Marina High came back from a 14-point first-half deficit at Laguna Hills to win 33-20 on Friday in a football season opener.
It was a rough start for the Vikings, who are entering their sixth season under head coach Jeff Turley. Junior running back Mitch Leigber staked the Hawks to a 20-6 lead by accounting for all three touchdowns, including a 59-yard run and a 50-yard pass off a trick play to Ryan Patterson.
Leigber, who holds scholarship offers from San Diego State and Utah State, finished the night with 331 all-purpose yards, including 160 on the ground.
The Vikings responded with big plays of their own from quarterback Jack Miller and a revamped passing attack. The junior signal-caller connected on a 73-yard throw to Eric Church and a 43-yard strike to Justin Moen to keep Marina within striking distance in the first half.
The tide turned when Vikings senior running back Pharoah Rush came alive in the second quarter. He broke into the open field for a 54-yard run to get into the red zone. Three plays later, he ran it in untouched from a yard out with 3:54 left before halftime.
Miller tied the score at 20 by hitting a slant to Dane Brenton on the ensuing two-point conversion. The junior completed seven of 14 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
Rush is on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards for the second straight season. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder gained 112 yards on 14 carries. He added 34 yards receiving, including a 24-yard bubble screen from Gavin Del Toro to take the lead at 26-20 early in the third quarter.
“We came out and we had little wrinkles we were trying to get to see if they were going to key him,” Turley said. “Once we just realized, ‘Hey, we can just give him the ball,’ he just took off.”
The Laguna Hills offense grounded to a halt after losing quarterback Hayden McKenna to injury in the second quarter. He was involved in a scrum on a fumbled pitch to Leigber, where he extended his arm to help maintain possession. He exited a play later and came back in shorts.
Laguna Hills was unable to confirm McKenna’s status for the Aug. 30 nonleague game against University.
Backup Zayne Kratz’s next pass was an interception to Maguire Dobkins. Without the offensive balance, Marina was able to load up the box to slow Leigber the rest of the way. The Hawks gained just 118 yards in the second half.
“He is phenomenal,” Turley said of Leigber. “I have the utmost respect. We had to adjust … The kids, hats off to them. We made adjustments on the sideline … my seniors took charge and … started moving the guys around out there and we were able to stop him, or at least slow him down for a while.”
Turley has 16 returning starters from a team that went 3-7 last fall, including a third-place finish in the Big 4 Conference. They received votes in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 preseason poll.
Brantt Riederich pushed the Marina lead to 13 with a 34-yard sprint down the sideline. Overall, 10 different Vikings ran the ball, totaling 177 yards (sacks not included).
Turley’s defense swatted away two late threats, as Leigber pushed the Hawks into Marina territory twice in the final seven minutes. First, Marina recovered a fumble on a fourth-and-short attempt by Michael Davis. Next, Leigber was stuffed on a fourth-down pitch with less than two minutes left after getting to the one on a 59-yard catch-and-run.
The Vikings play their home opener against Torrance on Thursday at Westminster High.
Marina 33, Laguna Hills 20
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Marina 6 – 14 – 13 – 0 — 33
Laguna Hills 20 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 20
LH – Leigber 1 run (pass failed), 8:42.
M – Church 73 pass from Miller (kick failed), 5:11.
LH – Patterson 50 pass from Leigber (M. Eneim kick), 3:51.
LH – Leigber 59 run (M. Eneim kick), :27.
M – Moen 43 pass from Miller (pass failed), 11:51.
M – Rush 1 run (Brenton pass from Miller), 3:54.
M – Rush 24 pass from Del Toro (kick blocked), 5:32.
M – Riederich 34 run (Dykema kick), 0:24.
M – Rush, 14-112, 1 TD.
LH – Leigber, 20-160, 2 TDs.
M – Miller, 7-14-0, 177, 2 TDs.
LH – McKenna, 5-10-0, 71.
M – Church, 2-128, 1 TD.
LH – Leigber, 4-121.
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