GARDEN GROVE — "Chase the ring" is the chant for the Corona del Mar High football team as the players exit their postgame huddle.
The Sea Kings are now just a game away from playing for their second straight ring.
They withstood an inspired effort from Los Amigos in the first half of Friday night's CIF Southern Section Southern Division quarterfinal playoff game.
In the second half, CdM looked like the top-seeded defending champion that it is.
The Sea Kings pulled away, blanking the Lobos, 26-0, at Bolsa Grande High. They will play Pacific Coast League foe Woodbridge in the semifinals.
Woodbridge edged No. 4-seeded Katella, 21-19, in another CIF quarterfinal game.
In the first half Friday, Los Amigos (8-4) looked as if it could pull off the upset of CdM (10-2). The Sea Kings led just 7-0 at halftime. It was nothing like last year, when the Sea Kings overpowered Los Amigos, 45-7, in a quarterfinal game at Jim Scott Stadium.
The Lobos nearly took the lead late in the first quarter Friday, but CdM sophomore defensive lineman Hoyt Crance recovered a fumbled snap at the CdM 12-yard line. Corona del Mar's only first-half touchdown came on a one-yard sneak by senior quarterback Cayman Carter. The play was set up after Carter found Bo St. Geme on a 28-yard completion that made it first-and-goal.
"Los Amigos played really, really hard," CdM Coach Scott Meyer said. "In the first half [it] hit some big third downs and kept the ball away from our offense a little bit. You've got to give credit to Los Amigos in the first half. They had us off-balance a little bit; we couldn't get our rhythm. But in the second half, we were able to get things going."
Midway through the third quarter, Los Amigos gave up a safety when a high snap forced the punter to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone. CdM took advantage of the ensuing free kick, starting its next drive at the Los Amigos 46-yard line.
Seven plays later, on fourth-and-goal, Carter ran it in from one yard out. Grif Amies' extra point gave the Sea Kings a 16-0 advantage.
On the next possession, Carter found a rhythm with senior receiver Troy Reese. He completed a five-yard touchdown pass to Reese near the right side of the end zone, giving CdM a 23-0 advantage with 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Amies added a fourth-quarter field goal for CdM.
Defensively the Sea Kings held Los Amigos senior running back Jerry Saldivar, Orange County's leading rusher coming into the game, to 24 carries for 118 yards. Saldivar had fewer than 100 yards until Los Amigos' last drive in the final two minutes of the contest.
"Our D-line and linebackers were unbelievable," said CdM senior cornerback Ryan Griffin, who had a second-half interception. "We loaded the box and just let them play, and they just outmatched [Los Amigos]. We let them do their thing and they just took it to them. All the credit goes to them.
"They've got a great offense, but in the second half, we just came out and made a lot of adjustments. We held them … it was good."
Carter and senior running back Kai Wilson combined for 170 yards rushing for CdM, which earned the second meeting with Woodbridge this season. The Sea Kings defeated the Warriors, 33-16, in a league game on Oct. 26, part of CdM's eight-game winning streak.
"That was as tough a game as we've had all year," Meyer said. "We were able to break it open late, but we have a ton of respect for them. They're a big, physical, good football team … It's going to be a battle. It's the semifinals, and both teams are playing really well right now."
CdM will continue to chase the ring.