The Marina High football team completed the Big Three portion of its nonleague schedule in Friday’s 24-13 loss to El Modena at Westminster High.
Soon it will be on to the Big 4.
The Vikings (2-4), who held their own after falling behind 17-0 to the Vanguards (4-1), ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 poll, host Laguna Beach (4-1) in their final nonleague contest at Westminster High on Sept. 28.
Coach Jeff Turley’s squad, which has lost three straight, all to opponents ranked in their respective division, then faces Big 4 League foes Segerstrom (Oct. 12), Garden Grove (Oct. 18) and Westminster (Oct. 26) in its inaugural run through the newly created league.
“Now, we get to play teams in our own division ,” Turley said. “I wanted our guys to be challenged in the preseason. Hopefully it pays off and we’re able to face that adversity that happens in league and deal with it a lot better because of what we’ve done in the preseason.”
Marina battled Katella, ranked No. 1 in Division 8, before falling 33-28 two weeks ago. The Vikings then succumbed 32-7 to Huntington Beach, ranked No. 9 in Division 6.
The Vikings were within striking distance against the Vanguards after junior running back Pharoah Rush bounced 22 yards off the left side for a touchdown with 3:59 left in the third quarter. Rush, who amassed 92 of his 133 ground yards after halftime, finished with two touchdowns on 24 carries.
Marina then attempted a pooch onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and appeared to have the ball surrounded with a handful of yellow jerseys. But somehow, El Modena’s Luke Reissmueller came up with the ball to avert an extreme momentum shift.
“I thought our guy had the ball and was laying right on it,” Turley said of the onside kickoff. “But it’s a big pile.”
El Modena, which scored on three of its first four first-half possessions and drove 67 yards on six plays for a touchdown on its initial second-half possession, was turned away by a Marina goal-line stand after the onside-kick recovery.
With first-and-goal at the Marina six, the Vanguards gained just two yards on three running plays, before Marina linebacker Brantt Riederich was unblocked off the edge to produce a 10-yard sack on fourth down to keep the hosts in it.
But Marina, which produced just two passing yards and one completion on seven attempts after intermission, failed to mount anything substantial against a solid El Modena defense.
Marina sophomore quarterback Jack Miller connected on 10 of 16 first-half passes for 106 yards.
Marina benefited from the game’s only turnover when junior safety Eric Church returned a ricochet interception 20 yards to set up Rush’s final touchdown.
The Vikings drove 85 yards on nine plays late in the first half, with Rush scoring from the one-yard line to pull the hosts within 17-7 with 1:36 left before halftime.
Senior Richard Rojes had receptions of 19, seven and 13 yards to key the first Marina scoring drive. He finished with a team-best 48 receiving yards on four catches.
Linebackers Conner Long and Nathan O’Rourke were standouts on defense for Marina, which surrendered 17 points in a span of less than five minutes in the second quarter.
“It seems like it takes our boys a little bit of time to get to game speed, because we just can’t duplicate it in practice,” Turley said. “Once they do, they start flying around and we do all right.”
Marcus Manion, who squirted through the line for a 47-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter, combined with tailback Romeo Jones and quarterback Nathan Lomeli to produce 172 rushing yards for the Vanguards.
Lomeli threw for 169 yards, completing 13 of 21 pass attempts.
El Modena 24, Marina 13
SCORE BY QUARTERS
El Modena 17 – 0 – 7 – 0 — 24
Marina 0 – 7 – 6 – 0 — 13
EM – Smith 38 pass from Lomeli (Barajas kick), 5:37.
EM – Jones 2 run (Barajas kick), 2:56.
EM – Barajas 31 FG, :17.
M – Rush 1 run (Church kick), 1:36.
EM – Manion 47 run (Barajas kick), 7:13.
M – Rush 22 run (kick failed), 3:59.
EM – Manion, 7-63, 1 TD.
M – Rush, 24-133, 2 TDs.
EM – Lomeli, 13-21-1, 169, 1 TD.
M – Miller, 11-23-0, 108.
EM – Smith, 3-72, 1 TD.