Less than a quarter into the game, the Northwood High football team had already scored more points than Corona del Mar's first four opponents in the Pacific Coast League.
The Timberwolves' junior quarterback, Brian Abel, was more than able. He engineered two touchdown drives, putting CdM into an early hole Friday night at Davidson Field.
The response on defense came quickly. Northwood couldn't score again until the final minutes of the game, when CdM was well in control.
The Sea Kings weren't going to miss out on their chance to make history.
Corona del Mar won, 35-21, to clinch its second straight outright league title and complete the first 10-0 regular season in program history.
"It's a great accomplishment for all of our players and our coaches," said CdM Coach Scott Meyer, whose program has won 20 straight games overall. "It's good to make history."
The CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs loom for two-time defending division champion CdM (10-0, 5-0 in league). The Sea Kings will be the top seed, and will figure out their first-round opponent when brackets are released Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
Northwood (3-7, 2-3) finished fourth in league, also behind Irvine and Woodbridge. Only the top three teams are guaranteed Southern Division playoff berths. Northwood Athletic Director Eric Keith said the Timberwolves would apply for an at-large berth into CIF.
Northwood came out Friday night blazing hot. Abel completed his first seven passes, and he and tailback John Edmond scored on short touchdown runs to stake the visitors to a 14-0 lead with 5:24 left in the first quarter. The second touchdown was set up when Abel somehow evaded a quarterback sack, running near his sideline and completing a 24-yard pass to Edmond on fourth-and-six from the CdM 28.
"They gashed us the first two drives," said CdM safety Charlie Griffin, the Sea Kings' only senior starter on defense. "Their quarterback was a super-athletic scrambler … It was good for Northwood to come out and hit us in the mouth like that. It's going to keep us on our toes in the playoffs."
CdM came back, as senior quarterback Luke Napolitano scored on a two-yard keeper near the end of the quarter. Then, following a long punt return from Griffin, junior running back Cole Martin scored from three yards out to tie it at 14-14.
The Sea Kings took their first lead with 4:23 left in the half, when sophomore running back Anthony Battista broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and took off for a 33-yard touchdown run. After junior lineman Justin Hess blocked a Northwood punt on the Timberwolves' next possession, CdM got the ball back at the Northwood 33-yard line.
Two plays later, Napolitano found William Hunter on a 33-yard touchdown pass. Hunter added the conversion kick, one of five for him on the night.
Martin (110 yards rushing) and Battista (89) both had productive nights on the ground. Battista's second rushing touchdown of the night, from 14 yards out, gave CdM a 35-14 lead with 6:20 left in the contest.
"They've both been great," Meyer said. "We really made a conscious effort tonight to try to balance out the carries a little bit more. [Battista] is a good runner, and obviously it takes a little bit of the load off Cole. But 'Ant,' he's earned those carries."
What the Sea Kings have earned is a shot at defending their back-to-back CIF titles.
"It feels special to be a part of this program," Griffin said. "The coaching staff has done a great job and just made a total transformation."
Corona del Mar 35, Northwood 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Northwood 14 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 21
CdM 7 – 21 – 0 – 7 — 35
NW – Edmond 6 run (Walmsley kick), 10:24.
NW – Abel 4 run (Walmsley kick), 5:24.
CdM – Napolitano 2 run (Hunter kick), 1:29.
CdM – Martin 3 run (Hunter kick), 10:58.
CdM – Battista 33 run (Hunter kick), 4:23.
CdM – Hunter 33 pass from Napolitano (Hunter kick), 2:12.
CdM – Battista 14 run (Hunter kick), 6:10.
NW – Clyde 7 pass from Abel (Walmsley kick), 2:09.
NW – Abel, 18-34, 1 TD.
CdM – Martin, 15-110, 1 TD; Battista, 10-89, 1 TD.
NW – Abel, 20-26-1, 229, 1 TD.
CdM – Napolitano, 15-28-2, 214, 2 TDs.
NW – Damasco, 7-104.
CdM – Collins, 5-108.