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November 22, 2014

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Coronado overcomes penalties to top Clark

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Melissa Arseniuk

The Coronado High School cheerleaders were full of team spirit Friday as their hometown football team defeated Clark.

Clark at Coronado

Members of the Coronado High School football team watch Friday as their teammates continue the assault against the squad from Clark High School. Launch slideshow »

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It wasn't the prettiest victory ever, but Coronado High's 23-14 win over Clark High on Friday at Cougar Stadium gave first-year coach John Mannion a good start to the 2008 season.

Coronado's 26 penalties were proof that the Cougars were still getting settled under Mannion after he took charge of the team well into what is the typical offseason routine. Combine that with the usual first-game jitters and the penalties start to make sense.

"I hope so," Mannion said when asked if the infractions could be blamed on season-opening excitement and energy. "I'll write it off to that right now, but one way or the other, it's going change, because we can't continue to win with that kind of attention span."

Clark wasn't much better when it came to being whistled, drawing 15 penalty flags itself. The teams combined for more than 300 yards in penalties, with most of the infractions of the before-the-snap variety, moving both teams back before they even had a chance to move the ball forward.

Two penalties in particular hurt the Chargers in the first half, both on the same play late in the first quarter.

With the game still scoreless and Coronado's offense having stalled around midfield on back-to-back possessions, Clark took over on offense and fought through three false starts of its own before senior quarterback Anthony Lotta threw what appeared to be a 43-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Arlt. However, the Chargers were flagged for a block in the back midway through the play and Arlt received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving into the end zone, moving the ball all the way back to the 44 yard line.

Clark gained just three yards on the next three plays before turning the ball over on downs. A three-and-out forced a punt, but Devohn Marks fumbled trying to catch the kick, and Coronado recovered.

Two plays later, Dane Cooper threw a 33-yard touchdown to Darren Smith for a 7-0 lead a minute into the second quarter.

Marks made up for his earlier mistake on the ensuing kickoff, taking the return all the way to the end zone. Coronado's defensive line broke free to block the point-after kick, though, leaving Clark behind by a point.

The Cougars' next drive died — thanks in part to an intentional grounding penalty — and the Chargers followed with an infraction-free drive that ended with a 17-yard run by Andre Clay, who also scored the two-point conversion, giving Clark a 14-7 lead with just less than three minutes left before halftime.

After trading a punt for an interception, the Cougars had the ball one final time in the second quarter and made the most of the opportunity. After scrambling around in the pocket and back up the right sideline to near the line of scrimmage, Cooper found Blake Riley in the back corner of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown. Cooper's point-after kick sailed wide left, leaving the Chargers ahead by a point at the break.

Having implemented a new defense this week to handle Clark's double-wing offense, a halftime talk put the Coronado defense back on track. The Cougars forced fumbles on each of the Chargers' first two drives of the second half, and took advantage of both. Marcus Garcia scored on a 2-yard run after the first fumble, and Cooper kicked a 28-yard field goal after the second for the final margin.

"There were some things we let slip there in the second quarter," Mannion said. "We got on the kids about executing their responsibilities and tweaked it a little bit. We never really got out of our game plan. We never changed defenses. We thought that if it continued to break down the way it was we'd have to go back to what we do normally. These kids stepped up, they really did. They did a good job. I'm proud of them."

Clark moved the ball into Coronado territory just once more in the second half, but that drive ended with Lotta being dropped for an 8-yard loss.

Cooper finished 10-of-24 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, Garcia had 89 yards rushing on 13 carries, and Riley caught five passes for 78 yards.

Arlt led Clark with 58 rushing yards, Marks had three catches for 23 yards and Lotta completed 5 of 15 passes for 61 yards with an interception.

Clark plays host to Rancho next week, while Coronado will try to cut down on the penalties in a home game against Shadow Ridge.

"I think we played well, but we just had a lot of little mental mistakes," Riley said. "We had a bad week in practice and we knew that, but we'll take care of it next week. We'll be ready."

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