Garbers and Humphreys play throw and catch as Corona del Mar stays unbeaten

Quarterback Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar poses with his offensive line after 42-21 win over San Clemente.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Competition to attract top high school football players in Orange County goes on nonstop. It’s not only public vs. private school, it’s neighborhood vs. neighborhood.

Two public schools that have successfully made the case for players to stay in their communities — Corona del Mar and San Clemente — squared off on Thursday night in a matchup of unbeaten teams at Newport Harbor.

“Awesome game,” Corona del Mar coach Dan O’Shea said. “Beach city vs. beach city. We focus on our hometown kids.”


Corona del Mar’s ability to keep quarterback Ethan Garbers and receiver John Humphreys together for four years has made all the difference. The two senior standouts were at their best in leading the Sea Kings to a 42-21 victory to improve to 5-0.

“You can’t beat it. Nothing like it,” Garbers said of his four-year partnership with Humphreys.

Garbers, a Washington commit, completed 30 of 39 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Humphreys, a Stanford commit, caught eight passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns.

The first touchdown of the game was vintage Humphreys. Garbers lofted the ball high into the right corner of the end zone. Even though San Clemente’s Nick Billoups had the inside position, the 6-foot-5 Humphreys simply grabbed the ball above Billoups for the score.

“It’s so much fun,” Garbers said. “We work on that play every day.”

Said Humphreys: “We like to use our strengths to our advantage near the goal line. It’s a 50-50 ball.”

Humphreys said he was 100% after undergoing a “procedure” to remove cartilage from his knee and taking last week off.

Humphreys had plenty of company. Bradley Schlom caught nine passes for 153 yards and one touchdown. Mark Redman caught seven passes.

San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz knew the challenge for his team about trying to figure out a way to contain Corona del Mar’s receivers.

“Smoke and mirrors,” he said. “Those receivers are legit.”

Garbers was 14 of 21 passing for 223 yards and two touchdowns as Corona del Mar took a 21-14 halftime lead. Billoups rallied the Tritons (5-1) from a 14-0 deficit. He took over the quarterback duties after the first two series and had touchdown passes of five yards to Cole Batson and 12 yards to Preston Rex. He also intercepted a Garbers pass at the end of the half.

Corona del Mar took charge at the outset of the third quarter. Garbers connected with Humphreys on a four-yard touchdown pass and Kevin Ledezma blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a 35-14 lead.

Both programs have been thriving in a time when participation numbers have been declining and freshman teams have been forced to combine with junior varsity teams because lack of players. Corona del Mar and San Clemente are seeing no such trends. The Sea Kings have 63 players on their freshman team and San Clemente is at 83.

“Every single kid on the roster lives in Newport Beach,” O’Shea said. “I think that’s the reason they want to be part of the program.”

Afterward, Garbers was being held up by his offensive line for a photo session. Many have been his protectors since middle school.

It’s part of the magic of playing high school sports for your community school.