Each Monday, Aaron White lined up on the football field with his Corona del Mar High teammates. They ran 40-yard dashes 14 times during practice.
Fourteen represented the number of games the Sea Kings aimed to play this season. The starters bought into the mission, except for one returning starter at the beginning of the year.
White eyed another season in a different sport. Instead of knocking heads on the field, the 6-foot, 195-pound junior thought about hitting a baseball.
"I wasn't going out 100%," White admitted. "I wasn't really there."
Midway through the goal of 14 games, it hit White that the Sea Kings might be on to a special season. Seven games in, CdM had only one loss.
White played a little role, if none at all, to the success. He was a sparring partner for the offense during practice.
Leading up to games, White was on the defensive scout team. The job entailed for White to help the starting offensive unit prepare for the next opponent.
Every week, Scott Dodge, an assistant defensive coach, told White where he really belonged.
"He'd tell me, 'You've got to step it up. We both know you could be out there,' " White said.
"Last year I started, and that just added salt to injury, to not come out this year and start."
Seeing everyone else around him happy to be part of a winning program, White wanted in.
In order for White to join the party, he had to refocus and challenge himself. He knew he had the abilities to start because he did as a sophomore.
White had to prove it. The shot came in the eighth game of the season. A lot was on the line, the Sea Kings' unbeaten Pacific Coast League record, their league title hopes.
In the second half against Woodbridge on Oct. 29, a fired up White said he stepped onto the field. He now had to the make the most of the opportunity.
"I knew I had to hit someone," said White, adding that he wound up leading the team in tackles in the Sea Kings' 35-24 victory against Woodbridge.
The performance led to more playing time for White the following week. He said he earned the defensive player of the game award after CdM beat University, 31-3.
White has been punishing running backs and quarterbacks ever since. The defense has turned it up a notch since White worked his way back into the lineup.
With White leading the way, the Sea Kings recorded their first shutout of the season last week, when CdM beat Anaheim, 35-0, in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs.
White delivered his best outing of the year, finishing with a half dozen tackles and two sacks. He is clearly onboard now at CdM, which is one victory away from reaching that 14th game of the year.
Second-seeded CdM (10-1-1) plays league foe Beckman (7-5) in the semifinals at Tustin High on Saturday at 7 p.m. White remembers the last time the Sea Kings and Patriots met on the same field.
The Sea Kings won the regular-season finale between these teams, 17-15. The game marked White's second start of the year and CdM's first outright league crown in 22 years.
"We just remember it was a close game, a hard-hitting battle," White said. "We just wanted to come back and do it again."
The same can be said for White, who is thankful to be back on the field and starting for a team that is close to playing in CdM's first section title game since 1989. White is hoping he can run those 14 40-yard dashes come Monday.