The original high school plan for Tim Reinhardt was for him to attend Mater Dei, not Corona del Mar.
The reason wasn't so much because of Mater Dei's storied football program. Reinhardt said his parents, Kelly and Bill, went to Mater Dei.
What won out wasn't a football tradition, or his family's ties to the private school.
"We just decided to go to Corona del Mar because we live so close," Reinhardt said. "We live right down the street."
The decision to stay local is one Reinhardt is happy he and his family made before his freshman year.
In his senior year at CdM, Reinhardt is the star player on a defense that has been dominant in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound defensive end is a big reason why no team has scored on the Sea Kings in the postseason.
In the semifinals last week against Woodbridge, Reinhardt knocked out the quarterback with a big hit in the first quarter. As for the backup, Reinhardt sacked him and forced a fumble in the second quarter.
By the time the original starter returned in the fourth quarter, CdM was on its way to a 25-0 victory.
Reinhardt has one more game left and it's for the Southern Division title at Angel Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m. The championship tilt between the top-seeded Sea Kings (11-2) and No. 3 Garden Grove (11-2) isn't the main event that day.
The school Reinhardt almost went to — Mater Dei — plays in the Pac-5 Division finale against Long Beach Poly at 7:30 p.m. While Mater Dei gets to play at night, Reinhardt gets to try to lead CdM to a second straight section crown.
"It feels just like the first time," Reinhardt said of the week leading up to the championship. "This time, it's my last chance playing [in high school], our seniors last chance, and we've just got to make the most of the opportunity."
On a defense with only three senior starters, Reinhardt is one player who knows what it takes to win it all. It isn't easy, evident from last year's 14-13 victory against Beckman, in which CdM's defense stuffed a two-point play with seven seconds left.
Instead of forcing overtime, Beckman went for two and the win. CdM stopped the running play and captured the Southern Division title.
"It helps to have been under pressure the first time because that was definitely a tense game," Reinhardt said.
"Last year, we felt like we were kind of the underdog [going into the Southern Division championship] because we lost to Beckman [in a Pacific Coast League game that determined the league champion]. I feel like [this year's game against Garden Grove is] pretty even."
Nine games have passed since the last time a team challenged CdM. The tests came during the nonleague portion of the schedule, a tough stretch for Reinhardt.
The Sea Kings lost three of their first four games. One loss turned into a win after Laguna Hills forfeited the season opener against CdM because of an ineligible player.
The defense has come a long way from the start of the year.
"At first it was kind of rough, because we just had a fresh set of linebackers," said Reinhardt, referring to Alex Moore, Robbie Hoffman, Alexi Molinari and Hoyt Crance, who replaced four standouts in Aaron White, Frasier Anderson, David Moore and Grant Garrett.
"We [went into the year with] our whole [defensive] line, which was good [having nose guard Michael Martinez and defensive end Greg Williford back]. At first [with] our linebackers, there was a little bit of inexperience, but then they figured it out and it clicked. Now we're playing really well as a team."