CdM's Cool Hand Luke

Countless kids in Newport Beach have decided to attend a private school to play sports.

Luke Napolitano was one of those kids.

Napolitano had a big right arm. He took it to JSerra to use it on a football field and on a mound. The second never happened.

During his freshman year, he went through a lot off the field. Leaving home at 6 a.m. to get to the school in San Juan Capistrano and then coming home after practice at 7 p.m. grew tiring. None of it felt worth it to Napolitano.

Everything at home began to change and he wanted to leave the school after the first semester. His once tight-knit family was breaking up. His father and mother were going through a divorce.

The ordeal hit Napolitano, the youngest of three kids, the hardest.

"I wanted to be home with my friends and I didn't want to go out and try and meet new people," Napolitano says. "I wanted to be home."

He came home in the spring of 2011. He transferred to Corona del Mar High to be around his childhood friends and to spend more time with his parents.

Adjusting to his new life wasn't easy. He spent one week with his mother, Linda Scott, and the next at his father Augie Napolitano's house.

He always felt as if he was on the move, like checking in and out of hotel rooms. Then the one-week stays became a routine. There were still times he forgot his clothes or schoolwork at his mom or dad's place.

The hardest part was dealing with his emotions.

Looking back, Napolitano says he's glad he made the move to be closer to family and friends. He's in his senior year and he's happy now.

And that big arm of his, he has finally been able to put it to good use.

No longer is he just kicking the ball as a punter. He's the starting quarterback at CdM.

For two seasons, he waited for his chance. In his first year as the signal caller, Napolitano has led CdM back to the CIF Southern Section Southern Division title game.

The top-seeded Sea Kings (13-0) play second-seeded Garden Grove (13-0) on Friday at Orange Coast College at 7 p.m. The contest is a rematch of last year's finale.

The last time these teams met, Napolitano didn't get on the field much, just three times as the punter.

"It feels really special," Napolitano says of being able to contribute more this time around. "I just want to slow it down and take in as much as possible.

"It's like no other sports team I've ever been on."

The Sea Kings are making a third straight section finals appearance with a new quarterback. Out of the three quarterbacks, Napolitano might be the best.

Scott Meyer coached Cayman Carter last year and Brent Lawson two years ago. Each went on to help their respective teams win section titles. Each went on to earn the All-CIF Southern Section Southern Division Offensive Player of the Year award in their respective senior year.

When comparing the current quarterback to Carter and Lawson, Meyer says Napolitano has the strongest arm and is the fastest. You won't find many who have the 6-foot-4 size and tools Napolitano possesses as a quarterback. Ivy League schools like the University of Pennsylvania and Yale, along with Nevada are interested in Napolitano as a quarterback and punter, a position he received All-CIF honors at last year.

As a quarterback, Napolitano is performing at a high level in the postseason. He has completed 42 of 52 passes for 668 yards and six touchdowns, with no interceptions in three games. Completing 80% of his passes is a testament to Napolitano's decision making.

All year, Napolitano has been making the right reads. He is 169 of 262 for 2,312 yards and 21 touchdowns, with eight interceptions. His 169 completions are a CdM single-season record, breaking Carter's mark of 167.

If CdM can get past Garden Grove in the championship for the second straight year, Napolitano can possibly add more school records to his name. The CdM single-season passing yards (2,519) and passing touchdowns (27) records, both held by Lawson, are within reach.

More than passing records are at stake on Friday. Winning means a lot more to Napolitano. And CdM has triumphed many times, 23 straight times dating back to last season.

Extending the school's best winning streak is the goal. The winner on Friday punches its ticket to the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III Bowl Game, the precursor to the CIF State Division III Bowl Game.

Napolitano believes CdM will get to continue its season and play two more games because of the immense talent on the team and the dedication players and coaches put forth on a daily basis. Never has CdM played more than 14 games in a season, not the 1988, 1989, 2011 and 2012 section championship teams.

The Sea Kings want to finish the magical season at 16-0. A perfect ending isn't possible, Napolitano says, without everyone's contributions, including those of his parents.

While his parents are no longer together, Linda and Augie love and support their teenage son.

"It was a real challenge," Augie says of seeing how his son dealt with the divorce. "He had a lot to overcome. He's a lot stronger now. We're all happy for him."

During championship week, Napolitano is staying with his mom. Next week, he hopes he and his dad can relive a championship win.

Luke Napolitano

Born: Aug. 7, 1995

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 200 pounds

Sport: Football

Year: Senior

Coach: Scott Meyer

Favorite food: Fettuccine Alfredo

Favorite movie: "Gladiator"

Favorite athletic moment: "Winning the Battle of the Bay."

Week in review: Napolitano completed 12 of 15 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown and rushed for one touchdown, leading CdM past Westminster, 37-14, in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs.

CIF-SS Title Game

Who: No. 1 Corona del Mar (13-0) vs. No. 2 Garden Grove (13-0)

What: CIF Southern Section Southern Division championship game

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Orange Coast College (LeBard Stadium)

Info: Game will have live stream online at http://www.foxsportswest.com. Game could be a sellout. To secure a game ticket, register and buy online at http://www.highschoolstubs.com.

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