Football: Corona del Mar 24, Ojai Nordhoff 8

State Regional Final: Defense and special teams make big plays as the Sea Kings advance to play in the State Bowl Championship.

Matt Deverian (19) gets sideline direction after his interception return for a touchdown gave Corona del Mar a 10-0 lead. Photo/Craig Takata
Matt Deverian (19) gets sideline direction after his interception return for a touchdown gave Corona del Mar a 10-0 lead. Photo/Craig Takata
By Martin Henderson

Corona del Mar showed what champions are made of on Saturday night at Orange Coast College.

On a night when the offense needed carrying, the defense and special teams provided the big plays to ease the burden as the Sea Kings scored a 24-8 victory over Ojai Nordhoff in the State Bowl Championship South Regional.

Parker Chase, Robby Hoffman and Matt Deverian all had outstanding nights, and eventually the offense—and particularly the connection between quarterback Luke Napolitano and receiver Bo St. Geme—came around.

Corona del Mar will play next Saturday, noon, at the StubHub Center in Carson when it plays Atherton Sacred Heart Prep (13-1) for the Division III State Bowl Championship. Sacred Heart was a 42-7 winner Saturday over El Cerrito in the North Regional.

Score: Corona del Mar 24, Ojai Nordhoff 8

Key Stats: Luke Napolitano passed for 152 yards and a touchdown; nine of his 14 completions were to Bo St. Geme for 115 yards, including a 37-yard score.

Pivotal Moment: A blocked punt had already set up a field goal and a 3-0 lead, but when Nordhoff’s second possession ended in a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by Matt Deverian, it was a game-changer. It was a two possession game, and the Rangers—whose strength is running the ball—suddenly were playing a game of pick-your-poison.

Quotable I: “They’re extremely well coached, they don’t make a whole lot of mistakes, and they really don’t have a weakness,” said Nordhoff coach Tony Henney. “There’s not a guy on the team that you look at and say, ‘There’s the weak link, let’s go at that guy.’ They’re really sound. We made mistakes tonight, and if you make mistakes against a team that’s talented and sound, you get that result that we just had. The interception for the touchdown was the killer because it gave them a 10-0 lead and it was a 10-0 lead in which our defense had played pretty well and held them to a field goal. Now you’re in a two-score game, and it changes our play-calling because now we’re trying to catch them to get back in, and we couldn’t really just stay with our run game which they were stuffing. They made us do something that we weren’t as used to do. Like I said, they’re well coached.”

Quotable II: “We have a special group of guys and knew at the beginning of the season it could develop into something. Actually seeing it in place is fun to watch, it’s fun to be a part of,” said Bo St Geme. “Our defense played tremendous all four quarters. We knew we had to pick them up going into halftime, we knew had to keep on fighting, knew we were going to get openings.”

Quotable III: “The pick-six for a score was obviously a big momentum changer, and for us to get those points on defense was huge because they played great defense all night,” said Corona del Mar coach Scott Meyer. “(Nordhoff’s) a tough team and played with a lot of heart and our guys matched that. We felt like if we could stop the run we would be able to handle the passing game and for the most part we did that. Those guys have been scoring a lot of points all year and to hold them to eight is doing pretty good.”

Records: Corona del Mar (15-0), Nordhoff (13-2)

Notes: The Sea Kings blocked two punts, both by Robby Hoffman, both of which led to field goal opportunities. The first was successful, as sophomore Jason Neiger kicked a 32-yarder. He later missed from 36 and 26 yards. … How stout was the Sea Kings’ defense against a Nordhoff team that had averaged 36 points per game? Nordhoff’s six possessions in the first half ended in a blocked punt, an interception returned for a touchdown, a punt, an interception by Charlie Griffin, a blocked punt, and a missed field goal. … Nordhoff might have scored on its sixth possession with two seconds remaining, but Tanner Workman’s 7-yard TD pass to Austin Wolcott was negated by a holding penalty. The 37-yard field goal attempt by Cooper Garcia was no good. … 

Were the Rangers in panic mode? On fourth-and-1 on their first drive of the second half, they tried to convert a fourth-and-1 at their own 46. Hoffman tackled Matt Woodcock for a 2-yard loss. … Six plays later, Napolitano heaved a 36-yard scoring pass to St. Geme behind the Rangers’ secondary. … Corona del Mar had a six-minute scoring drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Napolitano running untouched for 11 yards and a 24-0 lead. … Anthony Battista didn’t have a repeat of the monster game he had in the Southern Division championship against Garden Grove in which he carried 11 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. The Nordhoff defense was dialed in on him and he was held to 32 yards on 13 carries. … Cole Martin did have a nice game, rushing to a tough 83 yards. … Make no mistake, CdM didn’t win this game on offense. It was the defense that deserved the game ball.  … The Rangers (13-2) scored with 2:10 remaining on Tanner Workman’s 3-yard pass to Austin Wolcott, and a pass to Matt Woodcock on the conversion. … Nordhoff was coming off its second consecutive Southern Section championship.


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