Cole Martin never imagined what his role would be with the Corona del Mar High football team before his sophomore year. He just wanted a chance to make an impact.
The year was going to be his first on varsity full time. Starting on this level was the last thing on his mind.
Running with the ball, forget about it. When he played offense last year on the freshman team, he mostly blocked for whoever was the lead running back.
"I thought I would be playing every once in awhile," Martin said of when he moved up to varsity, seeing the two backs he opened holes for the year before also make the jump.
The limited action turned into a lot more snaps on offense for Martin early in CdM's season.
One tailback was out with a concussion suffered during camp, and another went down in the second game of the year with an Achilles issue. The injuries forced Martin, a linebacker, into action, of all places in the backfield.
The first game Martin really carried the load came in the biggest game in Newport Beach, the Battle of the Bay. Every emotion you can imagine, Martin said he felt it.
Heartbreak is what he and the rest of the Sea Kings dealt with afterward. They allowed Newport Harbor to score a touchdown in the waning seconds to pull out a 27-26 win.
In a way, Martin said, the loss, coming in the third game of the year, was a good one for the team. While CdM lost a close game, it gained another offensive weapon.
Martin showed he could hurt a defense with his shifty running style. He rushed for a touchdown and finished 15 yards shy of topping 100 yards on the ground.
Since then, Martin has twice rushed for 100 yards. He can also catch the ball, evident from last week's performance.
Martin opened the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs making plays with his hands. He mostly watched the Sea Kings' section title run from the sideline last year, when he was called up from the freshman team.
Martin's number was called a lot last week in the Sea Kings' 35-0 win against Anaheim in the first round at Newport Harbor High. When it was over, Martin caught nine passes for 155 yards and one touchdown. He also found the end zone on a one-yard run.
The number of receptions and yards in one game are firsts for Martin on any level of football. They almost surpassed his season totals for each receiving category.
"It was a lot of fun," Martin said before praising the efforts of the team's wide receivers, Troy Reese, Chris Johnstone and Bo St. Geme. "I couldn't have done it without the wide receivers blocking [downfield]. They really helped me with getting those lanes open and running."
Martin went uncovered for most of the night. For some reason, he went unaccounted for whenever he lined up in the slot, or ran routes out of the backfield.
Seeing the defense forget about Martin didn't go unnoticed by CdM. Coach Scott Meyer said Kevin Hettig, the team's offensive coordinator, kept calling bubble passes to Martin.
The plays worked, setting up CdM's first touchdown early in the second quarter. Quarterback Cayman Carter hit Martin three times with passes, resulting in 46 yards during a seven-play, 57-yard scoring drive.
While Martin didn't get to finish the drive, he found the end zone twice in a 73-second span.
An Anaheim turnover on the ensuing kickoff set CdM up in the red zone. On the fourth play on the short drive, it was Martin scoring on a one-yard run.
Then CdM went for an onside kick and recovered it on the opponent's 43. On first down, Carter found Martin over the middle with a pass and the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder was on his way to scoring his second touchdown and putting CdM up, 21-0.
"There are so many weapons on our team that things just open up for me," said Martin, who has rushed 91 times for 412 yards and six touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns this season. "We have Reese, Johnstone, St. Geme, Carter, [tailback] Kai [Wilson]. It's hard to focus on one player, so it gives me a window to be open.
"I'm so grateful to be in this position right now."
Martin is one of many sophomores contributing to the success at CdM (9-2), which plays Los Amigos (8-3) in the quarterfinals Friday at Bolsa Grande High at 7 p.m.
Sophomores like Martin, St. Geme, safety Barrett Barbato, linebacker Robbie Hoffman, outside linebacker Harrison Carter and defensive end Justin Hess aren't used to losing. They didn't lose at all the year before on the freshman team.
They don't want to lose again this year. Two more wins in the playoffs and the Sea Kings get to defend their Southern Division crown.
Martin said he got a ring for last year's section title won by CdM and he wears it on occasion. If he can help CdM win another, it will mean a lot more.
"I'll feel like I contributed a lot more to this team," said Martin, who has definitely made the most of his first year starting on varsity.
Born: June 3, 1996
Hometown: Newport Beach
Weight: 170 pounds
Coach: Scott Meyer
Favorite food: Carne asada tacos
Favorite movie: "Step Brothers"
Favorite athletic moment: "Being on the team last year, winning the [CIF Southern Section Southern Division] championship."
Week in review: Martin finished with nine catches for 155 yards and one touchdown, and rushed for a one-yard score in the Sea Kings' 35-0 win against Anaheim in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs.