Marina High football coach Jeff Turley did not think that he could ask anything more from his players going into Saturday night’s CIF State Southern California Regional Division 4-A Bowl Game.
A mere eight days earlier, Marina had beaten Pasadena Muir in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 championship game for the program’s first CIF title.
All he could say was that whether his team won or lost, it would be playing in its last home game of the season.
“What are you going to tell them,” Turley said. “They’ve accomplished something that no other Marina team has accomplished.”
Turley added that his team had set the bar for the program going forward, but finally, another team was able to match and surpass Marina’s team of destiny.
Jackson Stratton threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns to lead visiting La Jolla to a 27-14 win over Marina at Westminster High.
La Jolla (10-4), the CIF San Diego Section Division III champion, will travel to face Escalon (13-1) in the Division 4-A state championship game next week. Escalon beat Chico Pleasant Valley 41-17 in the Northern California Regional Bowl Game.
Diego Solis made nine catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns. He had an 11-yard scoring grab that gave La Jolla its first lead of 21-14 with 8:08 to go in the third quarter.
La Jolla drove down to the one-yard line when Marina middle linebacker Nathan O’Rourke made a touchdown-saving tackle of running back Max Smith near the right pylon.
Undeterred, La Jolla went for it on a fourth-down play and scored for the second time in the game. Solis broke an option route to the inside, and Stratton connected with his receiver, who had split out to the left. The result was a 27-13 lead for La Jolla with 7:32 remaining.
“We’re an aggressive team,” Stratton said. “We won a playoff game on the last play of the game, and we went for two to win. We’ve been aggressive all year, and we just kept doing our game plan. It worked out.”
The La Jolla defense, led by junior outside linebacker Dirk Germon (three sacks), shut down the Marina offense in the second half. Marina had one first down after halftime, a 25-yard pass from Gavin Del Toro to Caleb Dochnahl in the third quarter.
Marina (12-3) went for it on a fourth-and-four play at the La Jolla 42 on the same possession, but Smith tackled Pharoah Rush short of the line to gain.
“It’s a dream come true,” Germon said. “To think that so many people doubted us. People were saying that we were going to go 2-8, and to win the last seven games in a row, make it all the way here and win to go to state, it’s a dream. It’s amazing.”
Del Toro scored on a two-yard quarterback keeper, polishing off a 13-play, 90-yard opening drive for Marina that spanned over half of the first quarter. It marked the fourth consecutive playoff game in which Del Toro scored a rushing touchdown.
La Jolla drew even when it opted to go for a fourth-and-two play from the Marina 44. Stratton found Solis on a short slant route. He broke an arm tackle and ran free to the end zone.
Brantt Riederich capped another long drive by Marina to answer the first La Jolla score, finding room off right tackle for a three-yard touchdown.
Smith had a 35-yard rushing touchdown for La Jolla with 1:21 to go in the second quarter, and the teams went into halftime tied at 14-14.
Marina went 7-2 at home this season, which included clinching at least a share of the Big 4 League championship against Segerstrom in addition to three victories during the Division 11 playoffs.
“It was nice,” O’Rourke said. “This was my last ride out here. I felt like we really made history this year. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to plan to go out like this, but we did a lot of great things on this field, so I’m grateful for that.”
Marina played 15 games this season, stretching the season into December.
“We played an extra half a season,” Eric Church said. “It’s kind of not what you’re expecting when you say, ‘I’m going to go to Marina.’ We made it happen, and it was a great experience.”
CIF State Southern California Regional Division 4-A Bowl Game
La Jolla 27, Marina 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
La Jolla 0 – 14 – 7 – 6 — 27
Marina 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 — 14
M – Del Toro 2 run (Church kick), 5:28.
LJ – Solis 44 pass from Stratton (Bale kick), 11:46.
M – Riederich 3 run (Church kick), 6:01.
LJ – Smith 35 run (Bale kick), 1:21.
LJ – Solis 11 pass from Stratton (Bale kick), 8:08.
LJ – Solis 1 pass from Stratton (Bale kick failed), 7:32.
LJ – Max Smith, 17-81, 1 TD.
M – Rush, 10-61.
LJ – Stratton, 22-30-1, 252, 3 TDs.
M – Del Toro, 17-25-0, 149.
LJ – Solis, 9-125, 3 TDs.
M – Dochnahl, 4-44.
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