CORONA DEL MAR — A rabbit ran onto the Corona del Mar High football field in the second quarter of the freshman Battle of the Bay. The sideline official turned to CdM Coach Jerry Jelnick and suggested a play.
"Give that guy the ball," the referee said.
The joke cracked Jelnick's serious face. He smiled and the smile grew one play later when one of his players was as elusive as the rabbit on Thursday afternoon.
Max Chozen caught a pass over the middle and then raced to the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown. The Sea Kings were on their way to beating Newport Harbor for the first time under Jelnick's watch.
The Sea Kings won, 33-6, ending Newport Harbor's six-year reign in the Back Bay rivalry. Did Jelnick expect a rout? No, but his team is off to a rousing 4-0 start.
"Any time we play those guys, it's a tough game," Jelnick said.
What is tough about the Sailors nowadays is their start to the year. They're winless through three games.
Three turnovers and a sporadic offense hurt Newport Harbor's chance of making it a game against CdM.
"They physically beat us up. That was a little disappointing," Newport Harbor Coach Joe Urban said. "But, you know, there's seven more weeks to go. We've got to fix this thing."
Stopping the running game is one area the Sailors have to work on.
The Sea Kings recorded 240 yards on the ground.
Leading the way was Hugh Crance, who took over the workload in the second half, finishing with 161 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.
Crance's touches went up after Jelnick said starting tailback Barrett Barbato cramped up in the third quarter. Jelnick said Barbato, who rushed for 85 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries, has a little more speed than Crance.
Crance can still break off a long run. His third touchdown came on a 37-yard run to the left late in the game.
The credit, Crance gave it to his fullback, Cole Martin, and offensive line.
Matt Flores, Justin Hess, Zennon Richardson, Collin Redman and Jack Pagliasotti opened up holes for both Crance and Barbato. When Newport Harbor stacked the box, CdM went to the air.
Quarterback Bo St. Geme made the Sailors pay.
St. Geme only threw eight times, but seven of those passes he completed for 175 yards. He attempted only one pass in the second half, a 35-yard hook up with Chozen, which set up the offense in the red zone.
Jelnick might want to let St. Geme throw a little more.
"We can't throw 20 or 30 times a game and we don't want to," Jelnick said. "We want to try and control the clock and help our defense out."
The defense was stout throughout against the Sailors.
Barbato, playing linebacker, recovered a fumble, and so did Tommy Quinn. Defensive back Chad Redfearn intercepted a pass.
The Sea Kings gave up just 32 yards rushing and 86 yards passing.
The only time CdM allowed Newport Harbor inside the Sea Kings' 15-yard line was because of a questionable pass interference penalty on CdM on fourth down with 8:15 left to play.
Eighty-two seconds later, the Sea Kings' shutout bid ended. Riley Gaddis scored on a one-yard run.
By then, the game was already over. The Sea Kings began looking forward to Friday night's varsity Battle of the Bay at Orange Coast College. Many varsity players came out to support the freshman team.
"We're going to start off and rev up the varsity, and hopefully win," said Crance, knowing it's his turn to root for the CdM varsity team to knock off the Sailors for the first time in five years.