Corona del Mar High is the lone local football team with a game after Thanksgiving. The Sea Kings are grateful to be playing around this time of the year.
The second-seeded Sea Kings face Anaheim in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs at Estancia High Friday night at 7. The game is at a neutral site due to both teams playing host to opening-round games last week.
The Sea Kings (9-1-1) advanced after defeating Ocean View, 21-13, at Orange Coast College. The Colonists (7-4) beat Rancho Alamitos, 27-14, at Glover Stadium.
The meeting marks the first between CdM and Anaheim since 1988, when the Sea Kings eliminated the Colonists in the Division VI quarterfinals. That season the Sea Kings went on to claim their first of back-to-back section titles.
The road back to another section championship game bodes well for CdM. The Sea Kings are expected to get through Anaheim and reach the semifinals.
The teams have two common opponents, Magnolia and Savanna. The Sea Kings blew out Magnolia, 52-13, in a nonleague road game on Oct. 2, and they kicked off the season with a 36-14 home victory against Savanna.
Anaheim lost to Magnolia, 21-17, on Oct. 21, and finished second to the Sentinels in the Orange League. The Colonists edged Savanna, 22-14, in a league game on Nov. 5.
The hotter of the two programs is CdM, which is unbeaten in its last seven contests. Three of those games involved Pacific Coast League teams Northwood, Woodbridge and Beckman, which are still alive in the postseason.
The Sea Kings won the Pacific Coast League, the toughest league in the Southern Division. The semifinals can possibly feature four teams from that league.
If CdM can get past Anaheim and return to the semis for the second time in three years under Coach Jason Hitchens, it might face Beckman. The two teams closed out the regular season against each other, with the Sea Kings holding on to a 17-15 victory to win their first outright league title in 22 years.
The Patriots (6-5) play host to Loara (10-1) in a quarterfinal game at Tustin High tonight at 7. The Sea Kings will not overlook their quarterfinal opponent, not after having to make a defensive stand late in the fourth quarter against Ocean View last week to prevail.
The Sea Kings must slow down Anaheim running back Hector Rico. The senior has rushed for 1,113 yards and 11 touchdowns. The defense did an admirable job against Ocean View, limiting tailback Timmy Robinson to 78 yards rushing, 35 below his season average. The Sea Kings did not allow Robinson, who went into the game with 15 rushing touchdowns, to find the end zone.
Senior linebacker Preston Risser is one of CdM's leading tacklers with 87. The defense, which also features standout defensive backs Cole Cottrell and Austin Jones, is up against an offense averaging 25.6 points per game.
Anaheim, which is making its third quarterfinal appearance since 2006, has to be able to disrupt CdM's no-huddle offense for a shot at the upset.
Quarterback Mitch Gardner has thrown for 1,277 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior for the Sea Kings. He has two capable running backs at his disposal, Erik Fisher and Clay Reinhardt. The two have combined for 1,584 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground.
The Sea Kings will need a strong running game to extend their season another week. They will gladly take it.