The Corona del Mar High football team enters the 50th Battle of the Bay with a lot of momentum.
The Sea Kings improved to 3-0 after coming from behind for the second straight week, beating visiting Western, 22-21, Thursday.
Next for CdM, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division, is the biggest game in town against Back Bay rival Newport Harbor (0-2) on Friday at Orange Coast College. The teams are heading in different directions, but the Sailors have won the last four Battle of the Bay meetings.
Coach Scott Meyer, in his first year at CdM, is well aware of how one-sided the rivalry has been.
"It really hasn't been much of a rivalry historically because Newport's dominated the game," Meyer said of the Battle of the Bay, in which Newport Harbor holds a 36-13 series edge. "But our kids will be excited. Kids will have a huge crowd there. Hopefully, it's a good game."
The Estancia High football team is 2-0 for the first time since 2006. Coach Mike Bargas gave plenty of credit to his defense after Friday night's come-from-behind 17-14 victory at Buena Park.
With points at a premium, Buena Park could have put Estancia in a big hole after recovering a fumbled kickoff at the Estancia 32-yard line midway through the third quarter. The Coyotes were ahead, 14-7, at the time.
Buena Park used five straight runs by Carlos Mota to get the ball to the 10-yard line, but would eventually turn the ball over on downs.
The Coyotes also got the ball in good field position at their own 42 early in the fourth quarter. They got the ball to the Estancia 35, but the drive stalled and Buena Park was forced to punt. Estancia's next drive, which took just more than four minutes, ended with junior running back Robert Murtha's five-yard touchdown run that knotted the score at 14-14.
"I can't say enough about the defense," Bargas said. "They had their plays, and we knew they were going to have some plays. We were able to shut them down when we needed to."
Costa Mesa High's 56-42 nonleague home win over Katella Thursday gave the Mustangs 98 points in back-to-back games this season. It's the biggest output in consecutive contests since 2003, when the Mustangs combined for 109 points in wins over Ocean View and Santiago.
The Mustangs, 2-1 for the first time since 2003, figure to have some success scoring at Ocean View on Friday. The Seahawks (1-2) lost last week, 73-40, to Laguna Beach and are surrendering and average of 49 points per game this season.
Coach Jeff Brinkley's 26th year at Newport Harbor has begun like no other.
For the first time under Brinkley, the Sailors have started the season 0-2.
Newport Harbor dropped its home opener to Loyola of Los Angeles, 27-0, Friday. The Sailors struggled offensively for the second time in as many games, producing only 82 yards passing and 51 yards rushing.
"We turned the ball over," Brinkley said, referring to a fumble, an interception and a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. "I told the kids before the game our two keys. We've got to take care of the ball and create a couple of turnovers. We turned the ball over. You just can't do that. We are on the wrong end of the turnover ratio right now in the first two games."
Newport Harbor has committed five turnovers and has only forced one.
The Sea Kings have fallen behind, 7-0, in each of their first three games.
Thursday, however, in its home opener, CdM was in a bigger hole. The Sea Kings trailed Western by 14 points.
In a five-minute, 38-second stretch in the fourth quarter, CdM erased the deficit, scoring 15 points. The final eight points were produced by Erik Fisher's legs.
The senior running back scored a six-yard touchdown run and ran in a two-point conversion to put the Sea Kings up, 22-21, with 4:51 left to play. Fisher was a workhorse, carrying the ball 31 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
"Our guys you've got to love. They play 48 minutes every week," said Meyer of the Sea Kings, who have started 3-0 for the fourth straight year. "They never quit. They were on the ropes there a little bit and they just kept playing and playing."
The Estancia offense had trouble moving the ball at times, but junior Brad Wilson engineered a key drive that led to Murtha's game-tying touchdown. He had three of his six completions on the drive, including two to junior Henry Vasquez for a combined 15 yards.
The big pass play was on third-and-nine at the Buena Park 31, when Wilson found Murtha on a 20-yard screen pass. Murtha scored on the run two plays later.
One highlight for Costa Mesa against Katella was its kicking game. Junior Jake Lux converted all eight conversion kicks. He also boomed three kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
Despite missing two starters on defense, the Sailors played well through three quarters, only trailing the Cubs, 13-0.
"We played pretty good defense all night," said Brinkley, who didn't have the services of senior middle linebacker Stone Manoa (shoulder) and junior defensive lineman Zach Cornwell (knee). "That's a step in the right direction."
Brinkley said he expects Manoa to return, while Cornwell is done for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Cornwell's year ended when he went down in the second quarter of the Sailors' 35-14 season-opening loss at Trabuco Hills.
Newport Harbor was also without starting senior tight end Vince Aqueveque. Brinkley said Aqueveque suffered a concussion against the Mustangs.
"We don't make excuses," Brinkley said of the injuries. "We coach them all and hopefully you've got the next guy ready to play."
The Sea Kings have a shot to begin the season 4-0 for the first time since 1989, when the program went on to go 11-3 and claim the CIF Southern Section Division VI title.
As a head coach, Meyer has never led a team to a 4-0 start.
Estancia senior tackle Alipa Peters had a nice display of sportsmanship in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' exciting win.
Buena Park's 6-foot-4, 302-pound offensive lineman Josh Tupou was cramping. Peters, himself a specimen at 6-3 and 275, went to the aide of Tupou. He held him up until the Buena Park trainer could attend to Tupou, a gesture that earned an appreciative pat on the shoulder from Buena Park quarterback J.J. Christy.
Peters is a leader for Estancia. He went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, last month as part of the Legacy Leadership Project mentoring program.
In addition to his 184 rushing yards on 23 attempts, Costa Mesa senior running back Mario Smith amassed 164 yards on five kickoff returns.
Newport Harbor backup quarterback Zach Wade got a chance to play midway through the fourth quarter.
Wade replaced quarterback Cole Blower with the Sailors trailing Loyola, 20-0. After a three-and-out, Wade returned for a second series.
The junior moved the chains with 4:21 left to play, ending Newport Harbor's 25-minute drought without a first down. Wade wound up leading the team in passing (53) and rushing (27) yards.
"He was banged up," Brinkley said of the reason why he pulled Blower. "He didn't practice most the week. Zach had taken a lot of reps and he threw the ball really well in practice. We wanted to give him an opportunity."
Costa Mesa first-year coach Wally Grant, who played for the Mustangs in the 1980s and was an assistant coach in the 1990s, as well as last season, has enlisted John Carney to work as an eye in the sky during games.
Carney was co-head coach at Mesa in the early 1980s, was the head track and field coach at the school for years, and was the freshman football coach for a number of years before retiring from teaching and coaching in 2003.
— From staff reports