Corona del Mar's John Humphreys dives for the winning touchdown against Lompoc with 45 seconds remaining. (Photo by Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer)

Garbers strikes late, makes sure CdM extends season


COSTA MESA – Despite the situation, there wasn’t a better spot to be in for the Corona del Mar football team.

CdM, trailing by five points with 3:10 left, turned the ball over to senior quarterback Chase Garbers with the game and season on the line.

“That was an eternity for our offense,” Garbers said of the time remaining when the winning drive started. “We said that we needed one more drive to make this ours and we pretty much did. Our offensive line was unbelievable tonight.”

Garbers, starting from his own 13-yard line, completed five of six passes, including a 19-yard touchdown to freshman John Humphreys with 45 seconds remaining for what proved to be the winning score in Friday’s 35-34 CIF-SS Division 4 semifinal victory for CdM over Lompoc at Estancia High.

Garbers passed for four touchdowns in the game. He also rushed for a score.

CdM (12-1) will face top-seeded Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth the final next week. Sierra Canyon will be the home team.

After a 12-yard pass to Tae Le that moved the ball across midfield, Garbers needed to improvise to keep the drive moving without losing yards. On the next play, Garbers, scrambling to his right, unleashed a shovel pass a la Brett Favre to Humphreys, who caught it for a 19-yard gain.

“I thought there was a guy too close for me to throw it,” he said. “I was debating to throw it left-handed, but in the end it was a shovel pass. I’ve done it three times this year, so I just kind of had to do it.”

Garbers added that he’s 3 for 3 on such passes this year.

An 11-yard pass to Humphreys followed, and two plays later, the two hooked again on the winning 19-yard pass. CdM went for a 2-point conversion, but failed.

With less than 50 seconds remaining, Lompoc, without starting quarterback Kameron Davis, failed to move the ball. On fourth down, the CdM defense came up with the sack, giving the ball back to the offense to run out the clock.

Davis left the game after being sacked by Bryce Clabaugh earlier in the fourth.

“We knew it was going to be a barnburner,” CdM coach Dan O’Shea said. “But we said, it wasn’t the first 24 (minutes), win the second 24, and we did.

"They made some plays down the field, but we just kept grinding. The only word we used all week was grind. These guys haven't been in a fourth-quarter game and we proved it to our kids, just trust it and we will beat them late."

CdM trailed for the majority of the game, including 28-23 entering the fourth. With 3:31 left, Garbers connected with Le for a 12-yard TD. The 2-point conversion was no good, giving CdM a 29-28 lead.

Lompoc responded with a double pass that ended with Johnny Manzo scoring an 85-yard touchdown for a 34-29 lead, after the failed two-point conversion with 3:10 left.

The CdM offense got on track with the passing game, as Garbers connected with Reese Perez for a pair of big touchdowns in the second half of 62 and 90 yards.

JT Murphy (107 yards) was also huge, leading the rushing attack.

“This is about as big a win as we’ve had since 2013 state title game,” O’Shea said. “This is the second biggest win in the program to me, against an unbelievable opponent.”

Aside from Garbers' heroics, a lot of credit should be handed out to the CdM defense. Lompoc running back Toa Taua entered the game with 1,700-plus yards. His longest carry against CdM went for nine yards and he finished with just 36.

"A team that runs the ball 80 percent of the time, they could not run the football," O'Shea said. "I'm so proud of this coaching staff and these players."

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