Everything seemed to be going as planned for the Corona del Mar High football team Friday night. The Sea Kings had been on this stage before, as they made their third straight trip to the CIF Southern Section Southern Division finals.
For the second consecutive year and against the same opponent, CdM jumped out to a fast start against Garden Grove. Then the penalties began to pile up, seven for 80 yards. The biggest one came with less than 8 minutes left in the first half, as the usually respectful CdM sideline erupted and for the wrong reason.
An adult on CdM's sideline was tossed from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct after he kept barking at one of the referees. As the man walked away, the momentum began to shift toward Garden Grove. The Argonauts went on tie the game right before halftime.
At the break, CdM Coach Scott Meyer told his players to settle down. The Sea Kings weren't going to let an old man ruin their night. They responded in the second half in a huge way to continue a perfect season.
Top-seeded CdM went on take it to second-seeded Garden Grove, winning, 42-21, at Orange Coast College and giving the Sea Kings three section titles in a row. The Sea Kings made history and they have reeled off 24 straight wins since last season.
"Unbelievable feeling," Meyer said as fans rushed the field to celebrate with him, his coaches and his players. "Our guys withstood [the penalties] and came back and had a great second half."
The season ends for CdM (14-0), if not for two remarkable performances turned in by sophomore tailback Anthony Battista and junior defensive end Parker Chase. By handing Garden Grove its first setback of the year, the Sea Kings appear to be on their way to next week's CIF State Southern California Regional Division III Bowl Game, the play-in contest for the CIF State Division III Bowl Game.
Battista was shifty, scoring 20- and 41-yard touchdowns on his first two runs. He finished with 11 carries for 163 yards, most of the work — 143 yards to be exact — coming in the second half.
While the Argonauts failed to catch Battista before he was downfield in the final two quarters, Chase was in pursuit of quarterback Angel Martinez. He sacked him four times in the second half. Two of those sacks came on consecutive plays, at a time CdM led, 28-21, with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.
"I need to get to the ball," Chase said of what was the mentality he had before the start of the second half.
In the second half, Meyer decided CdM's offense needed to get the ball to Battista.
His first carry broke a 14-14 tie, as Battista ran right, before cutting back to the left and slipping off a couple of would-be tacklers for a 41-yard score. He capped the opening drive to the second half in style.
"We just needed to score on the first drive," Battista said.
The Sea Kings never let up. They kept coming, even after they were pinned inside their 20-yard line by a 65-yard punt by Alejandro Ceja in the third quarter.
Cole Martin, CdM's starting running back, ran well on the ensuing possession. He gained 11 of his 61 yards during a nine-play, 81-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Luke Napolitano finished by rolling to his left and throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bo St. Geme, putting CdM up, 28-14, with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
The Argonauts answered, just as they did after the first quarter, when they fell behind, 14-0. A blocked punt by linebacker Hugh Crance and an interception by his twin brother, linebacker Hoyt Crance, set up CdM's two scores in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the game.
Martinez led the way for Garden Grove (13-1) at the start of the fourth quarter. The Argonauts used some trickery, like flipping the ball to receiver Austin Christian on a reverse going for a 14-yard touchdown, or having tailback Sionne Masoe, on an option, step back and throw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Ceja in the second quarter.
A hobbling Martinez came back after he left the game in the third quarter. On third-and-goal from the one, Martinez sneaked in for a touchdown, making it a seven-point game.
With 10 minutes left, it was still anybody's game, until Chase kept harassing Martinez and bringing him down. The Sea Kings clinched the section crown by feeding Battista, who gained 62 yards on six straight carries.
When CdM reached the two, Napolitano took over and produced the first of his two quarterback sneaks for touchdowns in the final 3 1/2 minutes. The Sea Kings began their countdown to playing past 14 games for the first time in school history.
"We're going to enjoy this and hopefully Sunday they call our name and we can keep playing," said Meyer, whose team went into the week ranked No. 1 in the CalHiSports.com CIF State Bowl Game Division III South poll. "I didn't want the season to end with these guys. It's a fun group to coach. It's been a blast."
CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs
Corona del Mar 42, Garden Grove 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Corona del Mar 14 – 0 – 14 – 14 – 42
Garden Grove 0 – 14 – 0 – 7 – 21
CdM – Battista 20 run (Neiger kick), 8:02.
CdM – Martin 15 run (Neiger kick), 4:38.
GG – Christian 14 run (kick blocked), 11:43.
GG – Ceja 9 pass from Masoe (Martinez run), 1:56.
CdM – Battista 41 run (Neiger kick), 9:45.
CdM – St. Geme 11 pass from Napolitano (Neiger kick), 3:23.
GG – Martinez 1 run (Quexel kick), 10:13.
CdM – Napolitano 2 run (Neiger kick), 3:33.
CdM – Napolitano 1 run (Neiger kick), :42.
CdM – Battista, 11-163, 2 TDs; Martin, 19-61, 1 TD; Napolitano, 5-39, 2 TDs.
GG - Christian, 3-21, 1 TD; Masoe, 14-13; Martinez, 15-19, 1 TD; Quexel, 1-3; Luna, 1-(-2) .
CdM - Napolitano, 8-12-1, 103, 1 TD.
GG – Martinez, 9-18-1, 104; Masoe, 2-2-0, 49, 1 TD.
CdM – St. Geme, 3-37, 1 TD; Collins, 2-34; Brahs, 2-21; Chozen, 1-11.
GG – Ceja, 2-49, 1 TD; Christian, 3-43; Creswell, 1-36; Masoe, 3-12; Quexel, 1-8; Hoalton, 1-5.