Members of the Corona del Mar High football team had to wait a bit to address reporters at Wednesday’s Orange County public school media day at Mission Viejo High.
CdM coach Dan O’Shea and senior quarterback Ethan Garbers, senior receiver John Humphreys, senior tight end Mark Redman and junior lineman Thomas Bouda were originally slated to go on stage fourth out of the eight public schools in attendance.
A car accident on the 5 Freeway made a couple of teams late, however, so CdM ended up going seventh. It didn’t really matter to O’Shea, who was fine with waiting to speak about the Sea Kings’ success over the last eight years.
O’Shea is entering his ninth season with CdM, his fifth as head coach. In the previous eight years, the Sea Kings have played in five CIF Southern Section championship games, winning three of them. In some ways, it could be seen as an accomplishment that CdM would be an obvious choice to participate in such an event, among other programs like Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Los Alamitos, Tesoro, La Habra, San Juan Hills and Yorba Linda.
O’Shea said that in his first year of 2011, there were 46 sophomores, juniors and seniors in the program. This year, that number has more than doubled to 103.
“When we came there nine years ago, we made a statement that said we want to be the single best public school football team in the county,” O’Shea said of himself and associate head coach Kevin Hettig, who both previously taught and coached at Trabuco Hills. “Everybody laughed, and it was maybe warranted at that time. Corona del Mar football back then wasn’t the culture that we wanted to set. Since Day One, the only thing that we wanted to do was to own the town. The biggest rivalry for these guys is the Battle of the Bay [against Newport Harbor], the battle for Newport Beach.
“It’s our job as a program, coaches, players, etc. to give the kids who live in that community a reason to go to Corona del Mar and play football. That wasn’t always the case before.”
Identifying as a public school was a key theme of Wednesday’s media day. The first question posed to the Sea Kings was about another school present, Los Alamitos.
O’Shea was asked about last year’s tie with the Griffins, in a game that was postponed by lightning and not rescheduled. The teams both finished 4-0-1 in the Sunset League, sharing the league title. This year, they play on Nov. 1 at Newport Harbor High in the league finale, a game that could have obvious league title implications. A reporter suggested that it could be possibly the best regular-season game of the Orange County football season.
O’Shea said he appreciated the Los Alamitos program, specifically growing up in Long Beach and attending high school at St. Anthony. Besides the Griffins, CdM will see at least two of the other programs represented in the media day during the season. The Sea Kings scrimmage at Tesoro on Friday night at 7, and they host San Clemente on Sept. 26 at Davidson Field in their final nonleague game.
Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton said he thought the public school media day was a good idea, so much so that he brought six players instead of the required four. Senior quarterback Cade McConnell answered most of the questions, while freshman quarterback Malachi Nelson, who Fenton said already has an offer from Auburn, stood off to the side.
Mission Viejo co-athletic director Troy Roelen said that Edison and Villa Park were also invited to Wednesday’s event, but both programs were out of town. Edison is in Hawaii getting ready for Friday’s season opener against Baldwin of Wailuku on Friday night.
“It’s an outstanding platform for everyone to see the worth in coming to your public school where you live, where you grew up,” Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson said of the media day. “To play with the people that you grew up playing baseball and Pop Warner football and NJB basketball, I think there’s a lot of worth to it. It’s kind of our time as public schools that we got together and showed everyone, the media and hopefully nationally, that we are a great option for all of our parents to send their kids to public schools.”
Los Alamitos’ players were politically correct when asked about the showdown against CdM, but that didn’t stop the Griffins’ senior safety John Newman from playfully talking to the Sea Kings as he passed by them after leaving the stage.
“There’s only one game circled on my schedule,” Newman said with a grin.
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