By Christopher Abdelmalek
For the first time in school history, the Marina Vikings of Huntington Beach are CIF-SS football champions, after defeating the Muir Mustangs from Pasadena 18-9 at Boswell Field in Westminster in the final round of the Division 11 playoffs. The Vikings were sparked by their defense, which forced four turnovers including two from two-way starter Dane Brenton.
The Vikings, who finished the season 12-2 overall, were led offensively by Gavin Del Toro, who completed 7-of -13 for 63 yards and one touchdown. Pharoah Rush was the top runner with 64 yards on 17 carries. Brantt Riederich carried for 55 yards on 17 carries.
The Mustangs were looking to end a 30-year drought on Friday night led by their all-star quarterback Amaris Harrison. Their last championship came in 1989 so the pressure was on them to produce. The night did not start off well for Harrison as the first play of the game he threw his first interception on the on the night.
Marina would throw an interception as well, when Del Toro threw an errand screen pass right to the defensive lineman Carlos Ramirez.
After several three and outs for both teams, Muir got the ball back late in the first quarter and attempted to make a splash play to get the offense moving. Harrison dropped back and launched a deep ball over the middle, but Brenton was in the right place and picked off Harrison for the second time in the quarter.
“Defense was on point, we all did our best. Every time they threw it deep, I was there to pick it off,” said Brenton.
Early in the second quarter the Vikings opened the scoring when Del Toro tossed a pretty ball to the back of the end zone for a 25-yard strike to Brenton. The two would connect again on the two-point conversion to make it an 8-0 score.
Shortly after that, the Mustangs answered back. About midway through quarter, Harrison launched another pass down the sideline this time connecting to Calen Bullock for a 53-yard touchdown to bring them to within 8-7.
The Vikings started the second half with the ball and proceeded to march down the field to the tune of a six-minute drive. However, it would stall out for Vikings ending with a turnover on downs.
After a quick series for the Mustangs and a punt, the Vikings had the ball back and produced another long drive and winning the time of possession battle in the game. However, their long drives were coming up just a bit short as they once again stalled out this time it was missed a 31-yard field goal.
With the ball on their own 27-yard line, the Mustangs took over with just about eight minutes left in the game. With the pressure mounting on the Mustangs, they make a crucial mistake on the punt giving the Viking the ball first and goal on one-yard line.
Del Toro wasted no time, taking it in himself for the one-yard QB sneak to make it 15-7 lead over Muir.
With the ball and the game on the line, Harrison dropped back and tossed another interception to Brenton. He returned the ball down to the Muir’s 18-yard line to set up a field goal for the Vikings making it 18-7 with less than five minutes left in the game.
Down late and looking for a miracle Harrison once again dropped back to pass and threw his fourth interception of the night with 1:35 left in the game. Ronny Slavens again came away with the pick.
After an intentional safety to make it 18-9, the defense shut down the Mustangs one last time to clinch the first-ever championship for the Vikings. “Indescribable, there are no other words to say,” Del Toro said after the game. “Never doubt Marina!” he shouted.
Coach Jeff Turley was emotional after the victory, saying, “We are truly blessed.”
Categories: High school sports