The start may have been just as important as the finish on Friday night for the Marina High football team.
Heading into a matchup with Katella, a team that had won 22 consecutive games in the regular season, the Vikings marched onto the field at Glover Stadium led by a single percussionist.
It seemed to symbolize that the Vikings were heading into battle.
Furthermore, the Vikings had a mission. They wanted to win in the worst way for starting quarterback Jack Miller, who lost his grandfather, Kevin Jondle, on Friday morning.
The Vikings defense secured six turnovers, and Marina upset Katella 21-15 in a nonleague game between two previously unbeaten teams.
Immediately, Marina (3-0) set the tone by going for it on a fourth down on its side of the field and converting on its first drive of the game.
“That was our thing,” Vikings coach Jeff Turley said, fighting back tears as he remembered Miller’s grandfather. “We’re in enemy territory. We’re Vikings. We’re coming in and taking over. There’s no playing around. I told the kids I have confidence in them, and we’re going for it.”
Turley called the victory his second-best win since arriving at Marina six years ago. Katella (3-1) entered the week ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 10 poll.
“Other than the win to end the [60-game] Sunset League losing streak [three years ago], I would say this is probably the biggest win we’ve accomplished here,” Turley said.
Miller completed 11 of his 22 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns for Marina, No. 9 in Division 11. Dane Brenton had four receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. Pharoah Rush had 62 total yards, including a key receiving touchdown.
Katella opened the scoring on its third drive of the game. The Knights had yet to earn a first down when Pharrell Scorza dropped back on a third-and-long play. The junior quarterback pump faked, before firing a deep pass just out of the reach of a leaping Brenton for a 63-yard touchdown to Marcus Viramontes.
Senior outside linebacker Conner Long had a huge first half for the Vikings. He had two tackles for a loss. When the Vikings’ pass rush flushed Scorza out of the pocket to his right, Long secured an interception along the sideline to set up Marina at the Katella 36.
“This week, we switched to a 4-3 [defensive scheme],” Long said, adding that the Vikings had a game plan to combat Katella’s running attack. “We just knew that we had to come out with a fire.
“The past games, we came out a little sleepy, and then caught up at the end. This week, we really came out firing.”
The Vikings capitalized, finding success with the ground game. Brantt Riederich had a 24-yard run, setting up a 13-yard rushing touchdown by backup quarterback Gavin Del Toro. Marina had tied the score at 7-7 just 36 seconds into the second quarter.
Brenton exacted his revenge in the Vikings’ two-minute offense. Marina went 60 yards on four plays in 53 seconds, with Miller beating the Katella defense over the top on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Miller.
The Vikings also got interceptions from Eric Church and Brenton. After making his interception, Brenton took a big hit along the Katella sideline at the end of a 22-yard return. He had to leave the game, but he returned to make his only catch of the second half for a key first down to run more clock in the fourth quarter.
“I wanted to put it all on the line,” Brenton said. “That’s what I do. I really didn’t want to go out, but unfortunately, I had a pretty bad cramp. I was not able to walk, so I sat out for the team.
“As soon as I could, I got back in there. I had to help out. I knew this was an important game, and I wanted to do everything I could to win.”
Rush took a swing pass from Miller 38 yards for a touchdown, breaking two tackles on his way to the end zone. Marina took a 21-7 lead with 10:23 remaining.
In desperation mode, Scorza threw the ball over the middle to tight end Hunter Johnson for a 24-yard gain. A roughing-the-passer penalty moved the ball to the Marina 27.
Luke Monzon then took a swing pass down to the Marina four, and Miles Poland crashed into the end zone on the next play. The Knights cut the Vikings’ lead to 21-15 with 5:14 to go with a two-point conversion on a run by Scorza.
Two second-half fumble recoveries helped Marina maintain its advantage. In the third quarter, the Knights fumbled the exchange with the ball at the Marina three, and Church recovered it.
As Katella was set to get the ball back for its final drive, Raymond Mendoza could not secure the catch as the Knights’ punt returner. Justin Moen hopped on the ball for the Vikings, finishing off their win.
Marina 21, Katella 15
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Marina 0 – 14 – 0 – 7 — 21
Katella 7 – 0 – 0 – 8 — 15
K – Viramontes 63 pass from Scorza (Sifuentes kick), 2:25.
M – Del Toro 13 run (Church kick), 11:24.
M – Brenton 26 pass from Miller (Church kick), :19.
M – Rush 38 pass from Miller (Church kick), 10:23.
K – Poland 4 run (Scorza run), 5:14.
M – Riederich, 15-33.
K – Monzon, 11-45.
M – Miller, 11-22-1, 170, 2 TDs.
K – Scorza, 10-21-3, 163, 1 TD.
M – Brenton, 4-73, 1 TD.
K – Johnson, 2-61.
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