Marina High’s football team set the tone right away in its first CIF Southern Section playoff game in 18 years.
The Vikings came out aggressively from the opening kickoff against Laguna Hills with an onside kick that they failed to recover, but their message was sent: They were going all out.
“We saw some things on film and we thought there was an opportunity there,” Marina coach Jeff Turley said. “That was the whole idea to come out with the foot on the gas and hold it to the floor.”
Led by running back Brantt Riederich’s 103 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, the No. 2-seeded Vikings rolled over visiting Laguna Hills 42-8 in a Division 11 opener on Friday at Westminster High, giving the program its first playoff win since 1985.
“I said, ‘Let’s just go out there and win the game and forget about when the last [playoff game] was,’” Turley said. “That’s a tribute to the boys.”
Marina (9-2), which had dropped its previous playoff openers in 2001, 1999, 1992, 1991 and 1986, is one victory away from reaching double-digit wins for the first time since 1981, when the Vikings went 11-2. Thirty-eight years ago, the Vikings also advanced to the semifinals, marking the only time they made it that far in the program’s 56-year history.
In the way of a semifinal trip this year is Ontario Christian. Big 4 League champion Marina will host Ambassador League runner-up Ontario Christian (9-2) in the quarterfinals on Nov. 15 at Boswell Field. The Knights defeated Riverside Poly 41-14 on Friday in the first round.
In the school’s first playoff game since 2001, the Vikings looked as though they’ve been on this stage before. It probably helped that Marina was familiar with the Hawks (5-6), having opened the season with a 33-20 win at Laguna Hills on Aug. 23.
Marina’s opening drive led to a Pharoah Rush nullified touchdown due to a penalty, but the Vikings still managed to score. Jack Miller threw an 18-yard touchdown to Dane Brenton. On the extra point, Eric Church picked up a low snap and drove into the end zone for two points.
Rush’s touchdown wasn’t the only Marina score reversed. Brenton returned the kickoff at the start of the second half for a touchdown, but the play was called back because of a holding penalty.
Rush, Marina’s most deadly threat, topped 100 yards on the ground against Laguna Hills for the second time. While Rush ran 13 times for 102 yards on Friday, it was Riederich who stole the show.
Riederich punched in a one-yard score late in the first quarter, then he broke free for a 65-yard touchdown to help the Vikings take a 21-0 lead 2½ minutes into the second quarter. The junior had a six-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
“What tough runs,” Turley said of the scores by Riederich, who had 13 carries. “He was running through some people and breaking through some tackles. Some determination right there.”
Marina has used a two-quarterback system for most of the season, but only after the Vikings took a 21-0 lead did Gavin Del Toro get his shot — and he took it. Del Toro found Wyatt McClour, who broke two tackles en route to a 48-yard play to the Laguna Hills five-yard-line. But the Vikings failed to score as Church missed a 27-yard field-goal attempt.
The Vikings missed the opportunity to take an even more commanding lead going into halftime as they failed to score after getting inside the 10-yard-line.
On defense, the Vikings were stout, halting drive after drive and never allowing the Hawks into their red zone for the entire first half. Laguna Hills scored on its first drive of the second half on a 16-yard pass from Hayden McKenna to Mitch Leigber and converted the two-point attempt to cut Marina’s lead to 21-8.
From there, the Vikings held strong with a late goal-line stand to end the game.
“The defense has been pretty stellar all year,” Turley said. “This is the kind of defense I’m used to having.
“We gotta keep it going. We’ll be home next week so it works out in our favor hopefully.”
CIF Southern Section Division 11 playoffs
Marina 42, Laguna Hills 8
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Laguna Hills 0 – 0 – 8 – 0 — 8
Marina 14 – 7 – 0 – 21 — 42
M – Brenton 18 pass from Miller (Church run), 6:53.
M – Riederich 1 run (kick failed), 0:17.
M – Riederich 65 run (Church kick), 9:33.
LH – Leigber 16 pass from McKenna (2-point good), 7:15
M – Miller 1 run (Church kick), 8:46.
M – Riederich 6 run (Church kick), 6:18.
M – Lloyd 13 run (Church kick), 3:41.
LH – Leigber, 11-44.
M – Riederich, 13-104, 3 TDs.
LH – McKenna, 10-14-1, 73, 1 TD.
M – Miller, 14-22-0, 201, 1 TD.
LH – Whiteside, 2-33.
M – Church, 5-92.
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