NEWPORT BEACH — For the past two seasons, the Corona del Mar High football team has known the correct path to win a CIF Southern Section championship.
This week, the Sea Kings were acquainted with different types of paths at the Environmental Nature Center. That's right, CdM football players earned community service hours by laying down mulch on trails at the ENC, essentially in the backyard of their rivals' school.
The 3 1/2-acre ENC, which features California native plants, a butterfly house and various walking trails, is a few hundred yards away from Davidson Field, where CdM also plays its home games at Newport Harbor High.
The Sea Kings wrapped up their four-day project Thursday, when the majority of the players consisted of freshmen and sophomores. They got a lot of work done during the four days, working roughly three hours each morning.
"It would've taken me a month to do all the work they did in four days," said Mike Swingholm, the ENC grounds manager.
Swingholm is grateful for all who volunteer at the ENC. He was pleased with this particular project since, "it looks nice," and it is good for safety purposes. Without the mulch on the trails, some people might slip.
The CdM football team fills up its summer with plenty of work that has consisted of seven-on-seven action, weightlifting, yoga and the volunteer work.
When the Sea Kings were looking to gain community hours, they found the right fit with ENC.
"I think it's just good for them to do something together as a team away from CdM," Meyer said during a phone interview Thursday. "They weren't all there at the same time. But it was good for team building and it was good to help out the Environmental Nature Center."
A CdM "team mom" attended each of the days the players worked at the ENC. Sandy Stone was there on Monday when most of the varsity players were there working, Swingholm said. And, Janet White was there on Thursday.
"It's great," White said of the project. "Most of these kids probably have never had gloves on or held a wheelbarrow. It makes them feel how important it is to be a part of the community, not just their school."
The CdM football players covered about a quarter of a mile of paths with the wood chips, which were dumped near an empty property. That property, recently acquired by the ENC, has plans to become a nature-centric preschool.
Cole Collins, an incoming junior wide receiver, said the work wasn't too intense. He was there on Monday with his teammates.
"I think it was good giving back to the community especially near our rivals' school," Collins said.
Collins is on board with all the work the Sea Kings are putting in this summer. The players lifts weights Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Meyer said. They also started with yoga sessions, run by Kim Barbato, on Wednesday and Friday. Barbato has sons in the program.
The Sea Kings want the work to lead up to a third straight Southern Division championship.
"We have a really high standards here," Collins said. "There's a lot of pressure and a target on our backs. We have to work hard to make sure we stay as champs."
Meyer said the summer training has been going well for the Sea Kings.
One of the burning questions for the team is who will start at quarterback, taking over for Cayman Carter, the standout who graduated last month and is headed to SMU.
Luke Napolitano, an incoming senior, and sophomore-to-be Peter Bush are "battling it out" to be the new QB, Meyer said.
The two have been spitting reps and have been gaining experience with the seven-on-seven.
The Sea Kings had Aliso Niguel, Long Beach Wilson and Godinez at CdM for seven-on-seven Thursday. Tustin, Trabuco Hills and St. Paul came on Tuesday.
CdM will be at Marina Saturday for seven-on seven games and a linemen competition.