The only thing that could stop the prolific offense of the Corona del Mar High football team was the end of the game.
The Sea Kings produced a near-perfect performance when they needed it the most. The result was a CIF Southern Section championship and an opportunity for atonement.
Top-seeded CdM scored touchdowns on each of its first eight possessions and beat No. 2 Simi Valley Grace Brethren 56-28 in the Division 3 championship game on Friday night at Newport Harbor High.
“We thought we get eight possessions, and we had to score on six of them,” CdM offensive coordinator Kevin Hettig said. “We thought we could get to 42 [points] and we win the game, and our kids did better than that. We executed on fourth down, and [senior quarterback] Ethan [Garbers] played out of his mind and was physical.”
The Sea Kings had lost to the Lancers 26-14 in last year’s Division 4 title game, and were held scoreless in the second half. This time they dominated after the intermission, scoring 35 points and denying Grace Brethren’s attempt for a third straight CIF title. Grace Brethren also won Division 8 in 2017.
Garbers completed 23 of 30 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns for the Sea Kings. Three of the touchdown passes went to senior receiver John Humphreys, who had 11 catches for 144 yards.
CdM (14-0), which will play in a CIF State Southern California Regional Bowl Game on Dec. 6 or 7, also had three rushing touchdowns. Garbers had three of them for the third straight game.
“We were perfect tonight,” Garbers said. “That was amazing. Credit to the [offensive line of left tackle Thomas Bouda, left guard Max Farzine, center Tanner Tomlinson, right guard Hunter Schimmelpfennig and right tackle Vinny Provenza], all of the receivers and everybody. The defense played lights out, [allowing] 28 points against a great Grace Brethren offense. Fantastic. We love it.”
The Sea Kings, appearing in their eighth championship game in program history, won their sixth CIF title.
Julien Stokes had three touchdowns for the Lancers (12-2), two rushing and one on a reception.
CdM actually outgained the physical Lancers on the ground, rushing for 240 yards compared to 215 for Grace Brethren. Riley Binnquist had 14 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown for the Sea Kings.
Hettig said the growth of the offensive line has been the biggest change from last year to this year.
“We just put in a lot of work, grinded together and trusted each other,” said Bouda, a two-way lineman. “That was the key.”
Stokes’ second rushing touchdown of the game, from 38 yards out, tied the score 28-28 with 8:37 left in the third quarter. But the Lancers would not score again.
“I tell you what, Ethan and the rest of this senior class literally carried this program on their back the entire year,” CdM coach Dan O’Shea said. “Ethan Garbers, these guys from Newport Beach, they are as fierce assassins as you will see in the game in the football. Do not challenge these guys’ abilities to compete. They wanted this.”
Garbers had a one-yard touchdown run and then threw a 44-yard bomb to Humphreys, giving the Sea Kings a 42-28 lead late in the third quarter. Meanwhile, three of Grace Brethren’s last four possessions ended with a turnover on downs.
CdM went 67 yards on 11 plays on its opening drive for a touchdown. Garbers, who was six-for-six passing on the drive, ran it in on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line.
Grace Brethren answered with its own methodical drive. On the second play of the second quarter, Josh Henderson powered it in on a one-yard touchdown run.
The Sea Kings added two more rushing touchdowns, a 52-yard burst by Binnquist and another two-yard scamper by Garbers, to take a 21-7 lead. But the Lancers responded late in the first half as junior quarterback Mikey Zele, rolling right, was able to find Stokes in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left.
Grace Brethren’s Dillon Walia recovered a pooch kick, but CdM took a 21-14 halftime lead as the Lancers were unable to score again.
CdM earned its first CIF title since 2013, which ended with a perfect 16-0 season and a state championship. This year’s Sea Kings are two wins away from doing the same thing.
“We were worried we were going to be the Buffalo Bills here,” Hettig said of the NFL team that lost four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s. “This would have been our third [CIF title game] loss in four years if we didn’t get it. The monkey feels like it’s off the back a little bit.”
CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs
Corona del Mar 56, Grace Brethren 28
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Grace Brethren 0 – 14 –14 – 0 — 28
Corona del Mar 7 – 14 – 21 – 14 — 56
CdM – Garbers 2 run (Voorhees kick), 5:59.
GB – Henderson 1 run (Hillner kick), 11:25.
CdM – Binnquist 52 run (Voorhees kick), 10:17.
CdM – Garbers 2 run (Voorhees kick), 4:41.
GB – Stokes 8 pass from Zele (Hillner kick), 0:24.
GB – Stokes 80 run (Hillner kick), 11:48.
CdM – Redman 46 pass from Garbers (Voorhees kick), 10:16.
GB – Stokes 38 run (Hillner kick), 8:51.
CdM – Garbers 1 run (Voorhees kick), 3:31.
CdM – Humphreys 44 pass from Garbers (Voorhees kick), 0:21.
CdM – Humphreys 2 pass from Garbers (Voorhees kick), 8:07.
CdM – Humphreys 7 pass from Garbers (Voorhees kick), 3:54.
GB – Henderson, 17-65.
CdM – Binnquist, 14-145, 1 TD.
GB – Zele, 8-17-0, 104, 1 TD.
CdM – Garbers, 23-30-0, 294, 4 TDs.
GB – Bennett, 2-60.
CdM – Humphreys, 11-144, 3 TDs.
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