Defense shines as CdM football tops Yorba Linda, advances to CIF title game
The Corona del Mar High football team had a score on a white board as it prepared for Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoff semifinal game against Yorba Linda.
The score was 51-20, the margin by which Yorba Linda eliminated the Sea Kings in a Division 3 semifinal last year.
“They kicked our tails last year,” CdM coach Kevin Hettig said. “It was all about last year’s game, our whole week. It helped us focus in this week so much. If we miss a fit in practice, go to last year’s clip where we missed in the game. It was a lot of that.”
Provided an opportunity at revenge, CdM took full advantage.
A stifling defense helped the Sea Kings earn a 28-14 win Friday night at Davidson Field, booking a trip to a CIF title game for the first time in four years.
No. 4-seeded Corona del Mar (8-5) will play on the road against No. 2 Whittier La Serna (10-3) for the Division 4 crown on Friday, Nov. 24.
La Serna, the Del Rio League champion, got past Culver City 52-31 in another semifinal game.
Senior quarterback Kaleb Annett threw three touchdown passes for CdM against Yorba Linda, one each to Wyatt Lucas, Russell Weir and Sebastien Boydell.
But it was the Sea Kings’ defense which ultimately kept them in the game, as they didn’t get on the scoreboard until late in the first half.
“The defense came up with some big stops, big turnovers,” Annett said. “We owe that one to them.”
Senior middle linebacker Christian Brooks had multiple tackles for no gain or a loss, and senior Cameron Benion added a quarterback sack. Those came before junior cornerback Brady Gadol iced the game in the final minute, intercepting a pass in the end zone.
CdM’s defense was able to limit an explosive Mustangs ground game led by Chase Jones, who finished with 16 carries for 55 yards.
“Our defense just played with tenacity all night,” Hettig said. “Brian Pearsall, our defensive coordinator, it was a perfect game plan … [Jones] pops on film. We knew we had to fit the run with him, and we did.”
With the score tied 7-7 at halftime, the Sea Kings took control in the third quarter against Yorba Linda (9-4).
A 14-yard touchdown pass from Annett to Weir gave CdM its first lead. On the ensuing Yorba Linda possession, the Mustangs decided to go for it on fourth-and-one at their own 30-yard line.
CdM’s defense forced a fumble on a run up the middle, and CdM cornerback Michael Lynch recovered. Two plays later, a scrambling Annett found Boydell to put the Sea Kings up two scores.
Lucas’ two-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, his second score of the night, boosted the CdM lead to 28-7.
“We were a little worried about their run in the beginning, but we played together, played our scheme,” Brooks said. “We just stopped the run and forced them to throw the ball. We just played perfect defense; we were ready for this game.”
Yorba Linda got a fourth-down touchdown pass from junior quarterback Holden Nagin to senior receiver Jake Winners midway through the fourth quarter, then recovered the ensuing onside kick. As the visitors drove for another score, though, the CdM defense stiffened.
CdM senior linebacker Colin Pene sacked Nagin after a fumbled snap, bringing up a fourth-and-two at the CdM six-yard line.
Nagin’s pass to Troy Roberts in the corner of the end zone was incomplete, and CdM took over on downs.
Yorba Linda suffered the loss of big-play receiver Dylan Gardner to a knee injury midway through the first quarter, after a screen pass was blown up by Lynch.
“Just too much missing things,” said Nagin, the junior quarterback, adding that his squad also lost tight end Trevor Webb to injury during the game. “We worked hard as a team and did everything we could, we just got unlucky. But [CdM] played really good. They definitely practiced good, because they played great.”
Now the Sea Kings are headed back to the championship game in Hettig’s first year as head coach.
CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs
Corona del Mar 28, Yorba Linda 14
Yorba Linda 7 - 0 - 0 - 7 — 14
Corona del Mar 0 - 7 - 14 - 7 — 28
YL — Escovar 42 pass from Nagin (Staveley kick), 2:33.
CdM — Lucas 26 pass from Annett (Pene kick), 1:26.
CdM — Weir 14 pass from Annett (Pene kick), 9:08.
CdM — Boydell 30 pass from Annett (Pene kick), 7:09.
CdM — Lucas 2 run (Pene kick), 10:49.
YL — Winners 11 pass from Nagin (Staveley kick), 8:08.
YL — Jones, 16-55.
CdM — Sanders, 8-56.
YL — Nagin, 21-33-1, 253, 2 TDs.
CdM — Annett, 17-30-2, 212, 3 TDs.
YL — Winners, 8-85, 1 TD; Roberts, 6-79.
CdM — Weir, 6-94, 1 TD.
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