Washington-bound quarterback Ethan Garbers threw for five more touchdown passes for state No. 21 Corona del Mar of Newport Beach in its win at No. 49 St. Francis of Mountain View on Friday, but the main takeaway from the game was the depth of the receiving corps. On a night when one of the top four receivers was lost to an ankle injury and another was slowed by a knee, Bradley Schlom decided it was his night to shine.
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After losing games last season to more physical squads such as JSerra of San Juan Capistrano and Grace Brethren of Simi Valley, it was imperative to Corona del Mar of Newport Beach football coach Dan O’Shea that he find a non-league opponent this season that could provide a similar test to his squad of loaded returnees. That might be particularly important if the Sea Kings want to get into the mix at winning the CIF Southern Section Division III title and making a run at a CIF divisional state crown.
“When I heard they were looking for someone (to play), I raised our hand,” sad O’Shea of the opportunity to play Friday night at St. Francis of Mountain View, which may be rebuilding this season but ironically beat Grace Brethren two seasons ago to win the CIF Division 2-A state crown. “We don’t have a team like this in OC (Orange County). It’s why we scheduled this game.”
Of course, O’Shea isn’t referring to CIFSS Division I teams like Mater Dei (Santa Ana), JSerra or Mission Viejo. He is referring to similar Orange County schools that his squad will play later this season. St. Francis isn’t like those OC heavyweights this year, either, but the Lancers still have some monsters in the middle, such as Mose Vavao (6-3, 315) and Afa Sanftt (6-0, 310).
With two 10-play drives to open the game, it looked like St. Francis might indeed have a lot of success keeping Corona del Mar’s offense on the sidelines. But the Sea Kings didn’t allow any points on those drives, their offense played at an efficient, elite-level all night long and it was the host Lancers who couldn’t keep up in a 42-14 defeat.
Washington committed quarterback Ethan Garbers racked up five more touchdown passes to the eight that he threw in the team’s season-opening triumph against Downey. Unofficially, he completed 24 of 38 passes for 305 yards with two interceptions (one on a tip), but it was challenging in one respect.
On Garbers’ first throw, a completion to Bradley Schlom, one of the other starting receivers, Simon Hall, was blocking upfield and got his ankle rolled up on from behind. Hall had to be carried off the field and was in street clothes with his foot on ice in the second half. Also on the first series, the team’s most well-known receiver, Stanford committed John Humphries, twisted his knee. Humphries played the rest of the game, but was stretching that knee throughout and had an ice pack on it at the finish.
Neither injury slowed the Corona del Mar offense, however. Schlom would have to be player of the game by catching three of Garbers’ touchdown passes and he ran back a kickoff 93 yards in the third quarter that quickly eliminated any momentum St. Francis had after it scored its second touchdown. Plus, Garbers found tight end Mark Redman (his future teammate at Washington) for two scores.
“If someone (like Humphries) doesn’t get a TD, it doesn’t matter,” Garbers said. “If I get zero touchdowns, it doesn’t matter. Winning a game like this is all that matters.
“The whole team has been amazing so far. We’re grinding every day and we play for each other.”
Humphries, who threatened the single-season state touchdown catch record before finishing with 28 in his junior season, was as happy as anyone for the big night that Schlom enjoyed.
“Bradley was great and that was good to see,” said Humphries, who laughed at the site of St. Francis’ famous tree as the Lancers’ band played Stanford fight songs at the field about 10 minutes from where he’ll go to college. “I got hurt on the first drive. It was bothering me, but everyone stepped up.
“We hope to go as far as we can this season and we’ll work as hard as we can. CIF D3 and state is what we want.”
Special teams played a big part in the Sea Kings’ victory as well. After they took a 14-0 lead on a nine-yard pass from Garbers to Redmond (his first TD came on a 1-yard toss to Schlom), O’Shea called for an onside kick. Corona del Mar recovered, which set up a 7-yard TD pass from Garbers to Schlom with just 2:47 left in the first half and a 21-0 lead.
In the third quarter, St. Francis showed signs of life by scoring on a short 23-yard drive that was set up by an interception. Sophomore Camilo Arquette, who is one of several sophomores that will play a lot for the Lancers this season (and who also had an interception on defense), got the touchdown on a 3-yard run.
St. Francis also reached the end zone later in the third quarter on a 1-yard plunge by fullback Joe Tongamoa. Unfortunately for the Lancers, that came after a 46-yard touchdown pass from Garbers to Schlom and then immediately after that score it was Schlom who raced for a back-breaking 93-yard kickoff return.
“In this game, we wanted to steal a possession so we decided at dinner to go for the onside kick early in the game,” O’Shea said. “With the way they run the ball, we didn’t want to get to 14-7 or 21-14. It was a big play in the game.”
The Sea Kings have a rare Friday afternoon contest next Friday at Palos Verdes of Palos Verdes Estates (also named the Sea Kings) and that could be another test based on Palos Verdes’ first two wins over Mission Hills of San Marcos and Moorpark.
For St. Francis, it’s — gulp — going to be even tougher. The Lancers travel to state No. 3 De La Salle of Concord.