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Gentosi is man in the middle of CdM success
NEWPORT BEACH – Just before Corona del Mar coach Scott Meyer introduced Giovanni Gentosi at last week's CIF section finalists luncheon, he referred to his starting center as the “biggest reason” the Sea Kings were playing for the Southern Division title.
“I meant to say those were the seniors and they were the big reason why,” Meyer said. “But Gio is a big reason why as well.”
Excuse Meyer for the Freudian slip. He thinks quite highly of Gentosi, so much so that he nominated him as the Pacific Coast League MVP.
Meyer's conviction was bolstered by opposing coaches singling out No.73 during postgame handshakes. But would they actually sign off on a center as the league's top player?
“It was a unanimous decision,” Meyer said. “Usually it's a guy with the numbers, but they understood what a key player he was.
“I think he's been the best player on the field every single week.”
At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Gentosi hasn't been the biggest. There's no debating, however, he's been on the best team on the field every single week.
Corona del Mar takes a 24-game winning streak into today's CIF state regional against Nordhoff of Ojai at Orange Coast College. The Sea Kings are 14-0 this season, their victory last week against Garden Grove clinching a third consecutive CIF-SS Southern Division title.
Gentosi has been in the middle of it all, starting every one of Corona del Mar's 42 games the past three years, including the past two seasons at center.
“He set the tone in the weight room and off the field,” Meyer said.
“Some of the younger guys and some of the other seniors look to him and follow his work ethic.”
Gentosi is a bit more understated about his role.
“I've just been protecting my teammates,” he said.
That means stabilizing an offensive line largely responsible for one of the county's better ground attacks. Corona del Mar has rushed for 3,100 yards, with averages of 6.1 yards a carry and more than 220 yards and three touchdowns a game. And the Sea Kings do all of this out of the shotgun.
“He's been perfect in his snaps all year,” Meyer said. “He's making all of our initial line calls, identifying the point and setting the line in motion.”
If it sounds a bit routine for Gentosi and Corona del Mar, that's because it has been.
The Sea Kings beat up their four playoff opponents by an average of 31.7 points a game, an improvement on their 26-point average margin of victory during the season. Only twice did they fail to win by double digits.
The first time was against Pac-5 member El Toro, a 24-21 victory that gave Corona del Mar confidence it could beat anyone on its schedule. The second came a few weeks later against Woodbridge, a game in which it looked like the Sea Kings were losing focus and their composure.
“There's no team that can stop us besides ourselves,” Corona del Mar right guard Brett Olson remembers Gentosi bellowing that October evening. “We kind of got a little heated. He calmed us down but made sure we were still fired up and ready to play.”
It was out of character for the mild-mannered Gentosi. But three fumbles and multiple penalties prompted the quiet captain to speak up.
“I try to make a point in what I say,” Gentosi said. “We started to relax and playing down to the other team's level.”
The Sea Kings held on for a 14-7 win. They've scored at least 35 points in every game since.
Going into their 15th game, Olson said Gentosi has been his usual calm self while remaining “probably the hardest working player on the team.”
To be fair, Gentosi said he has been more talkative of late, rejoicing in the final days of his high school football career.
“I couldn't ask for anything more out of my high school experience,” Gentosi said. “I try to keep the guys going in the weight room and in practice. This season has been especially long.”
There is a big reason for that.
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