CORONA DEL MAR — Call them the comeback Sea Kings.
For the second time in as many weeks, Corona del Mar High rallied late in a football game to stay undefeated.
The Sea Kings keep going to the wire. This time, CdM battled back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull off a 22-21 victory against Western on Thursday night.
Rather than play for a tie late, CdM (3-0) played to win at Newport Harbor High. Not because there was no overtime, but because of a certain player on Western's side, Marcus Hays, created havoc for the Sea Kings whenever they attempted an extra-point kick or a field goal.
Erik Fisher had to leap over Hays just to find the end zone on a six-yard run with 4:51 left to play. The Sea Kings trailed, 21-20, and they called a timeout before going for a two-point conversion.
Fisher got the call again and he ran in untouched for two points, giving the Sea Kings their first lead. They had trailed since the 1:57 mark in the second quarter.
Western saw its 21-7 lead at halftime vanish. The player responsible for the advantage was Hays. Yes, Hays without an "e."
Even without the "e" in Hays, he was still electrifying on the field. The senior gave the Pioneers (2-1) all the offensive firepower they needed in the first half.
When the scoreboard wasn't working properly in the opening quarter, Hays lit it up by blocking a punt and returning it 74 yards for a touchdown.
Then with less than one second left before halftime, Hays raced into the end zone to complete a 45-yard touchdown catch.
The Sea Kings, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division, didn't allow Hays (112 rushing yards, 48 receiving yards), or the Pioneers to score again. With the help of linebacker Grant Garrett, the defense pitched a shutout in the second half.
Garrett played the final two quarters with an ankle injury he suffered last week in the Sea Kings' 28-21 win at Huntington Beach.
"We were trying to rest him, and in the second half we got him in there to try to get a little spark for the defense," said Coach Scott Meyer, whose Sea Kings have momentum heading into the Battle of the Bay game against Newport Harbor next week at Orange Coast College.
The Sea Kings opened the season at 3-0 for the fourth straight year. The one team that has stood in the way of CdM starting 4-0 has been the Sailors.
Meyer, in his first year at CdM, knows the game is huge, but he said the rivalry game "hasn't been much of a rivalry historically because Newport's dominated the game."
"Hopefully, it's a good game," said Meyer, knowing CdM hasn't defeated Newport Harbor since 2006.
Before the Back Bay schools met, the Sea Kings had to take care of business against Western, a more athletic team.
CdM was already without tight end Matt English (leg injury). Quarterback Brent Lawson found another big target four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Lawson hit 6-foot-2 wide receiver Chris Johnstone on a 50-yard touchdown pass to cut Western's lead to, 21-14. The defense held and forced a punt.
A bad snap over the punter's head forced Kyle Manliguis to boot the ball from near the end zone. The kick resulted in more of a soccer-style one and Aaron White recovered the ball on Western's 29.
White returned it 13 yards, setting up CdM's game-winning drive. Fisher, who finished with 174 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, carried the load. He rushed four straight times, the last a six-yard run over Hays that propelled CdM.
Corona del Mar 22, Western 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Western 7- 14 - 0 - 0 – 21
Corona del Mar 0 - 7 - 0 - 15 – 22
W – Hays 74 return on blocked field goal (Alamia kick), 5:01.
CdM – Fisher 4 run (Napolitano kick), 7:55.
W – Fusick 39 run (Alamia kick), 1:57.
W – Hays 45 pass from McDonald (Alamia kick), :01.
CdM – Johnstone 50 pass from Lawson (Napolitano kick), 8:26.
CdM – Fisher 6 run (Fisher run), 4:51.
W - Hays, 12-112.
CdM - Fisher, 31-174, 2 TDs.
W - McDonald, 3-13-0, 74, 1 TD.
CdM - Lawson, 11-23-1, 154, 1 TD.
W - Hays, 2-48, 1 TD.
CdM - Johnstone, 3-72, 1 TD.