Two days after the end of the Corona del Mar High football season on Dec. 21, Giovanni Gentosi skipped town. All beat up from playing a 16-game schedule he went on a much-needed vacation.
Gentosi spent the holiday break with family in Mammoth Mountain, where he planned to rest his body for five days. On three of those days, his body endured a little more as he joined his family on hikes. Nature eased the pain from a grueling season.
Those trails gave Gentosi time to reflect on his senior season and his team's climb to a place no other CdM team had reached. The Sea Kings capped a perfect season with a 27-15 win against Atherton Sacred Heart Prep in the CIF State Division III Bowl Game at the StubHub Center in Carson.
Gentosi went out a winner, as the center paved the way to CdM's 16-0 season. The Sea Kings became the first high school football team in California to finish with that record.
The reason why CdM made history is largely due to Gentosi, the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year.
It is rare when an offensive lineman is recognized as the best player. The quarterback, running back or wide receiver, those players tend to get all the glory. And the Sea Kings have marquee players at those positions.
Nevertheless, Gentosi is the one player who always stood out to opposing coaches because of his smart, physical and athletic play. The coaches say Gentosi keyed the Sea Kings' success on offense.
Without Gentosi, none of those offensive players at CdM that broke school records stood a chance of making plays. Gentosi is the one who snapped the ball to the quarterback, who usually stood in shotgun. The duty is one Gentosi performed in two of his last three seasons as a starter.
In his first year, Gentosi lined up at guard as a sophomore. He changed spots before his junior season, but CdM's winning ways continued.
Only Gentosi started all 44 games during Coach Scott Meyer's three years with the Sea Kings. During the stretch, CdM went 40-4, claimed back-to-back undefeated Pacific Coast League titles, won three straight CIF Southern Section Southern Division titles, and succeeded in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III Bowl Game and CIF State Division III Bowl Game.
Gentosi also won his final 26 games, giving the Sea Kings the longest current winning streak in the state.
For his efforts during CdM's unprecedented season, Gentosi earned the CIF Southern Section Southern Division Offensive Player of the Year and Pacific Coast League MVP awards, and first-team All-Orange County honors. News of winning the first two accolades surprised Gentosi, who isn't the type of player who clamors for attention.
Whenever Gentosi saw the name of his quarterback (Luke Napolitano), tailback (Cole Martin) and receivers (Cole Collins and Bo St. Geme) in a story, he said the offensive line executed its job. He's going to miss reading about his team. The Sea Kings won big games early on, edging El Toro, 24-21, in nonleague play one week, and they followed that up with a 34-14 victory against rival Newport Harbor, ending a six-game losing streak in the Battle of the Bay.
"At that point, we really believed we could go undefeated," said Gentosi, who helped CdM average 219.1 rushing yards, 171.9 passing yards and 34.3 points per game.
If there's ever a time to mention the rest of the line's starting members, Gentosi said this is it. The "Big Uglies" include left tackle Ian Redman, left guard Michael Pierotti, right guard Brett Olson and right tackle Quinn Bassler. All of them are seniors and they are going their separate ways after high school. Not all of them will continue to play football.
Gentosi, who is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, hopes to play football in college. He said Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the University of San Diego, Chapman University, and the University of Redlands are interested in him. Gentosi, a two-time Dream Team selection, said he's willing to be a walk-on player somewhere. As a defensive end and long snapper is where he sees himself playing in college.
"He was a dominating force for us," said Meyer, whose Sea Kings finished No. 21 in CalHiSports.com's final state rankings. "He's a quiet leader who leads by example on and off the field. Someone smart will give him an opportunity to play at the next level."
