Scott Meyer can laugh about it now, but he wasn't four months ago. His Corona del Mar High football team almost lost a chance to defend its CIF Southern Section Southern Division crown this year.
It just didn't seem right to Meyer, but the section had approved an appeal in April to remove the Sea Kings and the Pacific Coast League from the Southern Division playoffs. Proponents for the move believed the league dominated the Southern Division playoffs and the section needed to make a change.
Last year's title game featured two Pacific Coast League schools, CdM and Beckman. The programs were the third and fourth teams from the league to play for a section championship since the start of the Southern Division six years ago.
CdM has a great shot to be the fifth, because the Pacific Coast League is back in the Southern Division.
"With the size of our school, it seems like we're kind of in the right place," said Meyer, who believed the league was heading to the tougher Southwest Division.
"Wherever they were going to put us, we were going to go play."
The Sea Kings aren't afraid of competition. They have a tough schedule. Meyer pointed out on the team's Twitter feed (@CdMFootball) that the Sea Kings will face five of the top 25 preseason teams in Orange County.
All five of CdM's nonleague opponents are from the Southwest Division. The first is a home game at Newport Harbor High on Aug. 31 against No. 19 Laguna Hills, a former Pacific Coast League member.
The Hawks used to dominate the league, going unbeaten during their four-year title run from 2006-09. The Hawks are heading into their third year in the Sea View League and they're the first of two teams from that league CdM plays. The other is No. 18 Capistrano Valley.
Other tough nonleague matchups for CdM include the Battle of the Bay against No. 15 Newport Harbor, a Sunset League member, and No. 25 Cypress of the Empire League.
The Sea Kings have dropped the past five rivalry games to Newport Harbor and they last beat Cypress nine years ago.
"We want to test ourselves a little bit to get us ready for our league schedule," said Meyer, whose team went 12-2, 4-1 in league last year.
The Sea Kings' biggest challenge in league figures to be No. 24 Woodbridge on Oct. 26.
The CdM home game is the second-to-last league contest and it comes three days after Meyer turns 48. The winner just may lock up the league crown and one of the top two seeds in the playoffs.
Earning one of those seeds is vital to CdM making another run at a section championship. Below are the players who will try to help CdM go back-to-back:
Quarterback: Cayman Carter gets his opportunity to start in his senior year. He saw time last year, when CdM was already up big in games.
Carter reminds Meyer of last year's quarterback, Brent Lawson, the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year and All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division Offensive Player of the Year. Meyer hopes the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Carter can run the no-huddle spread offense like Lawson (2,519 yards and 27 touchdowns through the air) did.
Junior Luke Napolitano and sophomore Bo St. Geme are the backups. Meyer said Napolitano has nice size at 6-3 and a strong arm.
Running backs: Kai Wilson is the tailback and the senior has big shoes to fill with Erik Fisher graduating.
Fisher, a Dream Team and All-CIF pick, rushed for 1,697 yards and 18 touchdowns last year as a senior.
"Kai's a [5-10, 185-pound] kid who is very physical and very strong," Meyer said. "He ran track and he came out this spring and his speed is much-improved."
Barrett Barbato, a sophomore, will also get carries.
Receivers: With two standouts in seniors Troy Reese (6-5, 195) and Chris Johnstone (6-2, 180) back, Carter has tall targets.
Reese and Johnstone combined for 59 catches for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
Another solid receiver is sophomore Brett Greenlee. Meyer said Greenlee came out for football for the first time and Meyer is glad he did.
"Reese was hurt [upper thigh and hip] most of the summer and Brett got a ton of reps and he got better," Meyer said.
The Sea Kings lost a quick slot receiver in Josh Giger, a Dream Team and All-CIF pick who led the area with 56 receptions for 946 yards and 10 touchdowns last year as a senior.
Meyer said seniors Hunter Heckendorn and Connor Sage are battling for Giger's former position.
Tight end: Alexi Molinari takes over for Matt English. Meyer said the 6-0, 190-pound senior has good hands.
Offensive line: Junior Giovanni Gentosi (6-2, 218) and senior Nick Storm (6-2, 215) return as starters. Gentosi moves from guard to center and Storm from left tackle to the right side.
The rest of the line includes junior left tackle Ian Redman (6-7, 228), junior left guard Brett Olson (6-1, 200), and sophomore Justin Hess (6-0, 180) and senior Weston Wright (6-0, 220) are competing at right guard.
Defensive line: The entire line is back in the 3-3 stack defensive scheme.
Tim Reinhardt, a 6-3, 235-pound senior defensive end, highlights the three linemen. He registered 10 sacks last year and he's looking forward to an even bigger season.
Next to Reinhardt is senior noseguard Michael Martinez (5-10, 220) and the other end is senior Greg Williford (6-0, 224).
Linebackers: Meyer is happy to have familiar faces on the line, because his linebackers are young.
Alex Moore, a 6-1, 185-pound junior, is in the middle. Last year, his brother, David Moore, stood out, along with two other seniors, Aaron White, the Dream Team and All-CIF Defensive Player of the Year, and Fraiser Anderson, a Dream Team member.
The other linebackers are Molinari, Barbato, and sophomores Cole Martin and Hugh Crance.
Secondary: Senior Ryan Griffin is starting again at cornerback and his cousin, junior Charlie Griffin, is the strong safety.
Junior Andrew Larsen is the other cornerback and senior Jack Harris is the free safety.
Special teams: The Sea Kings had a special player in Cole Cottrell graduate. He averaged 35.7 yards per kickoff return and 12.7 yards per punt return, earning him Dream Team, All-CIF and all-league honors.
Meyer will have Heckendorn, Charlie Griffin or Johnstone return punts.
The kick returners are Barbato and Crance.
Grif Amies, a senior, is the kicker, while Napolitano and senior James Christian are competing at punter.