The Corona del Mar High football team wasn’t supposed to need not one, but two late goal-line stands to secure Saturday night’s CIF State Southern California Regional Division 1-A Bowl Game against visiting Oceanside.
The Pirates literally got nearly right to the goal line on the last play of the game, but they couldn’t get further as two players wearing jersey No. 7 met in space.
CdM senior captain and outside linebacker Mason Gecowets tackled Oceanside’s Kavika Tua just short, and the Sea Kings earned a 14-7 victory at Newport Harbor High.
CdM (15-0) will play Northern California champion San Mateo Serra (13-1) for the Division 1-A state title on Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. at Cerritos College.
CIF Southern Section Division 3 champion CdM won the game against Oceanside (11-4), the CIF San Diego Section Division I champion, despite an untypically sluggish offensive performance. The Sea Kings, who came in averaging 48 points per game, did not score in the first half and lost five fumbles, three by University of Washington-bound senior quarterback Ethan Garbers.
CdM coach Dan O’Shea said it was a bit of a hangover game for the Sea Kings after winning the program’s sixth CIF championship last week.
“As much time, energy and passion went into last week, it’s hard to bounce back,” O’Shea said. “We just were not on point mentally and focused. They’re young kids, and we felt it all week.”
Stanford-bound star senior receiver John Humphreys did not play in the second half due to left hamstring tightness, CdM offensive coordinator Kevin Hettig said. Hettig called Humphreys “a coin flip” to play in the state championship game. After making four catches for 68 yards in the first half, he watched the second half of Saturday’s game in street clothes.
“We weren’t going to push it,” Hettig said. “We’re hoping he’s good. You know, we obviously didn’t play very well on the offensive side of the ball. Just uncharacteristic turnovers, five fumbles lost. We hadn’t lost a fumble since [a 20-10 nonleague win at Palos Verdes in Week Two]. Oceanside played their tails off. They had a good plan against us and did a really good job. They’re tough kids.”
Oceanside took a 7-0 lead late in the third quarter on a five-yard touchdown run by Tua, who finished with 27 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown. That seemed to awaken the Sea Kings, who scored touchdowns on their next two drives. First Garbers hit Simon Hall on a 40-yard touchdown pass, then he scored on a one-yard keeper with 8:03 left in the fourth quarter.
The game seemed to be all but over when CdM senior cornerback Chandler Fincher made an interception at the Sea Kings’ one-yard-line with 1:35 to go. But Oceanside’s Cannon Belew recovered a fumble on the next play.
On fourth-and-goal at the CdM eight-yard line, an Oceanside pass was incomplete but pass interference was called, moving the ball to the four. This set up the Pirates’ final play on offense and Gecowets’ game-saving tackle, which gave the ball back to the Sea Kings with 27 seconds left.
“We just had to do our job,” Gecowets said. “One of my teammates, Ryder Haupt, stumbled him up, and I just came in and finished it. I knew he was not getting in the end zone. I was going to give it everything in my power to just stop him right there.”
Garbers’ one touchdown pass gave him 67 for the year, tying him with Mater Dei’s JT Daniels in 2016 and Western’s Anthony Muñoz in 2018 for the CIF Southern Section and Orange County record.
Sophomore linebacker Charlie Mannon had two sacks for CdM.
CIF State Southern California Regional Division 1-A Bowl Game
Corona del Mar 14, Oceanside 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Oceanside 0 – 0 –7 – 0 — 7
Corona del Mar 0 – 0 – 7 – 7 — 14
O – Tua 5 run (Marton kick), 2:41.
CdM – Hall 40 pass from Garbers (Voorhees kick), 0:46.
CdM – Garbers 1 run (Voorhees kick), 8:03.
O – Tua, 28-141, 1 TD.
CdM – Binnquist, 11-41.
O – Harris, 16-23-1, 91.
CdM – Garbers, 10-20-0, 150, 1 TD.
O – Beachem, 7-50.
CdM – Humphreys, 4-68.
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