Below are the rest of the players on this year's Dream Team:
All-Purpose Player of the Year
The senior earned the right to be called a "Playmaker" from legendary Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley. Truxton delivered in all facets of the game, on offense, defense and specials teams, sparking the Sailors to the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division finals. He averaged 166.3 all-purpose yards per game. As a wide receiver, Truxton finished with Newport Harbor single-season school records for receptions (83), receiving yards (1,325) and receiving touchdowns (17). Truxton produced 20 total touchdowns, returning an interception 60 yards for a touchdown, an interception 45 yards for touchdown and a blocked field goal 66 yards for a touchdown. As a cornerback, Truxton intercepted four passes, made 48 tackles and forced two fumbles. On special teams, he averaged 14.4 yards per punt return and 28.7 yards per kickoff return, and blocked two field goals. Truxton earned All-CIF Southern Section Southwest Division and first-team All-Orange County honors, along with the Sunset League Offensive Player of the Year award. Truxton is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Co-Offensive Player of the Year
The junior aired it out during his second year as the starter for the Sailors. Norris passed for 2,959 yards and 27 touchdowns, stats that rank No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, for a single season at Newport Harbor. He finished 98 yards shy of the school's single-season record of 3,057 set by Shane Foley in 1985. Norris' best performance came during a 49-48 upset of top-seeded La Habra in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division playoffs at Davidson Field. He threw for 474 yards and five touchdowns, both are Newport Harbor single-game records, while completing 36 of 63 passes, without an interception. For the season, Norris completed 227 of 381 passes (60%), and only threw eight interceptions. Norris garnered All-CIF Southern Section Southwest Division and second-team All-Orange County laurels, and he shared the Sunset League Offensive Back of the Year award. Norris is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Co-Offensive Player of the Year
QB/Corona del Mar
The senior quarterback waited his turn to start for the Sea Kings on offense and he ended up leading them to their most successful season in school history, finishing a perfect 16-0 with a CIF State Division III Bowl Game title. Napolitano's ability as a more traditional drop-back quarterback and his deceptive speed lifted CdM to its second straight undefeated Pacific Coast League title and third straight CIF Southern Section Southern Division title. He set CdM single-season school records for passing yards (2,645) and completions (197). He threw for 25 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, and completed 62.3% of his passes. Napolitano also rushed for a dozen touchdowns, four during CdM's unprecedented playoff run. Napolitano's career numbers for passing yards (2,703) and completions (203) rank No. 1 at CdM. Napolitano made the All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division team and All-Pacific Coast League first team. Napolitano is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Defensive Player of the Year
The senior middle linebacker dealt with nagging right foot injuries throughout the year and still managed to produce one of the most dominating seasons on both sides of the ball in Orange County. Crenshaw, who said he has committed to Arizona State to play strong safety, totaled 120 tackles, marking his third consecutive 100-plus tackle season. He intercepted four passes, returning one 72 yards for a touchdown, and forced three fumbles. Crenshaw also starred at tailback and as a kick returner. Crenshaw rushed 222 times for 1,971 yards and 28 touchdowns. He was a scoring machine, totaling a Costa Mesa single-season school record 32 touchdowns, three coming on kickoff returns of 89, 87 and 87 yards. Crenshaw led the Mustangs to an undefeated Orange Coast League crown, their first since 2008. Crenshaw received All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division, first-team All-Orange County and Orange Coast League MVP laurels. Crenshaw is a three-time Dream Team selection.
Lineman of the Year
The senior stood out at left tackle and defensive tackle for the Sailors because of his imposing 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame and strength. Hufford protected quarterback Cole Norris' blindside in a pass-first offense and helped a banged-up offensive line keep it together during a CIF Southern Section Southwest Division championship run. On defense, he created problems for opposing offenses. Hufford, the lone member of the 1,500-pound club at Newport Harbor, is the strongest player to suit up for Coach Jeff Brinkley during his 28 years in charge of the Sailors. Hufford anchored the Sailors' eighth trip to the section finals under Brinkley. Hufford, who has committed to play football at UC Davis, produced 51 tackles and three sacks. Hufford garnered All-CIF Southern Section Southwest Division and first-team All-Orange County accolades, and shared the Sunset League Defensive Lineman of the Year award. Hufford is a two-time Dream Team pick.
RB/Corona del Mar
The junior running back set CdM single-season school records for rushing yards (1,870), rushing touchdowns (21) and total points (126). Martin, who averaged 6.2 yards per carry, earned All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division, second-team All-Orange County and first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.
The junior running back rushed 200 times for 1,073 yards and eight touchdowns. Siemonsma turned in his best game against Marina in Sunset League action, gaining 179 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries. Siemonsma is a first-team All-Sunset League member.
The senior made 83 catches, a Newport Harbor single-season school record, for 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns. Stowell also excelled at cornerback, intercepting six passes. Stowell earned All-CIF Southern Section Southwest Division, first-team All-Orange County and Sunset League Defensive Back of the Year honors.
