The world of sports is as susceptible to the use of clichés as any other walk of life.
In the Corona del Mar High football program, the dominant phrase had become “chasing the ring.”
Those three words, at one time or another, have been uttered by coaches and players alike. More than words or a philosophy, the pursuit of perfection became a lifestyle.
Two weeks ago, the Sea Kings defeated Simi Valley Grace Brethren 56-28 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship game. It avenged a loss to the Lancers in the Division 4 final the year prior.
CdM won its sixth CIF title overall and fourth of the decade.
The Sea Kings won three consecutive Southern Division championships from 2011 to 2013. That streak was capped by a CIF State Division III title, which CdM won 27-15 against Atherton Sacred Heart Prep.
A state championship is within reach once again, as CdM (15-0) will square off with San Mateo Serra (13-1) in the Division 1-A title game on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Cerritos College.
“If you’re a CdM football player, every day you wake up in your life, when that alarm goes off, the only thing you think about is 16-0,” Sea Kings coach Dan O’Shea said. “We do 16 pushups, 16 situps. Everything revolves around it. When you wake up and think about football, the only thing you think about is trying to chase perfection. We call it chasing the ring, and we’re trying to chase a 16-0 ring, just like the 2013 team did.
“If you play in this program, there is no other expectation but to never lose a football game for the four years that you are here.”
Washington-bound quarterback Ethan Garbers is expected to have his top target in Stanford commit John Humphreys back in uniform for the state championship game.
Humphreys missed the second half of CdM’s 14-7 win in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division 1-A final against Oceanside after tweaking his hamstring. O’Shea said that Humphreys could have returned, but the team opted not to run the risk of further aggravating the injury.
The Sea Kings have been held to less than 42 points just twice this season. During the regular season, CdM beat Palos Verdes 20-10 on the road.
In both instances, Humphreys made an early exit due to injury.
For the season, the CdM offense is averaging 44.2 points per game. It was the defense of the Sea Kings that prevailed in the regional final, making two late goal-line stands in a game in which CdM committed five turnovers.
“I must admit, we take pride in being a ‘no-name defense,’ but [defensive coordinator] Brian Pearsall and the defensive coaching staff should get so much credit for not even blinking,” O’Shea said. “Not only last week, but the entire year. This may be … potentially the best defense that we’ve had here. We’ve had three years that are just special — 2013, 2016 and 2019.”
CdM has held opponents to 12.9 points per contest.
The final test for the Sea Kings this season will likely be another team hoping to keep the ball away from their prolific offense. Serra ran more than seven minutes off the clock on a touchdown-scoring drive that helped the Padres put away Fresno San Joaquin Memorial 28-18 in the Northern California Regional final.
Sophomore Dominique Lampkin, a read-option quarterback, has started the last six games for Serra. The Padres have gone 5-1 since losing senior quarterback Daylin McLemore to a broken collarbone.
O’Shea said the biggest difference-maker in his team’s growth this season has been along the offensive line, which is composed of left tackle Thomas Bouda, left guard Max Farzine, center Tanner Tomlinson, right guard Hunter Schimmelpfennig and right tackle Vincent Provenza.
“A year ago, we didn’t look like a Division 2 or a Division 3 type of team, and now this year, our offensive line looks like a real team that should be playing at this level,” O’Shea said. “That’s a testament to the work ethic in the weight room and just naturally growing in size.”
Farzine has filled a multitude of roles for the Sea Kings in his time with the program, including time as a fullback and a tight end.
“We had him as our starting nose guard,” O’Shea said. “It eventually got to the point where we have 10 [players] returning on offense, and the one that we were missing was on the offensive line.
“We were like, ‘Max, I think you’re one of our top five blockers in the program, regardless of position. We need you on the offensive line.’ He goes, ‘Yes, sir. I can’t wait to do it,’ and he has done a great job for us at left guard.”
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