After the CIF Southern Section held its 44th annual football luncheon on Monday at the Grand Long Beach Events Center, Marina High coach Jeff Turley contemplated how he might motivate his team ahead of the program’s first section championship game.
He entertained the notion that he might bring out his five prior CIF championship rings, all of which he won at his previous stop as defensive coordinator of Long Beach Poly.
The rings came out on Thanksgiving Day, following a team breakfast in the school gymnasium and a walkthrough. Turley pulled them out from various jacket pockets, one at a time, and some of his players looked in awe at the amount.
More than anything, Turley wanted this opportunity for his players. The biggest game in program history would be played at home.
The fans arrived early at Boswell Field on the campus of Westminster High, expressing their excitement for the unprecedented Marina playoff run.
“We’ve done pretty well on the tosses,” Turley said of the Vikings receiving three home games in the postseason.
He had one more ace up his sleeve, which he unveiled with 30 minutes to go before kickoff. Marina alumnus Tony Parrish, an All-Pro safety with the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, addressed the team in the north end zone at the conclusion of warmups.
“He gave us a good speech that made us all hyped up, and I feel like it gave us another extra push to get the ring,” two-way starter Dane Brenton said of Parrish’s pep talk. “He talked a lot about the team. We’re all brothers, and we’ve got each other’s backs.”
The defensive-minded Turley saw his defense deliver the first championship in program history, as No. 2-seeded Marina defeated No. 4 Pasadena Muir 18-9 in the title game on Friday night.
Marina (12-2) had four interceptions on defense, including two in the fourth quarter as the Vikings put the finishing touches on a masterful performance.
Brenton had two takeaways, including a 62-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. It set up a 30-yard field goal by Eric Church, which gave Marina a two-possession lead at 18-7 with 4:48 to go.
Ronny Slavens and Church each had one interception for the Vikings.
“I think a lot of people underestimated how fast our guys really are,” Turley said. “We have deceiving speed, and a lot of people felt that we weren’t going to be fast enough.
“Tony said, ‘Those guys have range. Those guys can fly. Your two safeties can move all over the place.’ I go, ‘Yeah, I’ve known it all year.’ Hopefully now, some colleges notice it, too.”
Marina could still have more football to play. The brackets for the CIF State Southern California Regional Bowl Games will be released on Sunday afternoon.
Vikings fans throughout a full grandstand hoisted their hands into the air as Slavens brought in the fourth interception of the night with 1:35 to go.
The Marina football program will now add a revered shield up on the school mural, a lasting symbol of a historic season. The Vikings won the Big 4 League for their first league title since 1986, and the season culminated in the program’s first CIF title.
“It means everything because 20 years from now, or whenever I have kids, I can come back and say that was my class that did it,” Slavens said. “It means a lot.”
Brenton, who was held out of the second half of Marina’s 27-7 win over Hemet in the semifinals after a helmet-to-helmet collision, starred for the Vikings. He had an interception on a deep pass to Calen Bullock in the first quarter, and he broke up another deep pass in the second quarter.
The Vikings struck first on a nine-play, 74-yard drive. Marina kept the ball on the ground on seven of those plays, but also picked up first downs on a defense pass interference call and a successful hard count by Gavin Del Toro. Brenton beat man coverage for a 25-yard touchdown from Del Toro to cap the drive.
“I was happy,” Brenton said of receiving clearance to play on Monday. “I could not miss a championship game. I knew I had to put it all out there for the last game, and I gave everything that I could.”
Two early interceptions by the Vikings defense did not deter Muir (11-3) from taking shots downfield. On a second-and-14 play, Bullock streaked down the left sideline and did not break stride in bringing in a 57-yard touchdown from Amaris Harrison.
Marina received the ball at the Muir one-yard line when Mustangs punter Jesus Soto could not secure the snap cleanly in the end zone. Del Toro promptly punched the ball in on a quarterback sneak on the next play, giving the Vikings a 15-7 lead with 7:15 remaining.
“Sneaking it in, seeing my guys go crazy, seeing the stands [rise] up, it was an awesome feeling,” Del Toro said.
For a great deal of the game, the Vikings played keep away. Pharoah Rush (74 rushing yards) and Brantt Riederich (58 rushing yards) combined for 37 carries, while the Vikings put the ball in the air a total of 13 times.
In summer camp, the Vikings ended practices with a series of grueling workout stations that Turley called, “The Fourth Quarter.” It included sledgehammers, tire tosses, tire carries, agility drills and sled pushes.
“All those fourth-quarter workouts, this was it,” Turley said. “The fourth-quarter workout, you just saw it. That’s what it takes to win a championship.
“They bucked up to it, man. They were ready to go.”
CIF Southern Section Division 11 playoffs
Marina 18, Muir 9
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Muir 0 – 7 – 0 – 2 — 9
Marina 0 – 8 – 0 – 10 — 18
MA – Brenton 25 pass from Del Toro (Brenton pass from Del Toro), 9:34.
MU – Bullock 57 pass from Harrison (Valdez kick), 7:38.
MA – Del Toro 1 run (Church kick), 7:15.
MA – Church 30 FG, 4:48.
MU – Safety (Team), 1:05.
MU – Lawson, 3-15.
MA – Rush, 19-74
MU – Harrison, 11-23-4, 212, 1 TD.
MA – Del Toro, 7-12-0, 56, 1 TD.
MU – Bullock, 3-94, 1 TD.
MA – Brenton, 3-50, 1 TD.
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