TUSTIN — No coach wants to face a familiar strong opponent from their league twice in a span of four games. When that second game is in the playoffs, after that foe sneaked its way into the postseason, it makes it that much more difficult.
Jason Hitchens was in that predicament as coach of the Corona del Mar High football team on Saturday night. The goal was to reach the 14th game of the season.
The Sea Kings were stopped one game short by Beckman.
The season ended on the unlucky No. 13 as an at-large entry upset second-seeded CdM, 24-3, in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs at Tustin High. The trip to the semis was the Sea Kings' second in the last three years under Hitchens.
It was understandable why Hitchens looked disappointed after his Pacific Coast League champion Sea Kings lost to the Patriots, the fifth-place team in league.
"You're so close you can taste it," Hitchens said of advancing to the section championship game.
"[The Patriots] went from being done with their season to a coin toss [helping them receive a playoff at-large entry] and they're in the finals."
Beckman will make its section final debut after avenging a 17-15 loss to CdM on the same field in the regular-season finale.
The Patriots (8-5) used a stout defensive effort and surprising strong passing performance from quarterback Cameron Biedgoly to end the Sea Kings' eight-game unbeaten streak.
A season-low three points was not enough for CdM (10-2-1) to return to a section finale for the first time in 21 years.
"I don't think we played really well," said Hitchens, whose offense managed only 131 yards and turned the ball over twice. "It makes it really difficult to win a football game when you can't put points on the [scoreboard].
"The defense was on the field a lot again like we were the first time around [against Beckman], but at least the first time around we were able to put some points on the board."
The Patriots face top-seeded Garden Grove (12-1) in the championship game next Friday, most likely at Orange Coast College. The Argonauts advanced with a 35-21 semifinal victory against Northwood Friday.
Biedgoly, who emerged as the starting quarterback in October, led the way for Beckman. He threw for 261 yards, completing 17 of 27 passes, a handful going for first downs on critical third-and-long situations.
Biedgoly iced the game late with a 20-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-six, giving the Patriots a 17-3 lead. Running back Jeff Kim finished with 95 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries.
Two penalties on CdM killed its opening drive and aided Beckman's first possession. The second penalty did not end up costing CdM.
The defense made a stand after the Patriots marched 63 yards to CdM's two in 13 plays. Two false starts and a pass going for minus two yards pushed Beckman's offense back.
Faced with a fourth-and-goal near the 15-yard line, the Patriots elected to attempt a 31-yard field goal. The ball never reached Brian Traut's right foot.
The placeholder mishandled the snap. He then tried to run left with the ball, only to be dropped by a swarm of CdM defenders for an eight-yard loss.
The Sea Kings took advantage of Beckman's missed opportunity to put points on the board. The Sea Kings immediately put together an impressive drive of their own.
In less than three minutes, CdM covered 78 yards in 10 plays, setting up a 24-yard field-goal try by Andrew Boehm. The senior converted and the Sea Kings took a 3-0 lead six seconds into the second quarter.
The CdM advantage was short lived, as Beckman went on to score the game's next 24 points.
Beckman 24, Corona del Mar 3
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CdM 0 – 3 – 0 – 0 — 3
Beckman 0 – 7 – 0 – 17 — 24
CdM – Boehm FG 24, 11:54.
Beck – Kim 3 run (Traut), 6:52.
Beck – Traut FG 24, 10:02.
Beck – Biedgoly 20 run (Traut kick), 4:53.
Beck – Rivera 57 run (Traut kick), :46.
CdM – Fisher, 16-36.
Beck – Kim, 27-95, 1 TD.
CdM – Gardner, 9-18-1, 107.
Beck – Biedgoly, 17-27-1, 261.
CdM – Gray, 2-37.
Beck – Flores, 4-92.