The Corona del Mar High football team wasn’t supposed to need not one but two late goal-line stands to secure Saturday night’s Southern California Regional Division I-A bowl game against visiting Oceanside.
The Pirates got nearly right to the goal line on the last play of the game but couldn’t get farther as two players wearing jersey No. 7 met head-on.
Corona del Mar outside linebacker Mason Gecowets tackled Kavika Tua just short and the Sea Kings earned a 14-7 victory at Newport Harbor High.
Corona del Mar (15-0) will play Northern California champion San Mateo Serra (13-1) for the Division I-A state title next Saturday at Cerritos College.
Against Oceanside (11-4), the Sea Kings, who came in averaging 48 points, did not score in the first half and lost five fumbles.
Coach Dan O’Shea said it was a bit of a hangover game for the Sea Kings after winning the program’s sixth CIF championship last week.
“As much time, energy and passion went into last week, it’s hard to bounce back,” O’Shea said. “We just were not on point mentally and focused. They’re young kids, and we felt it all week.”
Oceanside took a 7-0 lead late in the third quarter on a five-yard touchdown run by Tua, who finished with 27 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown. That seemed to awaken the Sea Kings, who scored touchdowns on their next two drives.
The game seemed to be all but over when Chandler Fincher made an interception at the Sea Kings’ one-yard line with 1 minute 35 seconds to go. But Oceanside’s Cannon Belew recovered a fumble on the next play.
On fourth and goal at the Sea Kings eight, an Oceanside pass was incomplete but pass interference was called, moving the ball to the four. This set up the Pirates’ final play on offense and Gecowets’ game-saving tackle, which gave the ball to the Sea Kings with 27 seconds left.
Ethan Garbers’ one touchdown pass gave him 67 this season to tie Mater Dei’s JT Daniels in 2016 and Western’s Anthony Muñoz in 2018 for the Southern Section and Orange County record.