The Simi Valley Grace Brethren High football team blanketed Corona del Mar junior receiver John Humphreys all night on Saturday in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship game.
At a crucial moment at the end of the game at Royal High, the record-setting receiver also didn’t have his record-setting quarterback.
Grace Brethren sophomore defensive tackle Jay Toia, a USC commit, sacked CdM junior Ethan Garbers on back-to-back plays with the Sea Kings in a first-and-goal situation. The second one knocked the wind out of him, CdM coach Dan O’Shea said after the game. CdM inserted junior receiver Simon Hall, who played quarterback as a freshman, for the next play.
Hall wears jersey No. 12, and his throw into the end zone was intercepted by a Grace Brethren player wearing the same number. Senior cornerback Troy Hothan made the play with just more than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the No. 3-seeded Lancers were on their way to upsetting the top-seeded Sea Kings 26-14.
“I think Grace Brethren is a worthy champion,” O’Shea said. “That is a really good football team … The second half just seemed to disappear on us.”
CdM (11-2-1) lost for the first time since a Week Zero setback at JSerra, and this one will end the Sea Kings’ season. They were denied their first section crown since 2013, and instead lost in the Division 4 title game for the second time in three years.
Junior safety Nate Bennett also had an interception for Grace Brethren (12-2), which will play in a CIF State Southern California Regional title game next week and earned its second straight section title after winning in Division 8 last year.
Humphreys, often facing double coverage, finished with five catches for 65 yards. More than half of that came on a 35-yard completion from Garbers, who reentered for the final series, on the last play of the game. Garbers completed 24 of 39 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown, and threw two interceptions.
“Against Humphreys today, we knew that he is such a good player,” Bennett said. “No matter where he was on the field, we had automatic press on him, and we had me over the top to try to match him with my height [of 6-foot-3] … We took away the underneath, and we took away over the top with me, and we were able to shut him down.”
The Lancers’ physical game caused problems for the Sea Kings, who did not score after taking a 14-10 lead midway through the second quarter on Garbers’ 20-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Mark Redman.
The Sea Kings limited Grace Brethren standout senior running back Lontrelle Diggs to 19 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown. But Lancers junior Josh Henderson added 19 carries for 103 yards, while sophomore quarterback Mikey Zele had 12 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Grace Brethren went on a 17-play third-quarter drive that lasted more than eight minutes, capped by Diggs’ one-yard leap over the top that gave the hosts a 19-14 lead. The Lancers added a 20-yard touchdown run by Zele — who only attempted nine passes in the game — in the fourth quarter.
Both teams drove down the field and scored on their opening drives. Grace Brethren senior Stanley Taufoou, another USC commit, had a four-yard touchdown run.
CdM responded with its passing attack. Garbers completed all six of his passes on the Sea Kings’ opening drive, for 72 yards. Then he used his feet, scrambling in from a yard out.
After Lancers senior kicker Kevin Aranda nailed a 39-yard field goal, CdM took its first lead midway through the second quarter, on Garbers’ strike to Redman. Sophomore running back Jason Vicencio keyed the drive for the Sea Kings, recording his first three carries of the game, including one that went for 20 yards.
Even when Aranda made a 38-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the half, the Sea Kings had a 14-13 halftime lead despite a quiet first half from Humphreys. Trenton Gill intercepted a deflected pass intended for Humphreys.
“They did some good things on defense,” Humphreys said of the Lancers, who held the 6-5 standout 79 receiving yards below his per-game average. “They put three guys to my side, and the other guys [Redman, Hall and Bradley Schlom] balled out … Things just didn’t go our way in the second half. We just couldn’t get going.”
CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs
Grace Brethren 26, Corona del Mar 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Corona del Mar 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 — 14
Grace Brethren 7 – 6 – 6 – 7— 26
GB – Taufoou 4 run (Aranda kick), 7:52.
CdM – Garbers 1 run (Schroeder kick), 3:32.
GB – Aranda 39 FG, 8:50.
CdM – Redman 20 pass from Garbers (Schroeder kick), 6:26.
GB – Aranda 38 FG, :02.
GB – Diggs 1 run (run failed), :48.
GB – Zele 20 run (Aranda kick), 5:51.
CdM – Vicencio, 8-43.
GB – Henderson, 19-103.
CdM – Garbers, 24-39-2, 295, 1 TD.
GB – Zele, 4-9-0, 58.
CdM – Schlom, 7-77.
GB – Gourley, 1-19.