Peñaloza: Meyer leads the way

The first coaches meeting for Scott Meyer at Corona del Mar High is one he will never forget.

The meeting came 2 1/2 years ago, right after the school hired Meyer as the head football coach. He had seen all the CIF Southern Section championship banners covering the walls in the gym. The time had come to meet many of those coaches responsible for the banners.

"I looked around and I think every single coach in that room had won at least one CIF title, a lot of them more, some state championships," Meyer says. "I knew the expectations were high, which was great [because] you want to be at a school that wants to be successful. It wasn't so much intimidating, but I knew I was at a school that had a lot of success.

"I kind of looked around the room again, and said, 'I hope we do well.'"

Meyer has done pretty well during his three years at the helm of the Sea Kings. He has led the program to an unprecedented three straight CIF Southern Section football titles, all in the Southern Division.

The Sea Kings can add a couple more CIF championship banners under Meyer this month.

The Sea Kings make their debut in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III Bowl Game on Saturday at Orange Coast College at 7:30 p.m. If the Sea Kings (14-0) defeat Nordhoff (13-1), they're the Southern California Regional champions and earn a shot to play in the CIF State Division III Bowl Game at the StubHub Center in Carson on Dec. 21.

The success has come fast for Meyer, 49, who in his first stint as a head coach never led Long Beach Jordan to a playoff win during his six years.

Meyer arrived at CdM at an ideal time, taking over a program that was on the cusp of winning a section crown. The Sea Kings reached the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs twice during Jason Hitchens' three years in charge.

In Meyer's debut season with CdM, the Sea Kings broke through. After Meyer led the program to its first section title since 1989, he thanked the man he replaced.

"[He] really changed the culture and kind of got the ball rolling here," Meyer says of Hitchens, who brought a serious brand of football to CdM.

A couple members of Hitchens' staff joined Meyer in his first year. One remained with Meyer.

Dennis Wilbanks, an offensive line coach, is the one. He helped an outsider like Meyer, who's from Long Beach, transition into the job.

"He was really good [to have]," Meyer says. "He had been here and knew kind of the way things worked in the program, around the school, in the [Pacific Coast League]."

In three years, Meyer is more than up to speed on everything. He has turned CdM into one of most dominant programs in Orange County.

In three years, the Sea Kings have gone 38-4 overall and 14-1 in league, claiming two league titles and three section titles. They are also on a school-best 24-game winning streak. Two more wins this year and CdM ties Los Alamitos and Mission Viejo for the sixth-longest winning streak in the county's history.

The success doesn't seem like it will end any time soon. The Sea Kings' two lower-level programs finished undefeated this season and they expect 14 varsity starters to return next season. Most of them are on the defensive side, as only one senior, safety Charlie Griffin, starts.

Another key senior CdM will lose is center Giovanni Gentosi. He has started since his sophomore year, 42 straight games to date. Every game Meyer has coached at CdM, he has been able to rely on Gentosi.

Two others Meyer has leaned on for three years are Dan O'Shea and Kevin Hettig, his defensive and offensive coordinators. They even brought their dads, Jack O'Shea and Bob Hettig, to give Meyer a hand from the beginning.

Both Dan O'Shea and Kevin Hettig teach at Trabuco Hills, which has an opening for a head football coach. The job became available this week, when the school fired Scott Orloff.

"They'd both be fantastic head coaches," Meyer says of O'Shea and Hettig, who have previously been assistants at Trabuco Hills, helping the school advance to the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division finals in 2007 and '09. "But they told me [on Wednesday] that they're very, very happy here and committed to staying here and continuing to help build this program."

There is a little unfinished business for Meyer and his staff. There is Saturday's game against Nordhoff and then hopefully next week's CIF State Division III Bowl Game against the winner of the Northern California Regional Division III Bowl Game between Atherton Sacred Heart Prep (12-1) and El Cerrito (12-2).

There is one more thing in the plans.

When Meyer came to CdM, he talked about playing home games on campus, rather than at rival Newport Harbor High. That might be happening in a couple of years, as board members of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District voted unanimously in September to fund a $7.4-million stadium at CdM.

The approval makes sense to Meyer. The other successful coaches at CdM get to guide their respective teams during games on campus. Meyer hopes he can in the near future.

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