From the start of the day, Marina High coach Jeff Turley had quite the job to do to keep his team focused on the task at hand.
Plenty of excitement surrounded the football program, what with it being the homecoming game at the same time that the Vikings were going for their first league title in 33 years.
The school held a pep rally during the school day, and then the Vikings kept the fun alive and well.
Pharoah Rush ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns, as Marina defeated visiting Segerstrom 25-14 to clinch at least a share of the Big 4 League championship on Friday night at Boswell Field.
A three-yard touchdown run by Rush established a two-possession lead for the Vikings (7-2, 2-0 in league) early in the fourth quarter. As Marina watched the clock run down to the program’s first league title since 1986, Turley said his nervousness never died down until the game was officially over.
“Overall, it was just trying to keep guys calm,” Turley said. “You could feel the excitement behind you, and it was just [about] keeping them calm until it was over.
“I’m a little superstitious, and I don’t want to start celebrating too early.”
Defense ruled the day for the Vikings, who recovered four fumbles and won the turnover battle by a 5-1 margin.
Darren Vasquez had three sacks for Marina. Isaia Regan had one sack, and Wyatt McClour and Seth Wilson combined on another.
Cornerback Maguire Dobkins, who successfully defended five passes and had an interception, said the Vikings’ defensive line made his job a lot easier.
“The [defensive] line, they put the pressure on the quarterback when he is going to throw it,” Dobkins said. “It’s beautiful.”
Turley gave high praise to another member of his defensive secondary.
“We put Ronny [Slavens] on [Segerstrom’s] best receiver, and you didn’t get to hear about their best receiver all night,” Turley said. “He did a great job of shutting the kid down.
“That’s one of those things where you tell the guys, the defensive coordinator, ‘Go have a good game, and I hope I don’t hear your name.’”
Big plays came at a frenetic pace in the first quarter. After an athletic interception by Andrew Schouw ended Marina’s first drive, the Vikings went to the ground on their next possession.
Rush shredded two tackles in bouncing out to the right sideline for a 20-yard touchdown to put Marina up 6-0.
Segerstrom (8-1, 1-1) responded with a 38-yard pass from Angel Vega to Douglas Lopez to get into the red zone, but the Vikings’ defense had an answer. Regan came up with a strip sack. McClour recovered the fumble and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown.
“It was like watching fireworks at Disneyland,” Regan said of McClour’s defensive touchdown. “I got the sack, and then I see him running down the sideline into the end zone, there’s no better feeling than seeing your teammate run with the ball like that.”
Marina chose to chase its missed extra point, but Jack Miller’s pass on a two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.
The Jaguars, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 10 poll, were not to be deterred, though, requiring just four plays to get into the end zone on the next drive. Vega took a big hit at the goal line, but he fell forward to get Segerstrom on the board with a four-yard quarterback keeper on a third-and-goal play.
In the second quarter, the Jaguars jolted ahead. Vega connected with a wide-open Schouw on a slant route over the middle for a 70-yard touchdown.
Dane Brenton had 80 receiving yards and 30 rushing yards for the Vikings, who are ranked No. 4 in Division 11. Eric Church made four catches for 48 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown that gave Marina the lead for good with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
“It just feels great,” said Rush, whose team can claim the outright league championship with a win in the regular-season finale at Garden Grove (4-5, 1-1) on Oct. 31. “We came out strong in the first half, which we normally don’t. We’re usually a second-half team, but we came out today, and it was a great feeling coming out strong.
“There is so much emotion going through us right now. It’s our first time ... winning league since 1986.”
Big 4 League
Marina 25, Segerstrom 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Segerstrom 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 — 14
Marina 12 – 0 – 6 – 7 — 25
M – Rush 20 run (Church kick failed), 6:25.
M – McClour 67 fumble return (Miller pass failed), 5:03.
S – Vega 4 run (Gomez kick), 2:45.
S – Schouw 70 pass from Vega (Gomez kick), 8:10.
M – Church 13 pass from Miller (Miller pass failed), 2:57.
M – Rush 3 run (Church kick), 10:53.
S – Schouw, 7-43.
M – Rush, 12-80, 2 TDs
S – Vega, 9-22-0, 246, 1 TD.
M – Miller, 12-22-1, 153, 1 TD.
S – Schouw, 3-96, 1 TD.
M – Brenton, 4-80.
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