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Football: Sophomore Blindsides Garden Grove as CdM Wins Title

Sophomore Anthony Battista steals the show and breaks Garden Grove's heart as Corona del Mar scores a 42-21 victory over the previously unbeaten Argonauts.

Corona del Mar's Anthony Battista (28) looks for his next move while Garden Grove's Sione Masoe (12) dives in. Photo/Craig Takata
Corona del Mar's Anthony Battista (28) looks for his next move while Garden Grove's Sione Masoe (12) dives in. Photo/Craig Takata
By Martin Henderson

Anthony Battista didn’t figure into Corona del Mar’s game plan on Friday, and it’s a good thing.

Garden Grove never saw him coming.

Battista, a sophomore who began the season on the junior varsity, darted for two touchdowns and carried top-seeded Corona del Mar past the second-seeded Argonauts, 42-21, for the program’s third consecutive Southern Section Southern Division title.

In the game of his life, Battista did almost all his damage in the second half as Corona del Mar stole back momentum and broke open a 14-14 deadlock on the strength of Battista’s young, fresh legs.

“Battista was incredible running the ball, he has great vision, made some huge runs for us tonight,” CdM Coach Scott Meyer said. “It seemed like every time he touched the ball he made huge runs for us.

“He’s been doing that all year long for us, and it was a great night for him to have one of his best nights of the year. He had the hot hand.”

It wasn’t just Battista’s best night of the year, it was the best night of his life. He entered the game with 787 yards.

“Oh yeah, a great game, fun game,” Battista said after surpassing his previous best game, 17 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns in a starting role against Capistrano Valley when Cole Martin (18 carries, 58 yards) was hurt. “The line did a great job and opened up great holes. It’s a great feeling to do it for the team, do it for the fans.”

Battista carried 11 times for 163 yards, but it was the manner in which he did it that was so shockingly impressive. A human dart against a solid Garden Grove defense that had six shutouts, Battista flashed left and right on a 20-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and did the same thing on his second touch of the night early in the third, when he bolted for a 41-yard score and a 21-14 lead.

After a three-and-out, he played a prominent role in CdM’s next scoring drive, rushing 13, 12 and 15 yards on successive carries to get the Sea Kings to the 11-yard line, where Luke Napolitano passed to wide-open Bo St. Geme for a 28-14 advantage.

Battista wasn’t done, but he wasn’t Corona del Mar’s first choice, either. Early in the fourth quarter, the resilient Garden Grove offense scored again, on Angel Martinez’s 1-yard run that pulled the Argonauts to 28-21 with 10 minutes 13 seconds remaining.

Both teams went three-and-out as Battista stood on the sidelines. But with the game clock showing 6:52 left, CdM simply put the game in Battista's hands. He carried six consecutive plays for 64 of CdM’s 66-yard scoring drive—Napolitano scored on a sneak to go ahead, 35-21, with 3:33 remaining.

Battista had only one carry less than 9 yards.

“He had a burst,” Garden Grove coach Willy Puga said. “He was fresh, he found a little hole and ‘boom,’ he was in the secondary.”

And on this night, he was secondary to none.

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