High Schools: Old allies lend Grant assist

Leave it to the oldest guy on Coach Wally Grant's staff to explain the reason for the Costa Mesa High football team's 5-1 start.

"When you have fast kids," said John Carney, a 67-year-old assistant, "you start fast."

Carney knows speed when he sees it. Running backs Mario Smith and Oronde Crenshaw have speed.

Carney has been around the game for a long time. He said he coached and taught history at Costa Mesa for 34½ years.

To Grant, Carney was the perfect guy to join him in his first year in charge of a high school program.

To Carney, Grant just needed someone other than assistant head coach Kent Paul to needle.

"He asked Kent to come to work for him," Carney said. "Kent was the old man. They were ripping on him all the time and then they got me to come out."

Grant likes to joke that he blackmailed his former coach to come out.

When Grant played at Costa Mesa in the early 1980s, Carney was a co-head coach. Carney held the title for three years, until Grant left.

With Grant back, Carney has returned to coaching. He said he has been selling jewelry since he retired from coaching and teaching eight years ago.

No one on staff has bought any jewelry off Carney yet.

"Wally is too cheap," Carney said.

The only jewelry Grant wants is an Orange Coast League crown. Grant hopes Carney and Paul can help bring one to Costa Mesa.

The league title goes through Estancia, the defending league champion. Both schools opened league play with victories Friday.

A couple of weeks ago, Carney said he ran into Robert Murtha Sr., whose son is the star running back at Estancia. Carney coached Murtha as an assistant at Costa Mesa.

"I gave him a hard time for not bringing his son to Costa Mesa," Carney said. "He said he married an Estancia girl and that was the end of that."

Carney will see Murtha and his son again, and he's looking forward to it.

The Battle for the Bell between the Mustangs and Eagles is Nov. 11. The contest is the league finale and it might not only be for the city title, but also the league title.

"People around here live and die for the Estancia game. Sometimes they beat us. Sometimes we beat them," said Carney, who was 0-3 as the co-coach against the Eagles from 1981-83. "It's like USC and UCLA, a great rivalry. It's going to be a great game."

It has been a while since both Corona del Mar and Estancia have dropped a football game in their respective leagues.

The Sea Kings remained atop the CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll after opening Pacific Coast League play with a 17-10 road win against then-No. 7 Northwood on Thursday.

The Sea Kings (5-1, 1-0 in league) are 5-0-1 in their last six league contests dating back to last season, when they claimed the league title.

Estancia moved up two spots to No. 4 after the Eagles won at then-No. 5 Laguna Beach, 35-14, in an Orange Coast League opener. Defending league champion Estancia (4-2, 1-0) has won seven straight in league.

Ethan Cochran has visited Alabama, which is recruiting the Newport Harbor senior as a thrower, said football teammate Titus Hasson.

Cochran won the CIF State discus title last season, becoming the first Newport Harbor thrower to accomplish the feat. He won it with a heave of 185 feet, nine inches.

The first local running back to top 1,000 yards on the season is Costa Mesa's Mario Smith.

The senior has 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns on 104 carries.

Estancia junior Robert Murtha Jr. has 886 yards and eight touchdowns on 133 carries.

CdM senior Erik Fisher has 645 yards and seven TDs on 121 carries.

Titus Hasson has 488 yards and six TDs on 100 carries for Newport Harbor.

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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