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CHRISTINE COTTER, FILE PHOTO
Corona del Mar running back Cole Martin endured a concussion and a sprained knee ligament during his senior season, but he's excited to participate in Thursday's 56th annual Brea Lions Orange County All-Star Game at Orange Coast College.

CdM's Martin gets to evade defenders one final time

STAFF WRITER

MISSION VIEJO – Shaded just to the left of his quarterback in a shotgun set Wednesday morning, Corona del Mar running back Cole Martin stomached his first handoff of a drive and broke right behind a pulling guard in an 11-on-11 drill at Capistrano Valley High.

The theoretical hole that was drawn up in the playbook never materialized, and the former Sea Kings star was forced to do what he did best in high school: improvise.

Martin reversed field with a spin move and froze a would-be open-field tackler with a head fake before finally being brought down, turning a 3-yard loss into a 15-yard scamper.

Shaking defenders was commonplace for the 5-foot-10 speedster throughout his CdM career, until he had trouble evading the injury bug as a senior.

Seven months removed from a trying high school season, Martin is hoping to close this chapter of his career on a positive note when he suits up for the South squad in Thursday’s 56th annual Brea Lions Orange County All-Star Game at Orange Coast College.

“It’s been cool playing with a different group of guys,” Martin said. “I really wanted to create some fresh bonds with a new set of teammates. These guys are some of the best players in Orange County, so it was a special opportunity for me.”

Entering the 2014 campaign, Martin was considered one of – if not the – top returning backs in the county. As a junior, he rushed for 1,881 yards and 21 touchdowns in leading the Sea Kings to a 16-0 record, a CIF championship and a state bowl game title.

Starting in every game that season and carrying the ball at least 10 times each outing, Martin finished the year relatively unscathed considering he had played in the same amount of games as NFL running backs and had a similar workload (300 carries) to show for it.

“He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s a tough runner,” South coach Ernie Bucher said. “That first day in full pads (Wednesday), he was sticking his nose in there, getting after it. You could see that toughness right away.”

As fortunate as he was health-wise as a junior, Martin was equally ill-fated his senior year. In CdM’s third game of the season against El Toro, Martin was brought down awkwardly in the first quarter and was later diagnosed with a sprained MCL.

An original prognosis indicated Martin would be out for four weeks, meaning he’d miss the annual Battle of the Bay showdown against rival Newport Harbor.

In just his second game back from the MCL injury in mid-October, Martin suffered the first concussion of his career in a league game against Irvine.

“I remember getting thrown down and hitting my head on the turf,” he said. “The very next play I threw up on the field and knew, ‘OK, something’s not right.’”

In total, the Sea Kings back missed three full games and exited early because of injuries in two more. He finished the 2014 season with 623 rushing yards on 107 carries, nearly 200 touches and 1,200 yards less than he produced the previous campaign.

“It put everything into perspective,” Martin said. “I’d been contacted by a couple smaller colleges about playing, but originally I was set on going to school, enjoying my four years and not playing football.

“It was such a bummer missing time though. That’s when I started emailing and calling some of the schools that had reached out to me and told them I did want to play in college.”

Simpson College, a Division III school in Iowa, kept its offer on the table for Martin, who will report to camp later this summer to continue his playing career for the Storm.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed football until I had to watch from the sideline,” Martin said.

He’ll strap on the Sea Kings helmet one last time Thursday night, fully healthy and plenty motivated for one last showing in front of a county crowd.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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