WR/Corona del Mar
The junior wide receiver set CdM single-season school records for receptions (60) and receiving yards (1,000). Collins, who finished with eight touchdown receptions, is a member of the All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division team and All-Pacific Coast League first team.
Bo St. Geme
WR/Corona del Mar
The junior wide receiver tied the CdM single-season school record for catches with 60. St. Geme finished with 750 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns. St. Geme made the All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division team and All-Pacific Coast League first team.
The senior guard anchored the Mustangs' ground attack that averaged 277.5 yards per game. Zalpa, a 6-foot-2, 265-pounder, received All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division and Orange Coast League Lineman of the Year honors. Zalpa is a two-time Dream Team pick.
OL/Corona del Mar
The senior guard lacked size at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, but he more than made up for it with technique and will. Olson made the All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division team and All-Pacific Coast League first team.
The senior right guard didn't let autism get in his way in becoming one of the most talented linemen in the area. At 5-foot-8 and 255 pounds, Zavala's motor never stopped. Zavala earned first-team All-Sunset League honors.
The senior moved to center after starting training camp as the fullback. Aceves helped the Sailors average 213.7 passing yards, 121.6 rushing yards and 29.1 points per game. Aceves, a 5-foot-8, 205-pounder, received second-team All-Sunset League recognition.
DL/Corona del Mar
The junior end recorded 16 sacks, 97 tackles, one interception, four fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown, and three forced fumbles. Chase is the CIF Southern Section Southern Division Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the All-Orange County and All-Pacific Coast League first teams.
The senior end created havoc for the Mustangs. Quiroz totaled 107 tackles, 17 for losses, 8.5 sacks, 25 hurries, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Quiroz earned Orange Coast League Defensive Player of the Year and All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division honors.
DL/Corona del Mar
The junior end gave the Sea Kings another pass rusher who could harass opposing quarterbacks off the edge. Carter produced 10.5 sacks, 67 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a safety. Carter picked up first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.
The junior end developed into Newport Harbor's top pass rusher with his relentless play, moves and speed. Beaudette finished with eight sacks, 62 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Beaudette is a first-team All-Sunset League member.
The junior middle linebacker turned into a tackling machine for the Sailors. Gaddis amassed 152 tackles, tops in the area, returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles. Gaddis made the All-Sunset League first team.
The senior outside linebacker overcame a hip flexor injury and a partially collapsed lung and performed at a high level. In six games, Bell returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and as a receiver caught six touchdowns. Bell earned All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division and first-team All-Orange Coast League honors.
LB/Corona del Mar
The junior shifted from outside linebacker to the middle after the Sea Kings lost Alex Moore to a season-ending knee injury. Crance elevated his play, totaling 97 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery. Crance is a first-team All-Pacific Coast League member.
DB/Corona del Mar
The junior cornerback saved CdM's perfect season. Greenlee blocked a field goal in the waning seconds against El Toro, allowing CdM to win, 24-21. He finished with 45 tackles and three interceptions, and blocked another field goal, returning it 51 yards for a touchdown. Greenlee earned All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division and first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.
The senior safety is one of the area's best tacklers. Hall made 103 tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. Hall, a first-team All-Sunset League member, rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the Sailors' 32-13 win at Dana Hills in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division playoffs.
DB/Corona del Mar
The senior safety provided experience and leadership to a Sea King defense with 10 juniors starting. Griffin never allowed CdM to give up big plays. The Sea Kings allowed 9.6 points per game. He finished with 65 tackles and one interception. Griffin made the All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division team and All-Pacific Coast League second team.
The freshman cornerback showed his immense talent. Laurent helped Estancia return to the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs for the fifth straight year. He finished with 71 tackles, two interceptions, returning one 36 yards for a touchdown, two fumble recoveries, returning one 40 yards for a touchdown, and one forced fumble. Laurent received first-team All-Orange Coast League recognition.
The junior converted five of seven field-goal attempts and 47 of 50 extra-point kicks for the Sailors. Schultz made 38-, 36- and 28-yard field goals against Edison in a Sunset League game. He averaged 36.3 yards per punt and pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line nine times. Schultz is a second-team All-Sunset League member.