In the buildup to the CIF-SS Division 4 football semifinal clash between Yorba Linda and Corona del Mar, the Sea Kings, led by first-year coach Kevin Hettig, invested significant time devising a game plan aimed at containing the Mustangs’ formidable offense, particularly their potent running attack.
The meticulously crafted strategy proved highly effective, with the Sea Kings limiting Yorba Linda to one of its lowest point totals of the season, resulting in a 28-14 victory at Newport Harbor High School. This win marks Corona del Mar’s return to the Southern Section finals for the first time since 2019, setting the stage for a championship showdown with La Serna.
The Sea Kings’ defensive prowess was on full display as they successfully curtailed the impressive rushing performance of Mustangs running back Chase Jones. Jones, who had been averaging 118 yards per game with 18 touchdowns, was held to just 56 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns.
Coach Hettig attributed the success to the tenacity displayed by the Sea Kings’ defense throughout the night, giving credit to defensive coordinator Brian Pearsall for implementing a flawless game plan. Reflecting on last year’s semifinal defeat against Yorba Linda, Hettig noted that it served as motivation, focusing his team for the challenging encounter.
The first half of the game lived up to expectations, featuring a defensive struggle. Yorba Linda initiated scoring with a well-executed screen pass from Holdin Nagin to Jason Escovar, resulting in a 42-yard touchdown. Corona del Mar responded late in the second quarter as quarterback Kaleb Annett connected with Wyatt Lucas for a 26-yard touchdown, leveling the score.
The Sea Kings seized control in the second half, initiating a 74-yard scoring drive that culminated in Annett’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Russell Weir, providing Corona del Mar with its first lead. Capitalizing on Mustangs’ mistakes, the Sea Kings extended their lead with successive scores, ultimately securing a 28-7 advantage.
Despite Yorba Linda narrowing the gap with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Nagin to Jake Winners, the Sea Kings’ defense held firm, preventing a late-game comeback. Yorba Linda coach Jeff Bailey acknowledged the effectiveness of Corona del Mar’s game plan, stating, “They made it hard for us to run all night. They made it hard for us to do anything. They had a great game plan. We didn’t have our best night.”
With this commanding victory, Corona del Mar advances to the Division 4 finals, aiming to secure the championship against La Serna in their upcoming matchup.