Two days after the end of the Corona del Mar High football season on Dec. 21, Giovanni Gentosi skipped town. All beat up from playing a 16-game schedule he went on a much-needed vacation.
Gentosi spent the holiday break with family in Mammoth Mountain, where he planned to rest his body for five days. On three of those days, his body endured a little more as he joined his family on hikes. Nature eased the pain from a grueling season.
Those trails gave Gentosi time to reflect on his senior season and his team's climb to a place no other CdM team had reached. The Sea Kings capped a perfect season with a 27-15 win against Atherton Sacred Heart Prep in the CIF State Division III Bowl Game at the StubHub Center in Carson.
Gentosi went out a winner, as the center paved the way to CdM's 16-0 season. The Sea Kings became the first high school football team in California to finish with that record.
The reason why CdM made history is largely due to Gentosi, the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year.
It is rare when an offensive lineman is recognized as the best player. The quarterback, running back or wide receiver, those players tend to get all the glory. And the Sea Kings have marquee players at those positions.
Nevertheless, Gentosi is the one player who always stood out to opposing coaches because of his smart, physical and athletic play. The coaches say Gentosi keyed the Sea Kings' success on offense.
Without Gentosi, none of those offensive players at CdM that broke school records stood a chance of making plays. Gentosi is the one who snapped the ball to the quarterback, who usually stood in shotgun. The duty is one Gentosi performed in two of his last three seasons as a starter.
In his first year, Gentosi lined up at guard as a sophomore. He changed spots before his junior season, but CdM's winning ways continued.
Only Gentosi started all 44 games during Coach Scott Meyer's three years with the Sea Kings. During the stretch, CdM went 40-4, claimed back-to-back undefeated Pacific Coast League titles, won three straight CIF Southern Section Southern Division titles, and succeeded in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III Bowl Game and CIF State Division III Bowl Game.
Gentosi also won his final 26 games, giving the Sea Kings the longest current winning streak in the state.
For his efforts during CdM's unprecedented season, Gentosi earned the CIF Southern Section Southern Division Offensive Player of the Year and Pacific Coast League MVP awards, and first-team All-Orange County honors. News of winning the first two accolades surprised Gentosi, who isn't the type of player who clamors for attention.
Whenever Gentosi saw the name of his quarterback (Luke Napolitano), tailback (Cole Martin) and receivers (Cole Collins and Bo St. Geme) in a story, he said the offensive line executed its job. He's going to miss reading about his team. The Sea Kings won big games early on, edging El Toro, 24-21, in nonleague play one week, and they followed that up with a 34-14 victory against rival Newport Harbor, ending a six-game losing streak in the Battle of the Bay.
"At that point, we really believed we could go undefeated," said Gentosi, who helped CdM average 219.1 rushing yards, 171.9 passing yards and 34.3 points per game.
If there's ever a time to mention the rest of the line's starting members, Gentosi said this is it. The "Big Uglies" include left tackle Ian Redman, left guard Michael Pierotti, right guard Brett Olson and right tackle Quinn Bassler. All of them are seniors and they are going their separate ways after high school. Not all of them will continue to play football.
Gentosi, who is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, hopes to play football in college. He said Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the University of San Diego, Chapman University, and the University of Redlands are interested in him. Gentosi, a two-time Dream Team selection, said he's willing to be a walk-on player somewhere. As a defensive end and long snapper is where he sees himself playing in college.
"He was a dominating force for us," said Meyer, whose Sea Kings finished No. 21 in CalHiSports.com's final state rankings. "He's a quiet leader who leads by example on and off the field. Someone smart will give him an opportunity to play at the next level."
Below are the rest of the players on this year's Dream Team:
All-Purpose Player of the Year