Corona del Mar High has become a regular at the CIF Southern Section football championship luncheon. Marina was invited for the first time.
The Sea Kings and Vikings were among the 31 teams attending Monday’s 44th annual CIF event at the Grand Long Beach Events Center. The section honored the teams that will compete in the football finals in their respective divisions on Friday and Saturday.
The Sea Kings return to the CIF finals for the third time in four seasons, but they are still in search of their first win in such games over that span.
Marina made it to the section title game for the first time in the program’s 56-year history. The No. 2-seeded Vikings (11-2) will host No. 4 Pasadena Muir (11-2) in the Division 11 final at Westminster High on Friday at 7 p.m.
Top-seeded CdM (13-0) plays No. 2 Grace Brethren (12-1) in the Division 3 championship game at Newport Harbor High on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Lancers upset the Sea Kings 26-14 in the Division 4 final last year.
“Sometimes, in life, you always like to get another opportunity, and sometimes, you don’t,” Sea Kings coach Dan O’Shea said. “We welcome the opportunity to reset the story, so to speak.”
Quarterback Ethan Garbers, wide receiver John Humphreys, tight end Mark Redman and linebacker Mason Gecowets were the players that sat at the CdM table, each elaborately dressed in a suit.
“It’s an honor to get back here at a higher division,” said Humphreys, a Stanford commit. “We’ve got to make progress, and we’ve been really successful in the past, but we’ve never won one of these, so this year, we got one goal. We know what it’s like to be in one of these games, and we’re excited for it.”
The Washington-bound Garbers saw his brother, Chase, appear on SportsCenter highlights for leading Cal to a 24-20 win over Stanford with a late rushing touchdown. He remains firmly focused on extending his high school career.
“In our minds, we have three more games left,” Garbers said. “We’ve got this one, we got a [CIF State Southern California Regional] game, and then we got a state championship. That’s been our goal for the whole year.”
Redman, headed to Washington, was a unanimous vote at the table for the best dressed, the highlight of his outfit being a pair of blue suede shoes.
The Sea Kings looked sharp at the luncheon, but they will not be satisfied with anything less than winning CdM’s first section crown since 2013.
“We strive to be perfect every game,” Gecowets said. “We practice to perfection, so we want to play like that, too. Not having to punt or not giving up points. We want to be dominant.”
As the Vikings entered the luncheon, the gossip was about senior lineman Isaia Regan, who had been entertaining his teammates with freestyle rap lyrics on the bus ride to Marina’s semifinal against Hemet on Nov. 22.
“He gave it his best country voice and was trying to rap about country stuff, like catfish and tractors,” Vikings senior middle linebacker Nathan O’Rourke said.
Vikings coach Jeff Turley uttered only one word to describe how it sounded, “Bad.”
Regan declined to showcase his rapping abilities as the luncheon ended, adding that he would not experience stage fright when the Vikings play Muir in the final.
Senior two-way starters Eric Church and Chase Hoglund were also among the Vikings players to attend the luncheon. Church has played wide receiver, in the secondary and kicker, while Hoglund has seen action on the offensive and defensive lines.
“It feels great,” Regan said. “Nobody has done what we’ve done, so we’re definitely making history. We made a lot of history this year, but we’re not done yet. We’re trying to put that CIF plaque up on the wall, bring the first championship home.”
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