NEWPORT BEACH — You have to go back 12 years to find the last time the Corona del Mar High football team began the season with a loss.
You have to go back almost as far for the last time the Sea Kings beat the kind of team they played Friday night.
When it comes to season openers, the Sea Kings tend to be successful. That isn't the case when they face a Sea View League opponent.
Laguna Hills ruined the CIF Southern Section Southern Division champion Sea Kings' debut, beating the hosts, 21-12, at Newport Harbor High.
The Sea Kings are now winless in their past 10 meetings against Sea View League teams. The top-ranked team in the Southern Division already has half as many losses at it had all of last year.
As for the Hawks, they continued their dominance against teams from the Pacific Coast League. In the last six years, they have a 23-0-1 record against PCL teams.
"We were pretty fired up being able to play against CIF champions from last year and there was no surprise on how this game was going to go," Laguna Hills Coach Bruce Ingalls said. "It was definitely going to be a battle."
From start to finish, the two programs went at it. No team was able to grab a double-digit lead.
That is how competitive the first contest for both teams played out. The difference was special teams and defense, both favoring the Hawks.
They made the plays, holding CdM to two field goals by halftime.
Each time the Sea Kings reached the red zone in the first half, once as close as the one, they left with just three points.
The second time came back to bite the Sea Kings after they failed to punch the ball in from so close. The momentum changed on the ensuing kickoff. Will King returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Hawks a 7-6 lead two minutes into the second quarter.
"We had really a 14-point swing," CdM Coach Scott Meyer said.
Meyer's Sea Kings tried to even things late in the third quarter.
Tailback Kai Wilson ripped a 14-yard touchdown run, cutting the deficit to 14-12. The Sea Kings decided to go for a two-point conversion to tie the score.
The pass play fell incomplete. The call to go for two is one Meyer said he would do again.
The Hawks made him pay for his decision.
They went on an 18-play, 69-yard scoring drive that chewed eight minutes off the clock. By the time Will Sedgwick crashed into the end zone on a one-yard run, 6:12 remained in the game. The extra-point kick made it a two-possession game.
"We knew that they were going to pound the ball like they did," said Meyer, whose defense allowed Laguna Hills running back Mike Longo to rush 21 times for 88 yards.
The Sea Kings' offense was the opposite of the Hawks' attack.
They featured a no-huddle, spread offense. Nothing seemed to slow the Sea Kings down on the game's opening drive, except a false start on third-and-six on the Hawks' 15-yard line.
The five-yard penalty made it third-and-long, stalling the Sea Kings' drive. They settled for a 33-yard field goal from Luke Napolitano to take the lead midway through the first quarter.
Napolitano went back to work early in the second quarter. He almost didn't have to attempt another field goal in the first half. CdM safety Charlie Griffin intercepted a pass near midfield, only to be taken down one yard shy of the end zone.
What looked like a sure touchdown opportunity turned into a disaster. Another false start, this one on first-and-goal from the one, pushed CdM back.
The offense came up short and it brought out its kicker. Napolitano converted a 20-yard field goal, giving the Sea Kings a 6-0 lead with 10:12 left in the second quarter.
The lead didn't hold up for long.
Nineteen seconds later, King raced down the sideline, returning the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Laguna Hills, which had eight yards of offense and no first downs at this point, led, 7-6.
The Hawks seemed to figure out the Sea Kings' attack on the ground. They forced Cayman Carter to throw, after the quarterback mostly hurt the defense, rushing 19 times for 95 yards.
A tipped pass helped the Hawks collect an interception. Adam Salcedo returned the pick 25 yards and put Laguna Hills near midfield.
The Hawks saw the chains move for the first time, thanks to CdM jumping offside on third-and-five. They kept going forward, recording four more first downs on the drive.
Faced with a third-and-goal from CdM's five-yard line, the Hawks went to the air. The pass play worked. Quarterback Kevin Cunningham rolled to his right and found tight end Christian Sampson in the end zone.
The Hawks went into halftime with a 14-6 lead. They never relinquished it.
Laguna Hills 21,
Corona del Mar 12
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Laguna Hills 0 – 14 – 0 – 7 – 21
Corona del Mar 3 – 3 – 6 – 0 – 12
CdM – Napolitano 33 FG, 6:17.
CdM – Napolitano 20 FG, 10:12.
LH – King 99 kickoff return (Perez kick), 9:53.
LH – Sampson 5 pass from Cunningham (Perez kick), 2:15.
CdM – Wilson 14 run (pass failed), 2:17.
LH – Sedgwick 1 run (Perez kick), 6:12.
LH – Longo, 21-88.
CdM – Carter, 19-95.
LH – Cunningham, 4-10-2, 18, 1 TD.
CdM – Carter, 9-19-1, 63.
LH – Sampson, 2-5.
CdM – Reese, 3-31, 1 TD