 41
LB 0 – 7 – 0 – 7 -- 14
CdM – Fisher 34 run (Garrett kick), 8:41.
CdM – Anderson 19 interception return (kick failed), 11:03.
CdM – Lawson 1 run (Garrett kick), 6:15.
LB – Clemons 83 kickoff return (McInerny kick), 6:01.
CdM – Fisher 17 run (Garrett kick), 2:20.
CdM – Wilson 1 run (Garrett kick), 6:34.
CdM – Wilson 7 run (Garret t kick), 1:57.
LB – Clawson 5 pass from Stewart (McInerny kick), 0:11.
CdM – Fisher, 33-298, 2 TDs, Wilson, 16-89, 2 TDs.
LB – Martinez, 17-159.
CdM – Lawson, 5-12-0, 69.
LB – Stewart, 3-13-1, 81, 1 TD.
CdM – Giger, 4-58.
LB – Martinez, 1-48.