Peñaloza: Thumbs up for Battle of the Bay

Covering the Battle of the Bay football game is always one of the best parts of this job.

Friday night proved to be no exception.

I made it to Orange Coast College, the site of this year's game, 90 minutes before kickoff. On the field, Newport Harbor High's team stretched, while Corona del Mar's kicker and punter booted balls around.

When I made it up to the press box, one longtime CdM supporter, Brent Ogden, yelled at me from the field. I found it hard to make out what he said because this is the one event CdM keeps the microphone away from the old guy, and with good reason.

The reason why I couldn't hear Ogden was because the press box at LeBard Stadium is up high. So what does Ogden do without a microphone? The CdM alumnus gives hand signs.

Ogden made one in the shape of an "L" and placed it on his forehead. I figured it was for the Orange County Register's reporter, Damian Calhoun. Then Ogden pointed in my direction.

Every time I pick the Sailors in the paper to beat the Sea Kings in the annual rivalry game, Ogden lets me have it. I love him for it.

The Battle of the Bay is an intense rivalry, but almost everyone with ties to either school has fun with it. You have a dad like Paul Gentosi, who played for Newport Harbor when the rivalry began in 1963, but his son, Giovanni Gentosi, played for CdM in this year's game. Then there's Kirk Norton, who last suited up for the Sailors in 1980, and who's nephew, Dillon Norton, played for the Sea Kings five years ago.

Every side still wants to win the game badly. They want bragging rights in the Back Bay. That's why 7,600 fans packed the stadium on Friday, making the 52nd edition of the game a sellout.

I sat in between Calhoun and Paul Orris, the former boys' basketball coach and athletic director at CdM. Orris worked the scoreboard, while I jotted down the play-by-play action on a notebook, the stats on a sheet, and typed on my laptop while I updated my followers on Twitter. I'm not sure what Calhoun was doing.

Covering the Battle of the Bay on deadline gives you an adrenaline rush like no other high school football game. Getting down to the field in time to interview coaches and players feels like you're rushing the quarterback with thousands of fans blocking you.

I made it. I always seem to when these Back Bay schools play the game at OCC.

Once I walked onto the field to conduct my interviews, one of the head coaches reminded me about the team I said would prevail.

"You should've picked us, David," Scott Meyer said with a huge smile after he led CdM to a 34-14 win, becoming the first coach in seven years to lead the Sea Kings past the Sailors.

Meyer's teams came close the past two years, losing by a combined four points. Meyer, in his third year with the Sea Kings, wasn't the only person who rubbed the win in my face.

I checked my Blackberry (yeah, I'm one of the few who still uses one) while racing back up the stairs to the press box to file my game story. I received a tweet from Mark McAdams (@markmcdms) and laughed after he tweeted, "@DCPenaloza you, Szabo and Faulkner called it wrong!"

Yeah, my boss, Steve Virgen, was the lone member of the Daily Pilot sports staff to go with CdM. He gets to gloat this week in the office, until I remind him of his place in the current standings. He's dead last in picking high school football games.

Virgen gained many CdM followers on Twitter because he picked the school to win. If you check his Twitter profile (@SteveVirgen), I bet almost 90% of his 900-something followers go to CdM.

After the game, Virgen retweeted a handful of his new friends. He even handed out an award for the tweet of the night, giving it to CdM quarterback Luke Napolitano (@tan0o).

Napolitano's tweet went right at Newport Harbor's Quest Truxton, whose prediction turned out to be more off than my prediction. Truxton told me on Tuesday that he didn't think the game would be close. I fell for it and chose the Sailors.

So, after the game, Napolitano tweeted, "@QuestTruxton 'wasn't even close'... You were so right, not even close buddy," closing the tweet with an image of a thumb up.

That's how my night ended after trying to capture what went down on Friday night for the reader. I always give the Battle of the Bay two thumbs up, though.

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