Beckman High’s Jeff Kim had 1,326 yards rushing this season to lead the top-seeded Patriots into the CIF Southern Section's Southern Division title game. But with seven seconds left to play Friday night, he needed one more.
On a two-point conversion attempt to beat second-seeded Corona del Mar and win the championship, the Patriots handed off to Kim, who bounced off the first contact and tried to barrel through the line for the game-winning conversion; however, he was swallowed up by the Sea Kings' defense at the one-yard line and Corona del Mar won the Southern Division title, 14-13, at Orange Coast College.
Beckman had driven 62 yards in 1:48 to get to within 14-13 on a touchdown pass from senior Cameron Biedgoly to James Kaprielian just inside the right pylon with seven seconds left in the game. While lining up for the two-point conversion, the Patriots were flagged for delay of game. But the officials had ruled that Corona del Mar had called a timeout before the flag and the penalty was negated. Sea Kings coach Scott Meyer argued strenuously, but to no avail.
But Corona del Mar's defense held on the conversion attempt and Meyer’s emotions went from frustration to elation. “I went from one end to the other in a hurry, and I liked the way it finished,” said Meyer, who finished his first season as the Sea Kings coach.
The Patriots had driven to the Sea Kings' nine-yard line with just under six minutes left in the game and trailing, 14-7. On fourth-and-five, the Patriots tried a sweep by Kim, but he was cut off by Cole Cottrell and brought down for no gain to give the Sea Kings possession.
But they were unable to run out the clock and had to punt, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 37 with two minutes left and a chance to win the game. Still, the Sea Kings' defense had kept the Patriots on the ropes for most of the game. It was a big change from their previous meeting on Nov. 11, when Beckman scored 42 points, then held on to win by five and snatch away the Pacific Coast League title from the Sea Kings.
This time around, Corona del Mar held the Patriots to only 37 total yards in the first half, when the Sea Kings took a 7-0 led into intermission. “We made that a goal of ours to get off the field on third downs and that’s what we did tonight,” Cottrell said. Both defenses were in control early, but the Patriots were held to three plays and a punt on their first three possessions.
When they finally did get a first down, the Sea Kings forced them to punt three plays later. That set up an 11-play, 80-yard drive to finally break a scoreless tie. Senior running back Erik Fisher (71 yards rushing) and senior quarterback Brent Lawson used short-burst runs to keep the drive alive, but it was a 42-yard pass from Lawson to junior Chris Johnstone that put the Sea Kings at the Patriots' 15-yard line.
Beckman was flagged to two pass interference penalties in the end zone to keep the drive alive, and Lawson finally found junior Troy Reese in the front-right corner of the end zone, and Grant Garrett's PAT kick gave the Sea Kings a 7-0 lead, with four seconds left in the first half.
Corona del Mar stopped the Patriots at midfield on the opening possession of the third quarter and forced a punt. But the punt was muffed and the Patriots recovered at the Sea Kings' 22-yard line. Four plays later, Biedgoly pushed in from one yard to tie the score after Ryan Molina's PAT kick.
But the Sea Kings would answer right back on their ensuing possession. Four short runs got them to their 38-yard line, where Lawson would hit a wide open Josh Giger across the middle. With a couple of blockers downfield, Giger was able to weave through the Patriots' secondary untouched for a 62-yard touchdown to give the Sea Kings a 14-7 lead after Garrett's PAT kick.
Lawson finished with 71 rushing yards and 121 passing yards, completing an efficient eight of 11 attempts. Lawson’s composure and leadership has been a major factor in keeping the Sea Kings sharp in the playoffs. He reportedly has committed to Yale to play baseball. He has been a four-year varsity baseball player for the Sea Kings and carries a 4.3 GPA. “He’s just a great kid, a great player and a great leader,” Meyer said of his senior quarterback.
The Sea Kings finish the season at 12-2 and won their first section championship since 1989, when it won its second of back-to-back titles with a 21-10 victory over Westminster La Quinta. The Sea Kings beat Valencia, 17-7, in their only other championship-game appearance in 1988.
The victory also helped erase the tough memories of coming up short against Beckman in last season's semifinals and losing to the Patriots, 42-37, during the regular season. Beckman, which lost in last season's Southern Division final to Garden Grove in its only other title-game appearance, finished 11-3.
“It’s an unreal feeling, I can’t even describe it," Cottrell said. "I’m so proud of my guys. This team is a family. I don’t know how to explain it, we’re just a unit.”