The Battle of the Bay boys’ soccer match gets physical.
First-year Corona del Mar High coach Damien O’Brien, who’s from Dublin, Ireland, found out how intense it gets.
Behind goals by Jett Bonner and Niko Urban, and five saves by goalkeeper Wally Korbler, the Sea Kings elbowed past rival Newport Harbor for a 2-1 road victory Friday.
The Sea Kings improved to 2-1 in the Surf League, staying a match behind first-place Edison.
Despite falling to 0-3 in league play, the Sailors brought the physicality to the Sea Kings from the start.
“I was expecting a physical game, [but] I wasn’t expecting it to be that physical,” O’Brien said. “The kids were all telling me beforehand about, ‘The Battle of the Bay! The Battle of the Bay! The Battle of the Bay!’ I was like, ‘It couldn’t be much different.’ Oh, my God, it was totally different from any other game we’ve played this year, so far.”
In the first five minutes, Urban, a senior forward, collided with Newport Harbor sophomore midfielder Nicolas Del Villar. Both looked shaken but pressed on, setting the tone for the night.
Urban responded in the 11th minute, ripping a shot right into senior goalkeeper Emilio Carbajal’s arms. Carbajal and defender Giovanni Guzman walled up to block a Matt Katz corner kick a few minutes later.
“The guys put up a very good fight,” Newport Harbor assistant coach Miguel Mendoza said. “The guys gave everything they had.”
The best chance for the hosts in the first half came just before additional time. Junior forward Jack Starnes smacked a shot off the left post after beating Korbler.
The Sea Kings countered quickly, eventually setting up senior midfielder Grant Glessing for a long throw-in. He launched the ball right into Jett Bonner’s foot, who deflected it past Carbajal to break the scoreless tie.
The throw traveled more than 30 yards, leading O’Brien to compare Glessing’s arms to a catapult.
“It’s a great weapon for us,” O’Brien said. “He can really launch it in there. It’s not like a looping throw. He can rifle it.”
Newport Harbor surged out of the break, determined to even the score. First, Villar got behind the defense, only to dribble the ball into Korbler in the 42nd minute.
Minutes later, a trip set up Starnes for a 20-yard kick. The junior curled the free kick past Korbler to knot the score at 1-1.
Newport Harbor pushed for the lead, but Korbler dove for two saves to stunt the momentum.
At the 50-minute mark, Urban broke free from the defense, stiff-arming a defender up the field. He finished by sliding the ball under Carbajal’s outstretched hand for the 2-1 advantage.
The teams traded shots as both Korbler and Carbajal recorded saves to keep it close. In stoppage time, Korbler swiped away a final desperation shot by sophomore Kevin Soltero to secure the win.
O’Brien, who took over for George Larsen, has led CdM to a 12-3 overall record. His winning formula is simplicity.
“We came in and decided we weren’t going to complicate things,” he said. “We’ve been trying to keep it so simple, even when we change a formation, it’s just one little change.”
SAM DODGE is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @samgododge