Marina High does not have its own football stadium, but every day on the practice field, the Vikings see a reminder of what they hope to become.
Vikings football coach Jeff Turley enters his sixth year in charge of the program. In his second year, he had a mural painted, paying tribute to the school’s athletic teams that have won a CIF Southern Section championship in the past.
“Like everybody, I’d like to end it with a championship,” Turley said of his end goal for the season. “I tell the kids all the time, I came here and I got them to put this thing up on the wall with the intention that we’re going to put a shield up there for football.
“That’s a reminder.”
Marina went 3-7 overall and 1-2 in the Big 4 League last season, an underwhelming result after the Vikings appeared to catch a break in moving on from the Sunset League.
The feeling in Vikings training camp is that this year could be different, especially with a veteran roster. Marina has eight starters returning on both sides of the ball.
That collection of returners includes junior quarterback Jack Miller, who said he felt like a “younger sibling” a year ago in his first season as the starter.
Miller believes he has taken a step forward with his leadership, and he will not shy away from the pressure of having to deliver for his seniors.
“This year, I think I stepped up to be an older brother for everyone,” Miller said. “This year is our year. It’s our year to put a shield up on that wall and know that we’re going all out this year.”
Fellow junior quarterback Gavin Del Toro remains in the mix for snaps, too.
Turley said that two-quarterback systems can work, saying that he won championships at Long Beach Poly with that situation in play.
“Obviously, Miller is the returning starting quarterback,” Turley said. “Gavin has pushed him, and Gavin has grown a lot. Both of them push each other in the weight room. They push each other out here [on the field].
“They work so well together, and they complement each other. It’s a great situation to have. It’s like you can go with a hot pitcher.”
Marina graduated its top three receivers from a year ago in Nathan Pendleton, Richard Rojes and John Robinson. That has not hampered the enthusiasm of the Vikings when it comes to their receiving corps.
Junior Dane Brenton transferred from Edison, and he has made quite an impression. He could be seen working on parts of his craft during practice, including run blocking.
Coming from a program like Edison, Brenton said that he is ready to make his voice heard as a leader on his new team.
“I think some people look up to me because I put in as much work as I can,” Brenton said. “I’m always going 100%, and I feel like it definitely has an effect on the other people.
“They want to do [well]. I’m pushing myself as I’m pushing other people. I’ll go over and help people who need help, like I’ll go and help people play my position when I’m not in.”
Junior Justin Moen was the top target last year on Marina’s junior varsity team, which won league.
“He makes those young mistakes, but he is also willing to learn,” Turley said of Moen. “He pushes. He is a tall kid. He’s quick. I expect big things out of him.
“I think he is going to end up being one of those guys that jump out at people.”
Top returners include senior running back Pharoah Rush and senior linebacker Nathan O’Rourke. Senior Eric Church is also expected to see action in all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams.
Rush carried the ball 190 times for 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018.
O’Rourke, who had 135 tackles last year, has been the Vikings leading tackler in back-to-back seasons. He emphasized the importance of his team getting off to a fast start.
“I feel like we need to come out and [get] a nice jump on everybody because everybody is just getting used to their pads, getting used to the conditioning, the stamina again,” O’Rourke said. “I feel like if we come out on top and just get a nice good jump on them, beat everybody down, then we’re going to have a bunch of teams looking at us, and hopefully that intimidates them and we just go out and win.”
Turley is looking for strong finishes, too. At the end of practice, his coaching staff set up several workout stations he calls, “The Fourth Quarter.” It included sledge hammers, tire tosses, tire carries, agility drills and sled pushes.
“This whole, big station gauntlet is fourth quarter,” Turley said. “At the very end of the practice, you go through it. We’ve got to work hard, and we got to work harder than our opponents. Everything out there is kind of like a metaphor for what we have to do in a game in the fourth quarter. You have to work together to get the ball moved. You have to sit there and drive people to the ground. You have to be able to be light on your feet and move. We got to be able to keep running.
“Everything is set up so that when they go to each one, it’s something that psychologically can be tied into a game.”
CIF Southern Section Division: 11
Coach: Jeff Turley (sixth year)
Staff: Mel Rafferty (offensive line), Carlos Castellanos (offensive coordinator), Josh Huber (quarterbacks), Kirk Temple (running backs), Riley Mahoney (linebackers), Mike McMahon (outside linebackers), Francisco Soto (secondary), Joe Marino (strength), Kevin Ramsey (defensive line), John Tukia (offensive line), Rodger Cato (receivers)
2018 season: 3-7 overall, 1-2 in the Big 4 League (third place), missed the CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs
Offensive scheme: No-huddle, spread, two-back pro
Defensive scheme: 4-3, 3-4
Returning offensive starters: Eight
Returning defensive starters: Eight
Returning with honors: Sr. FB/MLB Nathan O’Rourke, Sr. OL/DL Isaia Regan, Sr. RB/DB Pharoah Rush, Jr. QB Jack Miller, Jr. RB/LB Brantt Riederich
23 — at Laguna Hills
29 — vs. Torrance at Westminster High
7 — Bye
13 — vs. Katella at Glover Stadium
20 — vs. Huntington Beach at Westminster High
27 — vs. El Modena at Segerstrom High
4 — at Laguna Beach
11 — vs. Spokane (Wash.) Mead at Westminster High, 6 p.m.
18 — at Westminster*
25 — vs. Segerstrom* at Westminster High
31 — at Garden Grove*
*denotes league game
All games 7 p.m. unless noted
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