Marina High School's roller coaster ride through the 1986 football season reached new heights on Friday night as the Vikings claimed their first undisputed league championship in the school's 23-year history with a 14-6 victory over Fountain Valley.
A crowd of 2,000 in Westminster Stadium saw the Vikings score twice in the second quarter and sack Fountain Valley quarterback David Henigan seven times in the regular season finale. The victory was the fifth straight for Marina after the Vikings opened the year with five straight losses.
The victory also assured Marina of its third Sunset League title in the past four seasons, but this time it won't have to share it with anyone. The Vikings were tri-champions with Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley in 1983 and co-champions with Edison last year.
"We haven't had a pretty win all season, but we just seem to get the job done," said first-year Coach Chris Ramsay. "To be honest, I had no idea what I had here, even after five games, but the staff kept telling me to be patient, and they brought me through."
Marina totaled 269 yards rushing with quarterback Rick Vanderriet gaining 111 yards in 10 carries. Vanderriet scored on a 56-yard run and also threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brian Sterzer in the second quarter to account for Marina's scoring.
Fountain Valley avoided a shutout when quarterback David Henigan threw a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Osborne with 10 seconds remaining in the game. Henigan completed 19 of 34 passes for 189 yards and Osborne caught 10 passes for 109 yards.
But Henigan also found the going a little rough against Marina's defense. The Vikings, led by 175-pound nose tackle Bob Dunn, constantly harassed Henigan and threw the sophomore for 36 yards in losses. Dunn had four sacks.
"The biggest part of the turnaround has been the running of Sean Magula and our defensive play," said Marina defensive coordinator Andy Donegan. "We had 18 sacks in five league games and 16 turnovers. We didn't come anywhere near that in our five preseason games."
Magula, the likely choice to be voted the most valuable player when the league coaches meet next week, gained 80 yards in 14 carries, but was carried off the field with 3:36 remaining to play when he re-injured his left ankle. It marked the first time he has been held under 100 yards since he returned to the lineup five weeks ago.
"We'll know more about Sean tomorrow," Ramsay said. "It's the same ankle he hurt earlier this year. Obviously, we're not the same team without him."
Fountain Valley saw its hopes for an upset slip away after the Barons had successfully placed a punt on the Vikings' one-yard line early in the second quarter. Marina got out of the hole when Magula ran 24 yards on the first play of the drive, beginning a 99-yard touchdown march.
"We stunted ourself right out of it, trying to get a turnover, and it backfired," said Mike Milner, Fountain Valley coach. "This whole season has been so frustrating. We've been in every game with the exception of El Toro and have only two wins to show for it."
The Barons, traditionally a power, missed the playoffs for the second straight year. They finished with a 2-8 record. Marina will play its first-round game in the Big Five Conference playoffs next Friday in Westminster Stadium against an opponent to be announced Sunday.