Marina High football coach Jeff Turley got into the coaching profession in 1989, and he has proven to have staying power wherever he has gone.
He spent nine years at Long Beach St. Anthony, including three as its head coach, before he was hired as the defensive coordinator at Long Beach Poly in 2001.
Turley served on the coaching staff of former Jackrabbits head coach Raul Lara through the 2013 season. Together, they won 12 Moore League championships and five CIF Southern Section Pac 5 Division titles.
When Poly decided to go with Antonio Pierce as its head coach, Turley figured that it was time to test the waters again.
“I sat there and looked at it,” Turley said. “Poly was going to go with the change and what they wanted, and I was like, ‘You know, I have to see what else is out there.’”
Turley hoped to find a struggling program, one that he could help turn around and give the kids the thrill of winning. He found that opportunity at Marina in 2014.
“It astounded me,” Turley said. “When I got there, they hadn’t won a league game in 10 years. That was priority one. ‘Let’s win a league game.’
“My third year there, we got it done. We ended that [60-game losing streak in the Sunset League].”
The Vikings, who left the Sunset League two years ago, have been on a mission to end even longer droughts this season. In winning the Big 4 League championship, Marina won its first league title since 1986.
Turley said that he wanted to bring back the proud tradition to the school, so he brought back a piece of the uniform that the Vikings wore during their last league championship season, an undefeated one in the Sunset League.
“I found the pictures from the last time they had won a league championship, and that was one of the first things that I did was we brought back the gold helmet,” Turley said. “The gold helmet with the Viking logo, that’s what they had in 1986 when they won the league championship.”
The story continues Friday, when No. 2-seeded Marina (11-2) hosts No. 4 Pasadena Muir (11-2) in the Division 11 final at 7 p.m. at Westminster High. It will be the first time that the Vikings have competed in a section championship game.
For four years, the seniors have heard Turley talk about adding a shield to the Viking mural on the wall along the northward back stretch of the track that surrounds the team’s practice field. The shields account for the CIF championships that the school has won across all sports.
“It originated probably freshman year,” senior two-way lineman Isaia Regan said. “That’s when I heard about it from Coach Turley. He told us, at the start of the season this year, he said, ‘You guys have a chance to do something very special. Put that shield up on the wall.’
“We took that very seriously, and here we are now. We have one game, and we have Muir standing in front of us. It’s going to be a fight, for sure, but I think we’re ready. It’s been a long time coming, and we’re ready for it.”
Muir quarterback Amaris Harrison has rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns during the Mustangs’ playoff run. Vikings senior defensive back Eric Church believes his team’s defense just passed a similar test against Hemet’s Jeremiah Graves in Marina’s 27-7 road win in the semifinals last week.
“We played a team last week that had a quarterback that was roughly the same thing as we’ve got to [face],” Church said. “It should be good practice.”
The Vikings received good news on Monday, as they expect to have wide receiver Dane Brenton available. The junior left the semifinal versus Hemet in the second quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit, but Turley said he has been cleared to play by a doctor.
Marina’s offensive line of right tackle Chase Hoglund, Regan at right guard, center Niko Kourkoulis, left guard Joseph Kelso and left tackle Micah Norfles have a formidable challenge. Muir has 77 sacks as a team, led by Carlos Ramirez (21 sacks) and Kamar Watkins (19 sacks).
Turley does not wear his CIF rings from his days at Poly, but he might show them to his kids as a source of motivation going into the big game.
“I might bring them out for a practice, maybe on Thursday for our Thanksgiving breakfast,” Turley said. “I’ve been asked, ‘Why aren’t you wearing them?’ I go, ‘Because I haven’t won one at this school yet.’”
The Vikings hope to change that on Friday night.
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