Trip to final on the line

Act Two between Corona del Mar High and Beckman takes place Saturday night at 7.

The location is the same, Tustin High. The Sea Kings are hoping for a similar result to the first road football game against the Patriots.

Much more is at stake this time around. The winner advances to the CIF Southern Section Southern Division championship game and will play against top-seeded Garden Grove. The Argonauts beat Northwood, 35-21, in the other semifinal Friday night.

It has been 21 years since the Sea Kings last appeared in a section title game. Beckman is not even 21 years old, so it is understandable why the school that opened in 2004 has never made it to the big game.

The Sea Kings (10-1-1) want to keep it that way.

Expect the second matchup between these two Pacific Coast League teams to come down to the wire again. The Sea Kings barely held on to a 17-15 victory against Beckman in the regular-season finale, which clinched their first outright league crown in 22 years.

The Patriots (7-5) almost tied the game with 53 seconds left, shortly after a 51-yard touchdown pass on fourth down cut the Sea Kings' lead to two points. A pass on a two-point conversion attempt slipped off the fingertips of an intended receiver, allowing the Sea Kings to avoid their second tie in league.

No team has been able to knock off CdM in its last eight games. Two teams that nearly ended the Sea Kings' unbeaten streak are Beckman and Northwood, which was the third Pacific Coast League team reaching the semis.

Both Northwood and Beckman rallied late against CdM. The Sea Kings opened league play by escaping with a 29-29 tie against the Timberwolves and then they closed out league by edging the Patriots.

Beating a strong team twice in a year is always a tough task. The Sea Kings own the series against the Patriots at 5-1, the only loss to Beckman was last season, when CdM could not beat anyone in league.

Despite the advantage, CdM Coach Jason Hitchens said he preferred to face a different team in the semis. Hitchens' second trip to this round in the last three years did not work out that way when Beckman defeated Loara, 59-42, in the quarterfinals last week.

The Patriots have scored 115 points in their two playoff games, the highest total of any team in the Southern Division bracket. That is superb offensive production out of an at-large entry into the playoffs.

The Patriots, who placed fifth in league, are one victory away from making history. On the ground is how they plan to move on to the championship.

Jeff Kim is Beckman's featured tailback. The junior is coming off a 315-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance.

Whereas Beckman relies heavily on the run, CdM is more balanced. Quarterback Mitch Gardner provides a threat through the air and Erik Fisher is solid running and catching the ball out of the backfield.

Gardner threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns last week in the Sea Kings' 35-0 quarterfinal win against Anaheim. The senior expects Clay Reinhardt, a wide receiver and running back, to play a larger role in the offense this week.

Hitchens said he sat Reinhardt in the first half against Anaheim because he suffered a mild concussion in the first round of the playoffs. The Sea Kings are going to need Reinhardt if the semifinal becomes a shootout.

Only one team has put up more than 30 points on CdM's stingy defense. When it happened, the Sea Kings suffered their only setback, a 35-13 loss to Back Bay rival Newport Harbor on Sept 24. The Sea Kings regrouped and they are now one victory away from reaching 11 for the season.

The last time CdM won 11 games in a season it went on to claim a section title in 1989.

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