"A playoff berth is the mark of success and even though we're facing a
great football team in Eisenhower, we're really, really excited about
being here. Normally, we're turning in our gear this week, so, this is a
big event for the school."
Marina's return to the playoffs can be attributed to a senior class that
has worked hard to get there, despite what that it's 5-4-1 record may
The Vikings dropped close decisions to Upland, the third seed in Division
II, and playoff-bound teams in Mission Viejo (Division II), Esperanza
(Division I), and Sunset League champion Los Alamitos, which is seeded
The tie came in the second week of the season against undefeated Newport
Harbor, the No. 2 seed in Division VI.
"We've been challenged by a very tough schedule, and I think, overall,
the kids responded well," said Rehling, who had Marina on the brink of
its first league title in 13 years before regular season-ending losses to
Esperanza and Los Alamitos ended that dream. "A schedule like that should
prepare us for the playoffs."
Marina's success has come in the form of an option attack that is powered
by senior fullback Ray Mietkiewicz and junior quarterback Beau Brown, and
a defensive unit that has come into its own.
Mietkiewicz sat out the Upland game (a 24-17 loss) with a broken wrist,
but in nine appearances this season, the 6-1, 235 back has rushed for
1,679 yards - a school record, as well as an 8.1 yards per carry average.
Brown's first year as a starting quarterback yielded 670 rushing yards
and a 6.9 average per carry.
But what has been Marina's success in running the option has been its
downfall, too: 11 lost fumbles in the final two games of the regular
season were what did in the Vikings.
"There are two keys to this ball game," Rehling said. "One, can we hold
on to the football? That, is the big question. And two, Eisenhower's a
physical team, and will our defense be able to be physical enough to
handle their run? That, to me, is the ballgame, right there."
The two teams are similar in that both favor the run, sprinkling in a
pass here, or there.
The Citrus Belt League champions (9-1) run a hybrid wing T, led by
running back Mario McDowell (6-0, 200) and backfield mate Donta Jackson.
McDowell has rushed for 1,288 yards and 21 touchdowns on 176 carries,
good for a 7.3 average, and Jackson has complimented him with 524 yards
and five touchdowns on 82 tries.
The Eagle defense, which is spearheaded by linebacker Donte Bowers, has
been suspect to the run. But there aren't too many question marks
surrounding an Eisenhower team whose only loss came in the closing
seconds of a 20-19 defeat to Canyon Springs.
Eisenhower went 8-2 a year ago and was playoff bound, but the use of an
ineligible player forced the Eagles to forfeit all eight victories and
miss the playoffs.
Eisenhower won the 1993 CIF Division I championship by blasting Mater
In the Eagles' last playoff appearance, the '97 squad reached the