NEWPORT BEACH — It was a bend-but-don't-break defense that Corona del Mar High football coach Jason Hitchens was after. But in the end, he was happy to settle for snap but snap back.
The Sea Kings' defense, which allowed big plays in the second and third quarters, reasserted itself in the final period to help the hosts post a 35-24 Pacific Coast League victory Friday at Newport Harbor High.
CdM (6-1-1, 2-0-1 in league), ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division, moved past the No. 3-ranked Warriors (5-3, 2-1) in the league standings with two regular-season games left.
The Sea Kings surrendered 447 yards of offense to the Warriors, 311 of which came from speedy senior tailback Jalen Craver, who gashed the CdM defense for touchdown sprints of 86 and 83 yards and finished with 239 yards on 24 rushing attempts.
But after Austin Koenemann kicked a 22-yard field goal to pull the visitors within 28-24 with 2:20 left in the third quarter, the Sea Kings produced four consecutive defensive stops, including a crucial fumble forced by Cole Cottrell and recovered by Aaron Vasquez, to pull away
The CdM defense, in fact, began and ended in fine fashion. The Sea Kings denied Woodbridge points on the Warriors' first four possessions, including an interception by senior linebacker David Detrick that set up the game's first score.
After Detrick stepped in front of a pass at the Warriors' 27-yard line, CdM senior receiver Brent Gray took a screen pass from senior quarterback Mitch Gardner and swerved his way into the end zone.
CdM went 85 yards on five plays on its next possession, with junior tailback Erik Fisher bolting 33 yards for the touchdown that put his team up, 14-0, with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.
Woodbridge forged a halftime deadlock with two second-quarter scores, then answered CdM's second-half-opening 80-yard touchdown march with a one-play equalizer from Craver after the ensuing kickoff.
But CdM, for which Fisher amassed 210 rushing yards on 20 attempts, answered immediately with a seven-play, 65-yard procession capped by Fisher's nine-yard scoring run.
Both CdM scoring drives in the third quarter were keyed by third-down-conversion passes from Gardner to his cousin, junior Josh Giger.
Hitchens called the third-down passes crucial, while also dispensing praise to Gardner, senior receiver-tailback Clay Reinhardt, and, finally, his defense.
"Two big plays got them two quick scores; for the for the most part, I thought the defense played real well," Hitchens said.
Senior end Alex Herrera, senior corner Austin Jones, senior tackle Jon Metcalfe, senior linebacker Preston Risser, Detrick, Cottrell, a senior corner, senior tackle Stephen Ascher and senior Aaron White were among those who sparkled defensively for CdM.
Gardner completed 13 of 22 passes for 160 yards and rushed for 24 more.
Reinhardt carried five times for 60 yards and had four receptions for 52 yards.
CdM's first defensive stop after halftime came after Woodbridge intercepted on the first play from scrimmage that followed its field goal.
A personal-foul penalty on a block after the whistle helped stall the drive, forcing one of Woodbridge's five punts.
Corona del Mar 35, Woodbridge 24
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Woodbridge 0 – 14 – 10 – 0 — 24
CdM 14 – 0 – 14 – 7 — 35
CdM – Gray 27 pass from Gardner (Boehm kick), 6:37.
CdM – Fisher 33 run (Boehm kick), 0:25.
W – Craver 86 run (Koenemann kick), 6:32.
W – Neser 1 run (Koenemann kick), 0:31.
CdM – Fisher 47 run (Boehm kick), 10:35.
W – Craver 83 run (Koenemann kick), 10:18.
CdM – Fisher 9 run (Boehm kick), 7:55.
W – Koenemann 22 FG, 2:20.
CdM – Reinhardt 31 run (Boehm kick), 8:06.
W – Craver, 24-239, 2 TDs; Neser, 17-89, 1 TD.
CdM – Fisher, 20-210, 3 TDs; Reinhardt, 5-60, 1 TD.
W – Neser, 13-22-1, 123.
CdM – Gardner, 13-22-1, 160, 1 TD.
W – Craver, 6-72.
CdM – Gray, 4-61, 1 TD; Reinhardt, 4-52.