Corona del Mar High’s football team said goodbye to the Pacific Coast League in the only way it has known since 2012.
The Sea Kings, who are heading off to the Sunset League next year, concluded their time in the Pacific Coast League with 30 consecutive league victories.
Their last one came in a thrilling shootout to close out the regular season.
In a first-place showdown, CdM beat host Woodbridge 41-21 to clinch its sixth straight outright league title on Friday night at University High.
Unlike in their previous four league games, the Sea Kings (9-1, 5-0 in league) faced a challenge.
“We had an incredible gut check from Woodbridge,” said Sea Kings coach Dan O’Shea, whose team went into Friday only allowing four points per game in league. “I’m not sure there is a team that we’ve respected and had more battles with than Woodbridge in the PCL. We’re going to miss those guys.”
Woodbridge (7-3, 4-1) pulled to within a touchdown at 28-21 with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter. A 99-yard drive ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nick Nash to Will Serio.
The Warriors, who allowed touchdowns on all four of CdM’s possessions in the first half, came up with a second straight stop to open the second half. Sam Tipple dragged down Alex Pourdanesh for a two-yard loss on a fourth-down play near midfield.
It would be the only time that Woodbridge seemed to be able to bottle up Pourdanesh. The senior running back punished defenders all night with his 6 feet 2, 238-pound frame.
Pourdanesh rushed 22 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns for CdM.
It was appropriate that Pourdanesh’s best game with the Sea Kings would come on the field where his high school football career began.
“On the bus ride here, I was thinking, ‘Wow, never would I have thought in my past that I would finish my last regular-season game here on this field where I really became a football player, as a Sea King,’” said Pourdanesh, a transfer from University High.
“It’s definitely a life-changing experience for me, and I honestly could not have done it without our insanely talented offensive line.”
CdM quarterback Nathaniel Espinoza threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns, adding 126 yards on the ground for two more scores.
Espinoza found his two primary targets — TaeVeon Le (83 yards) and John Humphreys (80 yards) — for touchdowns in the first half.
As one of Orange County’s top track and field programs in the sprints and relays, the speed of the athletes produced at Woodbridge is well documented.
Espinoza’s counterpart, Nash, proved to be a tough quarterback to bring down in the backfield. Nash extended plays with his legs, completing 19 of 37 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball 15 times for 156 yards.
“He’s why we are where we’re at,” Warriors coach Rick Gibson said of Nash. “He makes some big plays out of stuff that doesn’t look like it’s there.”
The Warriors went 80 yards on their first two drives. The first ended with a 16-yard touchdown by running back Chance Rainey on a swing route to the left. Nash connected with Elyjah Rush for a 10-yard score on the next drive to put Woodbridge up 14-7 with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
Woodbridge was able to take the ball on deep drives all night, but the Sea Kings were able to stop the Warriors on fourth down in CdM territory on three separate occasions.
While manning the defensive line, Cameron Prudhomme broke up a couple of passes for CdM. Talal Benamed recorded the Sea Kings’ only sack of the night.
“They’re very blessed athletically in the skilled positions,” O’Shea said of the challenge his team received from the Warriors. “Their quarterback is just dynamic. He is a handful. Hats off to Woodbridge, and we wish them well in the playoffs.”
The section will release the playoff pairings on Sunday at 10 a.m. CdM, which is ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 poll, expects one of the top four seeds in its division.
A year ago, the Sea Kings reached the section finals in the same division.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Corona del Mar 7 – 21 – 0 – 13 — 41
Woodbridge 14 – 0 – 7 – 0 — 21
W – Rainey 16 pass from N. Nash (Trestik kick), 8:14.
CdM – Espinoza 20 run (Casper kick), 4:52.
W – Rush 10 pass from N. Nash (Trestik kick), 1:47.
CdM – A. Pourdanesh 1 run (Casper kick), 11:56.
CdM – Humphreys 13 pass from Espinoza (Casper kick), 8:47.
CdM – Le 14 pass from Espinoza (Casper kick), 0:41.
W – Serio 15 pass from N. Nash (Trestik kick), 4:06.
CdM – A. Pourdanesh 4 run (Casper kick), 11:29.
CdM – Espinoza 2 run (kick failed), 2:28.
CdM – Pourdanesh, 22-204, 2 TDs.
W – N. Nash, 15-156.
CdM – Espinoza, 14-23-0, 207, 2 TDs.
W – N. Nash, 19-37-0, 230, 2 TDs.
CdM – Le, 6-83, 1 TD.
W – Rush, 7-81, 1 TD.