As a sophomore, Parker Chase stood out on the field so much that a starting job at defensive end seemed realistic. Seven sophomores wound up starting on defense for the Corona del Mar High football team last year.
Chase wasn't one of the lucky seven to get so much playing time as a young player.
At the start of last year's fall training camp, Chase broke his left hand. He says his hand struck the metal part of a sled and then a helmet. The next day, the top of his hand looked like a baseball.
"It was just really swollen," Chase says. "After being in the offseason football [program] for the whole four or five months, and then hearing you couldn't play the part of the season where you actually trained all that time for, it really does a number on you."
Chase says he underwent surgery to repair his hand. The procedure, he says, involved inserting three screws into his hand and it cost him almost the entire season.
He came back toward the end of the season, seeing limited time as the Sea Kings capped a second straight CIF Southern Section Southern Division title. With his hand inside a thick mixed martial arts glove and heavily taped up, Chase looked far from the player during training camp.
In the offseason, Chase promised himself that he would return to make more of an impact. And he made it back this year as a junior, looking faster, stronger and more conditioned.
Chase started the year with a bang, registering three sacks in the opener in August. Four months later, he's still going.
Chase has more than survived the longest season in CdM's history. Going into the 15th game, that left hand of his is more than fine. All year long, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has used it to bring down quarterbacks, registering 14 1/2 sacks.
The Sea Kings (14-0) are in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III Bowl Game against Ojai Nordhoff (13-1) on Saturday at Orange Coast College at 7:30 p.m. because of Chase's performance last week on the same field. Chase sacked the quarterback five times in the second half, delivering the necessary plays for CdM to knock out Garden Grove, 42-21, and claim the program's unprecedented third consecutive CIF Southern Section title.
The five sacks tied the CdM single-game record set by defensive end Matt Burgner eight years ago. Burgner's record-setting effort happened early in the 2005 season and Chase's big night kept CdM's perfect season alive late in the season.
The Sea Kings are riding a school-best 24-game winning streak. Ten of those victories date back to last season, many of which Chase missed because of his broken hand.
He definitely had a hand in extending it to 24.
The Argonauts, facing CdM for the second straight time in the Southern Division final, made it a game. They rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to tie CdM at 14-14 right before halftime.
"We weren't really expecting it to be tied at the half," Chase says.
Late in the third quarter, Chase began to make noise. He chased after Garden Grove quarterback Angel Martinez. He first got to him on a first down, dumping him for a two-yard loss. Two plays later, Martinez left the game. He appeared to cramp up after he slid after a run.
Martinez returned almost 3 minutes later to finish the drive. He sneaked in for a one-yard touchdown to cut CdM's lead to 28-21 with 10:13 left in the fourth quarter. The score stayed the same, after CdM went three-and-out and punted, because of Chase.
The Argonauts took over on their 45-yard line with 8:46 left. They found themselves on their 33 after the first two downs. Chase sacked Martinez for seven- and five-yard losses. He used a speed rush to track down Martinez the first time. The second time, he split a double-team and collided right into Martinez as Martinez stepped up in the pocket. The pocket collapsed as did the Argonauts' chances of coming back against CdM.
"I was thinking about [crushing] their momentum," says Chase, whose consecutive sacks put Garden Grove in a third-and-22 situation. "If we [force a] three-and-out right here, we'd get the ball back and probably score and run them out of the game."
The final 6:59 played out pretty much the way Chase pictured it ending. The Sea Kings rushed for two more touchdowns, and he helped set up the second score.