Corona Del Mar wide receiver Cooper Hoch makes a first-half diving catch against Downey Warren on Friday night. Hoch later had a go-ahead touchdown grab in the Sea Kings’ 42-35 win. (Raul Roa / Daily Pilot)
Two things happened early in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoff battle between Corona del Mar and Downey Warren that were unexpected.
First, the Sea Kings scored on their opening drive, which marked the first time Warren had trailed all season.
Second, Warren quarterback Nicholaus Iamaleava took a big hit midway through the first quarter, which sidelined him for one possession as trainers tended to his injury with the Bears up by eight.
Iamaleava reentered the game for a series but clearly wasn’t himself. The 6-foot-6, five-star recruit returned to the sideline and sat alone before his father came over to console him.
Despite Warren missing its star and Corona del Mar having to adjust to a different style of play, the Bears and Sea Kings went blow for blow, highlighted by a fourth-quarter series for the ages.
Corona del Mar delivered the final blows of the game as quarterback David Rasor, on fourth and 18 from the 36-yard line, threw a pass toward Cooper Hoch, who had two Warren defenders draped over him. Hoch pulled in the ball for a touchdown to give the Sea Kings a 42-35 lead with 1:08 to play.
The Corona del Mar defense then sacked Warren quarterback Madden Iamaleava three times to close out the victory and advance to face Orange Lutheran in the quarterfinals.
Downey Warren running back Romeo Clark carries the ball against Corona del Mar. (Raul Roa / Daily Pilot)
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Rasor and Hoch teamed up for a 64-yard touchdown with 6:30 to play to give the Sea Kings a 35-28 lead, but Joshua Johnson tied things with an 85-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.
The Sea Kings opened the game with a quick score on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Rasor to Evan Sanders to take a 7-0 lead at the 10:48 mark of the first quarter.