WESTMINSTER — A new season. A new head coach. New uniforms. Even a new attitude. In several ways, it was a new beginning for the Marina High football team Friday when it opened its 2014 season against Aliso Niguel.
The Vikings were pumped for this one which was the first for Jeff Turley as head coach. They played the Wolverines tough throughout spurts of the nonleague contest at Westminster High's Boswell Field but the third-quarter proved to be their undoing.
Marina was locked in a tight battle at halftime with Aliso Niguel but the visiting Wolverines scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to pull away from a four-point halftime lead and go on to take a 45-28 victory.
The Vikings led once in the contest and were within 18-14 at the half.
Turley, who came to Marina after having served as defensive coordinator at Long Beach Poly, was disappointed in the loss but saw a continued fight within his team late into the game.
"This wasn't what I expected," Turley said after the game. "I felt that we were a little more prepared for the game than the way we performed. Our biggest challenge is to change the perception of the game for our kids, that mental challenge of them needing to learn how to win.
"As a defensive guy, this (45) is too many points to give up. But I loved our fight. Our guys just kept fighting right till the end."
Aliso Niguel Coach Kurt Westling saw the fight in the Vikings, as well.
"I'll tell you, Marina's a much different type of a team," said Westling whose Wolverines played the Vikings two years ago. "They played hard and they played with a different type of attitude. Their coaches are doing a great job."
Aliso Niguel, coming off a 3-7 season, took control of the game by scoring on its first three possessions of the second half. The first score came on a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Chapman to receiver Remy Wasserbach which capped a four-play, 53-yard drive. Chapman next found receiver Ian Robertson in the end zone on a 13-yard touchdown pass play, then Wasserbach ended a 20-0 spurt by scooting untouched down the Aliso Niguel sideline for a 60-yard touchdown run.
The scoring barrage, which took just over six minutes, put the Wolverines in front, 38-14 with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
Chapman used the screen and dump pass to near-perfection throughout the game, and Wasserbach was a steady threat from start to finish.
"Nick (Chapman) did a really good job tonight and No. 2 (Wasserbach) is very valuable to us," Westling said. "They both had big games."
Marina drew to within 38-21 early in the fourth quarter when sophomore tailback Cooper Malerstein scored on a 28-yard run with 11:26 remaining. Aliso Niguel came right back when Brendon Bigcas scored on a tackle-breaking, 37-yard run. It was the final play of a 68-yard drive that ate up 8:13 of the fourth quarter clock, and it put the Wolverines in front, 45-21, with 3:13 left.
The Vikings answered the Wolverines. Senior quarterback Nolan Winks, who was solid in the opener, scored on a 15-yard keeper with 2:12 to go to complete the scoring.
It was Winks who also scored Marina's first touchdown of the season. He faked an inside handoff at the Aliso Niguel 15-yard line early in the first quarter, took off around right end, received a key block at the eight from receiver Javier Sanchez, and sprinted to the end zone.
With Rand Keidel adding the conversion kick, Marina had the lead at 7-6 less than three minutes into the game.
Winks' first pass of the season was thrown toward Sanchez during the drive. On third-and-seven from his own 29, Winks threw downfield and Sanchez ran under the pass at the Aliso Niguel 45 and raced to the 15 before being hauled down.
Marina's touchdown came five plays after Wasserbach turned a short pass from Chapman into a 70-yard scoring play on the second play from scrimmage within the game's first minute.
"I thought Nolan played a great game," Turley said of Winks who also played at outside linebacker. "I thought Max Melfi (junior running back/inside linebacker) also played a great game. We played a lot of younger guys in the second half."
Trailing, 7-6, Aliso Niguel took the lead for good with 3:49 left in the first quarter when Chapman found tight end Jake Watkins in the back of the end zone on a fourth-and-17 play. Chapman also found Robertson just beyond the goal line midway through the second quarter for a 15-yard TD pass play that took the score to 18-7.
Marina pulled to within 18-14 at the half when Winks scored on a keeper from inside the one.
Next week, Marina heads over to Ocean View to take on the Seahawks in a city rivalry game. Despite traveling, the Sept. 5 showdown (7 p.m.) is a designated home game for the Vikings.
The Vikings played their opener without leading receiver Josh Gordon. The senior all-Sunset League player broke his leg during a summer passing game, Turley said, adding that Gordon has been cleared to play and could return for the Ocean View game.
"We have a lot of work to do but I truly believe we have the players to turn this program around," Turley said.
Marina Vikings (0-1)
Sept. 5: at Ocean View
Sept. 12: at Westminster
Sept. 19: at San Juan Hills
Oct. 2: at Capistrano Valley
Oct. 10: at *Edison
Oct. 17: *Fountain Valley
Oct. 23: at *Los Alamitos
Oct. 31: at *Newport Harbor
Nov. 7: *Huntington Beach