CARSON, Calif. — Corona del Mar (Newport Beach)
football coach Scott Meyer had dinner with former UCLA coach and San Francisco 49ers General Manager Terry Donohue on Friday night. They have a mutual friend.
Donohue, who resides in Newport Beach, gave Meyer a little advice heading into the Sea Kings' CIF Division III Bowl game with
Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton)
"He told us to focus, execute the game plan, impose your will and have fun," Meyer said.
For a quarter, Corona del Mar accomplished all of the above and that's largely all it needed en route to a 27-15 victory Saturday at the StubHub Center.
The Sea Kings rode a fast start, 128 yards rushing by Cole Martin
and two touchdown passes from Luke Napolitano
to record the victory in a contest of first-time Bowl entrees. CDM raced to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, keyed by a 58-yard interception return by Barrett Barbato
to finish the season 16-0, the first Orange County team to do so.
Sacred Heart Prep (13-2) showed a lot of spunk and pose coming back, but it couldn't overcome the slow start or four turnovers. The Gators got 77 yards rushing and a touchdown from Ben Burr-Kirven
, who also recorded a game-high 16 tackles.
Two second-half field goals by Jason Neiger
sealed it for the Sea Kings, who gave up just 288 yards.
In the first 12 minutes, Corona del Mar showed why it was 15-0 coming in with a virtual perfect quarter en route to a 21-0 lead.
The Sea Kings took the opening kickoff and traveled 75 yards on nine plays, capped with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Napolitano to Bo St. Geme
to go up 7-0.
They made it 14-0 with 3:55 left in the first on Napolitano's second TD pass — a 5-yarder to H-back
. The score was set up on a bad snap punt that led to a negative 2-yard punt that led to a 31-yard drive.
See more images from the Division III Bowl game
Sacred Heart Prep's nightmare of a quarter was finished off when sophomore quarterback Mason Randall
's pass was intercepted by Barbato, who zipped down the SHP sideline 58 yards for a touchdown. That made it 21-0 with 11 seconds left in the quarter.
"He looked right in my direction and I just read his eyes," Barbato said. "That was the biggest touchdown of my life."
But the Gators, who stunned a vastly more- talented El Cerrito team 42-7 last week, kept their heads and climbed to within 21-15 by halftime.
A Napolitano pass slipped through the hands of a receiver, right into the mitts of linebacker Andrew Robinson
, who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. CDM jumped offside on the extra point, SHP sent back out its offense and Burr-Kirven leaped in to make it 21-8 with 8:06 left in the second.
Burr-Kirven, who rushed for 161 yards and four scores versus El Cerrito, was just getting started.
For the first time in the game, he got some running room around the left edge, made two sensational moves, and sprinted the final 25 yards untouched to complete a 47-yard touchdown run to cut the CDM lead to 21-15 with 3:25 left in the half.
Remarkably, in a game that seemed destined for a running clock, SHP held an edge in total yards by halftime (176-164). The secondary also locked into Napolitano, who was 6-for-15 with two interceptions in the first half. Meyer wasn't really surprised.
"That's a championship team," he said of SHP. "We were never comfortable with that lead. We knew they had a lot of fight."
But the Sea Kings just had a little more, especially on defense. They forced three second-half turnovers and no points.
"We haven't turned the ball over much all season," SHP coach Peter Lavorato said. "What are you going to do? The kids never quit and showed great effort and resiliency.
"That said, they played better than we did. They deserved to win."
Barbato led CDM with 10 tackles and Justin Hess had seven with a fumble recovery. Parker Chase and Hugh Crance each had fumble recovers.
"Our defense played outstanding," Meyer said. "They've been outstanding all year. ... Our goal was to win league, get back to the section finals and hopefully repeat. To go 16-0 and win a state championship wasn't really our goal. The seniors made it a goal of going undefeated and they did it. I couldn't be prouder of them."