Corona del Mar High football coach Dan O’Shea said his primary goal was playing clean coming into the regular-season finale on Friday against Huntington Beach.
The Sea Kings and junior quarterback Ethan Garbers were nearly pristine during a 41-point first half in what became a 41-7 triumph that helped CdM earn a share of the Sunset League title.
In its debut season in the Sunset League, CdM went 4-0-1 and split the crown with Los Alamitos, with which the Sea Kings tied 7-7 in a game shortened to less than one quarter by lightning on Oct. 12.
The first-place finish is CdM’s seventh in a row, the previous six came in the Pacific Coast League.
The Sea Kings, who are 8-1-1 overall and ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 poll, just may wind up with the top seed in the Division 4 playoffs, after No. 1 Camarillo fell to No. 4 Simi Valley Grace Brethren 42-21 on Friday. Playoff pairings and seeding will be announced Sunday.
The Sea Kings will enter the postseason on a nine-game unbeaten streak. The Oilers never threatened host CdM at Newport Harbor High.
CdM’s Talal Benahmed tipped a pass that teammate Chandler Fincher intercepted on the first play from scrimmage.
Five plays later, Garbers connected with Simon Hall for a 16-yard touchdown pass, and the rout was on.
Garbers, who has either passed or run for 42 of his team’s 43 offensive touchdowns this season, finished with 247 yards and five touchdowns passing. Garbers, who has 38 touchdown passes and just three interceptions this season, also produced a nimble 26-yard scoring scramble that upped the lead to 34-0 late in the first half.
“He is ridiculous,” O’Shea said of Garbers, who threw seven scoring passes last week against Newport Harbor and has twice delivered six touchdown tosses in a game this season. “I know there are some extremely talented quarterbacks in Orange County, but there is not another guy in high school football I’d take besides Ethan Garbers right now. He is playing exceptionally well.”
With Garbers completing his first 10 passes, 11 of his initial 12 and finishing 15 of 19 from the shotgun, the Sea Kings produced touchdowns on six of their seven first-half possessions.
Hall fielded scoring passes of 16 and 15 yards to start the onslaught that included receiving touchdowns of three, 77 and 12 yards, respectively, by Max Farzine, Bradley Schlom and Mark Redman.
CdM’s aerial barrage came without the help of prolific junior receiver John Humphreys, who sat out the game with a strained quadriceps muscle, O’Shea said.
“We just kept him out as a precaution,” O’Shea said of Humphreys, who enters the playoffs with 69 catches for 1,242 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018, all approaching school single-season records.
O’Shea also dispensed praise to his receivers, offensive line, defense, and backups.
“I couldn’t be more happy,” said O’Shea, whose team upped its league unbeaten streak to 35 games after going 30-0 in the Pacific Coast League from 2012-17. “We wanted to play clean, meaning we play extremely well on offense, and have our defense be the dominant defense we need going into the playoffs. And there’s nothing better than seeing our JVs come in in the second half and get after it.”
Fincher added a second interception and Jack Elliott also picked off a pass to help lead a commanding defensive performance by the winners.
CdM linebacker Ari Froehlich, end Tristen Troutman and the aforementioned Benahmed all accounted for sacks as the Oilers produced just 27 yards rushing and 37 passing before the starters retired for the final two quarters.
Senior middle linebacker John Gosney and end Anthony Antolin stood out defensively for the Oilers (6-4, 2-3 in league), who will hope to receive an at-large berth in the Division 6 playoffs. Huntington Beach finished fourth in the league.
Junior quarterback Brandon Cannella scored Huntington Beach’s lone touchdown with a 14-yard run with 2:06 left in the game to avert what would have been a second straight shutout.
O’Shea said he is hopeful about being the top seed in the playoffs.
“The No. 1 seed means a lot to us,” O’Shea said. “Our program is about chasing that ring down, and we look forward to seeing if we’re good enough to run through the CIF playoffs and get it.”
Corona del Mar 41, Huntington Beach 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntington Beach 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 7
Corona del Mar 14 – 27 – 0 – 0 — 41
CdM – Hall 16 pass from Garbers (Schroeder kick), 10:07.
CdM – Hall 15 pass from Garbers (Schroeder kick), 6:03.
CdM – Farzine 3 pass from Garbers (Schroeder kick), 9:00.
CdM – Schlom 77 pass from Garbers (kick failed), 6:19.
CdM – Garbers 26 run (Schroeder kick), 2:33.
CdM – Redman 12 pass from Garbers (Schroeder kick), 0:23.
HB – Cannella 14 run (Macy kick), 2:06.
HB – Hamil, 7-32.
CdM – Vicencio, 6-19.
HB – Cannella, 4-9-2, 56.
CdM – Garbers, 15-19-0, 247, 5 TDs.
HB – Bryant, 5-42.