By Brian Lichterman | Sports Editor
Behind a career performance by Corona del Mar quarterback Mitch Gardner, the Sea Kings shut out Anaheim last Friday to advance to the CIF semi-finals for the second time in three years.
During Gardner’s best performance of the year he went 18-26 for 270 yards, completed three touchdowns through the air, and ran for one on the ground.
The Sea Kings looked strong as ever as their defense came up huge once again, pitching a shutout and letting the offense do its thing.
CdM will now move on to face Beckman tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Tustin High School.
Head coach Jason Hitchens said he wants to “get over this last hurdle and get into the 14th [championship] game.” The Sea Kings haven’t been to that game in 21 years, but are looking strong this year as they march towards a championship.
The road to another finals appearance will go through Beckman, who the Sea Kings are familiar with, as they were pushed to a 17-15 victory over the Patriots during the regular season finale which gave them the Southern Division Championship outright.
On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Garden Grove will take on Norwood.
During last Friday’s game, Gardner came out of the gate quickly even though he didn’t have one of his favorite targets on the field in Clay Reinhardt. Reinhardt was held out of the first half because of a concussion he suffered during the previous game. Gardner hit five different receivers on the night, but Josh Giger led the Sea King receivers in catches (5) and yards (72).
Gardner gouged the middle of the field the entire game as Anaheim stayed in a cover-2 defense that left it wide open. Gardner’s longest passing touchdown of the night was a 46-yard strike to junior Erik Fisher on a play where Fisher dashed for 25 YAC. Once Reinhardt got into the game in the second half, Gardner found him for a 9-yard touchdown for the final score of the night.
Anaheim struggled the entire night, with fumbles by a few position players including two mishandled snaps by their punter. Needless to say, winning the turnover battle gave CdM terrific field position for most of the night and Anaheim was never able to recover from their mistakes.
If the Sea Kings can keep up their stellar defense and potent offense, they’ll certainly be a force to reckon with against Beckman tomorrow night – and then against either top-seeded Garden Grove or Norwood in the CIF Championship game.