Staying sharp off a bye week presented a challenge Friday night for the Corona del Mar High football team, the top-ranked two-time defending champions of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division.
No. 3 Irvine presented another challenge, as did losing All-CIF senior middle linebacker Alex Moore for the year with a torn ACL.
But, if there is one thing the Sea Kings had shown during their school record 15-game winning streak, it was that they could rise above such challenges.
Make it 16 in a row. The Sea Kings put together one of their more impressive games of that run, blanking the Vaqueros, 36-0, in the teams' Pacific Coast League opener at Davidson Field.
"That's the way you want to start [league]," CdM Coach Scott Meyer said after the Sea Kings won on homecoming night. "We finished with a lot of momentum against Capo [a 43-14 nonleague win two weeks ago], then we had to get through the bye week, and now we've got the momentum rolling again."
Meyer said Moore tore his ACL in the win over Capistrano Valley, and had surgery on Wednesday. In Friday night's game, the Sea Kings moved junior Hoyt Crance inside; Crance typically plays outside linebacker.
Offensively, CdM did it largely by passing the ball, especially in the first half. Senior quarterback Luke Napolitano had 255 yards passing and three touchdowns, both season-highs. Junior receiver Cole Collins had six catches for 104 yards, and two of the scores were caught by junior receiver Bo St. Geme.
"Obviously we have a great running back in Cole Martin, and our line works hard every week," St. Geme said. "We get that going, but we kind of felt like we were a little bit too one-dimensional. Going into league, we focused on working on the passing game, opening it up and making it harder on defenses."
CdM (6-0) started a bit slow, with just a 3-0 lead after a quarter on a 30-yard field goal by Jason Neiger. But they went on an eight-play, 77-yard drive keyed by a fake punt to score their first touchdown against the Vaqueros (4-2).
It came on the ground, as Martin ran it in from 10 yards out with 7:07 left in the second quarter. Martin, who missed the Capo Valley game due to a sprained ankle, returned to record 102 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
But the Sea Kings kept things going through the air. Napolitano found senior tight end Braden Brahs on a 14-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. It gave CdM a 17-0 lead at halftime.
They scored twice more in the third quarter, once on Napolitano's six-yard touchdown pass to St. Geme and once on a two-yard run by Martin.
Defensively, the Sea Kings were stifling, recording their sixth shutout during their winning streak. They were able to limit Irvine's running game, as the Vaqueros had 31 combined carries for 105 yards. Junior fullback Wesley Kim did most of that damage for the visitors, with 59 yards.
The closest Irvine got to scoring was after recovering a CdM fumble in the Sea Kings' territory just before halftime. But, after a pass was complete to the Sea Kings' 28-yard line, the ball was ripped out of the receiver's hands and CdM junior Barrett Barbato recovered.
"After all of the momentum we built up through the nonleague schedule, we didn't want to let that down," St. Geme said. "We all know how good we can be, as long as we focus.
"We wanted to send a message to our league, along with our division. Obviously, Irvine's a good team, but we focused on them and we worked really hard in practice this week. We're just focused on one week at a time. We knew coming in that they were going to give us their best shot, and we were prepared for it."
No other Pacific Coast League teams are ranked top 10 in the Southern Division, but Meyer said Woodbridge should be a good test for his team next week.
Corona del Mar 36, Irvine 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Irvine 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0
CdM 3 – 14 – 12 – 7 — 36
CdM – Neiger 30 FG, 7:26.
CdM – Martin 10 run (Boyse kick), 7:07.
CdM – Brahs 14 pass from Napolitano (Boyse kick), 2:30.
CdM – St. Geme 6 pass from Napolitano (kick failed), 8:58.
CdM – Martin 3 run (kick failed), 4:54.
CdM – St. Geme 6 pass from Napolitano (Hunter kick), 8:53.
Irv – Kim, 15-59.
CdM – Martin, 14-102, 2 TDs; Battista, 11-65.
Irv – Miller, 8-16-0, 71.
CdM – Napolitano, 18-27-1, 255, 3 TDs.
Irv – Del Rio, 1-19.
CdM – Collins, 6-104; Brahs, 2-52, 1 TD; St. Geme, 6-46, 2 TDs.