Corona del Mar quarterback Nathaniel Espinoza runs for a short gain against El Toro’s Wes Henderson. El Toro High School’s football team was taking on Corona de Mar High School in a football game which was played at El Toro High School Lake Forest, CA on Friday, September 8, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
PUBLISHED: September 8, 2017 at 11:21 pm | UPDATED: September 9, 2017 at 3:09 am
El Toro’s Noah Aguilar wasn’t able to bring in this pass El Toro High School’s football team was taking on Corona de Mar High School in a football game which was played at El Toro High School Lake Forest, CA on Friday, September 8, 2017. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
LAKE FOREST – Corona del Mar started the season with a loss to JSerra.
The Sea Kings look like a different team now.
Quarterback Nathaniel Espinosa threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns Friday in Corona del Mar’s 39-15 nonleague win over El Toro at El Toro High.
Espinosa completed passes to six different receivers. Senior Tae Le had six receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore John Humphries had six catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Le, a top recruit who is still uncommitted, said the Sea Kings (2-1) are much better than they were in their season-opening loss to JSerra, 45-24.
“Leaps and bounds,” said Le, describing the level of improvement. “We’ve brought in a lot of young guys in and taught them how we do it here at CdM.”
Espinosa, given the task of replacing last year’s All-Orange County quarterback Chase Garbers, had by far his best game of the young season. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior completed 23 of 33 passes and ran for a touchdown.
The Sea Kings had a 16-8 lead at halftime over El Toro (1-2). They scored 20 points in the third quarter – a 10-yard touchdown run by Espinosa, a 38-yard touchdown pass from Espinosa to Spencer Hook, and a 12-yard touchdown run by senior running back JT Murphy that created a lead of 36-8.
Corona del Mar took a 3-0 lead on a 41-yard field goal by Max Casper in the first quarter.
El Toro went ahead, 8-3, later in the quarter on a 27-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Cooper Jones to senior receiver Austin Derrico and the two-point conversion pass from Jones to junior tight end Sam Whipple.
Corona del Mar quickly regained the lead on a 62-yard touchdown pass from Espinosa to Humphries, who already has established himself as one of the top sophomores in Orange County football. Humphries got behind the coverage and hauled in Espinosa’s pass on the run. Casper’s kick for the extra point put the Sea Kings on top, 10-8.
Le is one of the better jump-ball receivers in O.C. He made such a catch for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Espinosa, on the run with El Toro tacklers in pursuit, heaved the ball to the end zone where Le and El Toro senior defensive back Wes Henderson jumped for the ball. They came down with it simultaneously in the end zone; simultaneous possession in that situation, by rule, gives the ball to the offensive player so it was a Corona del Mar touchdown. The extra-point kick missed, leaving the Sea Kings with a 16-8 lead that stood until the third quarter.
After that 20-point surge in the third quarter, Corona del Mar added three points on a 42-yard field goal by Casper. El Toro scored in the game’s final minute on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Derrico.
Jones finished with 289 passing yards. Derrico had seven catches for 181 yards. Noah Aguilar had 6 receptions for 59 yards for the Chargers.
Corona del Mar’s next game is against Newport Harbor, the annual Battle of the Bay, on Friday, Sept. 15, at Newport Harbor High.
El Toro next week plays at Tesoro in a nonleague game Friday, Sept. 15.