Win or lose, Coach Scott Meyer always meets with his Corona del Mar High football team near one of the end zones on the field. He goes over the game, stresses the positives, and never singles out a player for making a mistake.
Earlier in the year, someone on the team called someone out.
Cayman Carter, in front of the whole team, blamed himself for a loss. Meyer told his senior quarterback that it wasn't his fault. Carter still broke down and cried after throwing three interceptions.
After the Sea Kings' broke their huddle, Meyer pulled Carter aside.
"It was just not [you]. We're a team," Meyer told Carter after the Sea Kings lost at Capistrano Valley, 24-7, on Sept. 21. "We had receivers drop balls. We missed blocks. We jumped offside twice.
"He was just trying to make plays. It's never just one person."
The words meant a lot to Carter, a first-year starter. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only one interception in the last nine games, all CdM wins.
Without Carter bouncing back, Meyer doesn't have the Sea Kings in the position they're in at this stage in the season. The Sea Kings (11-2) get to try to defend their CIF Southern Section Southern Division title when they play Garden Grove (11-2) on Saturday at Angel Stadium at 2 p.m.
In his second year in charge of CdM, Meyer has led the program back to the big game. The success — two Southern Division title-game appearances, one Pacific Coast League title and a 23-4 overall record — has come fast for Meyer.
When Meyer took over the Sea Kings a couple of days before April Fool's Day last year, he talked about winning everything. He wasn't joking, either. It didn't matter that he didn't know what he had in terms of talent, but that's what first-year coaches do to motivate a team: tell players the sky is the limit.
"You set your goals for league championship and CIF championship, but you never really know until you start playing," Meyer said. "To get there back-to-back has been pretty amazing."
As for which year has been the toughest, Meyer is unsure.
The first year involved building a staff and implementing a system.
Coaches always say it's hard to defend a title because teams are gunning for you. The second year Meyer's team dealt with every team's best shot and a roster that lost experience.
"It was really bringing along some of the younger players because we are fairly young this year," said Meyer, who credits the Sea Kings' title run this year to the many sophomores contributing.
Meyer rattles off their names. The list is long, from sophomores like tailback Cole Martin, wide receiver Bo St. Geme, cornerback Brett Greenlee, safety Barrett Barbato, linebacker Robbie Hoffman, defensive end Justin Hess, linebacker Hoyt Crance, defensive end Parker Chase and linebacker Harrison Carter.
For each player, Meyer praises their effort. The youngsters have fit in well with the juniors and seniors. Helping make their transitions smooth, Meyer said, is having offensive coordinator Kevin Hettig and defensive coordinator Dan O'Shea around.
The two assistants joined Meyer's staff from the start. The two also experienced two section final runs before they came on board last year at CdM. As assistants at Trabuco Hills, under then-coach Jason Negro, they helped the school reach the Southwest Division finals in 2007 and '09.
"They're just both great people and great coaches," Meyer said of Hettig and O'Shea, who are both teachers at Trabuco Hills and close friends.
Hettig said making the commute to CdM during the week for practice is worth it because "there's nothing like spending 40 hours a week with your best friend."