A couple of days before Corona del Mar High's biggest football game in 22 years, I asked Coach Scott Meyer what he expected.
"I expect it to be a battle down to the wire," Meyer said of the Sea Kings' CIF Southern Section Southern Division title game against Beckman.
"Whoever has the ball last will probably win."
Meyer was right on all accounts. The title game Friday featured a dramatic finish at Orange Coast College.
Here was the situation: With seven seconds left to play, Beckman scored a touchdown and trailed CdM, 14-13, pending the extra-point try.
The Patriots decided to go for the win.
The second-seeded Sea Kings made the stop they needed, stuffing an attempted two-point conversion run by top-seeded Beckman to secure a 14-13 victory and CdM's first section crown since 1989.
The Sea Kings (12-2) won their third section championship in the school's history. The wins match the program's best single-season total. The 1988 team was 12-0-2.
Beckman, which played in its second straight championship game, suffered another heartbreaking loss in the big game.
The Patriots lost to Garden Grove, 31-30, last year because of a two-point conversion late. Garden Grove went for two and the win late and succeeded.
With Beckman in a similar situation against the Sea Kings, Meyer expected the Patriots (11-3) to go for the win. Meyer, and everyone else at OCC, knew who was going to get the ball.
Beckman ran standout tailback Jeff Kim and CdM outside linebacker Aaron White met him to stuff the two-point attempt.
White also recovered Beckman's onside kick, allowing CdM to kneel and run the clock out.
The Sea Kings, who lost the Pacific Coast League title to Beckman, 42-37, last month, had the ball at the end and the grand prize.
CdM and section title games at OCC translate into victories.
The Sea Kings are 3-0 in section title games and all three have been played at OCC.
The Sea Kings beat Valencia, 17-7, in the Division VI title game in 1988.
The following year, CdM defeated La Quinta, 21-10, to complete back-to-back Division VI titles.
In his final game at CdM, quarterback Brent Lawson closed out his record-breaking year in grand fashion.
Lawson's throws and running made it possible for the Sea Kings to get revenge on Beckman.
The senior threw two touchdown passes, giving him 27 for the year, and threw for 119 yards, giving him 2,519 for the season. Both are CdM records.
Lawson fired a two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Troy Reese with four seconds left before halftime to give CdM a 7-0 lead.
Midway through the third quarter, Lawson found a wide-open Josh Giger for a 61-yard touchdown.
Lawson ran for 67 yards on 13 carries, second most on the team, behind senior tailback Erik Fisher's 73 yards on 22 carries.
Lawson finished the season with 446 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
The Sea Kings' defense shut down Beckman in the first half, only allowing one first down.
In the first 24 minutes, Beckman failed to convert a first down on four third-down opportunities. As a result, the Patriots gained just 30 yards rushing and six yards passing by halftime.
Outside linebacker Frasier Anderson and cornerback Cole Cottrell made plays for CdM on third-down situations, stopping pass plays.
For the game, CdM never allowed Beckman to convert a first down on seven third-down opportunities.
The Sea Kings fumbled five times, losing two.
One fumble allowed Beckman to tie the game at 7-7 in the third quarter.
Beckman, which had crossed midfield for the first time in the game two minutes into third quarter, punted. The Patriots got the ball back right away, recovering a muffed punt reception on CdM's 22.
Four plays later, Beckman scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Cameron Biedgoly.
CdM and Beckman also exchanged fumbles in a 45-second span in the fourth quarter. None led to points.
The Sea Kings can thank White and Cottrell for making tackles to stop Beckman inside CdM's 10-yard line with less than six minutes left. The Patriots turned the ball over on downs.