May 27, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Crean Lutheran coach returns after wife’s death; Pacifica wins game 41-6

Crean Lutheran Coach Rick Curtis was back coaching the Saints in an Empire League game Friday. (Photos Tom Connolly/For OC Sports Zone)

Sometimes life has a sobering way of reminding us to take a step back and to put our lives into perspective. 

Friday night was one of those times. Just 10 days ago, Crean Lutheran High football coach’s Rick Curtis’ wife, Mary, passed away after a five-year battle with multiple myeloma cancer. She was 68.

To see additional photos, click on the first picture.

The Saints community and school held a short prayer ceremony in Mary Curtis’ honor prior to Friday night’s Empire League football game between Crean Lutheran and Pacifica at Irvine Stadium. In addition, during halftime, the Crean Lutheran cheerleaders performed a moving song and dance tribute to Mary Curtis as Rick Curtis and his coaches looked on. The routine finished with the cheerleaders creating a formation with the initials ‘MC.’ 

The Saints players wore sky blue socks (Mary Curtis’ favorite color) and a ‘MC’ decal on the back of their helmets in her honor. Many of fans in the stands wore blue T-shirt and hoodies that read ‘Love Jesus Like Mary.’

After turning over his head coaching duties last week to offensive coordinator Russ Oka, Curtis returned to the sidelines Friday night.  

“I’m where Mary would want me to be, “said Curtis prior to Friday’s game against Pacifica. “Mary passed away at 3:24 a.m. and our team’s motto is Colossians 3:23. It’s simply an amazing coincidence.”

In addition, coaches throughout the county have shown their compassion and support for Coach Curtis.

“I lost my mother-in-law six weeks ago, so our family is dealing with a lot of the same emotions that Rick is dealing with,” said Pacifica coach Vinnie Lopez. “We’re all behind him 100 percent. We’re all here because we love the kids and we love football and it’s ironic that football gives us a much-needed distraction from reality.”

The Mariners dominated on both sides of the ball and came away with a 41-6 victory. Pacifica improved to 7-2 and 2-2. The Saints fell to 1-8 and 0-4.

Pacifica quarterback Darius Cowens threw three first-quarter touchdown passes, two to Jordan Ross and one to Kadin Jimenez, as the Mariners built an early lead and never looked back.

Early in the second quarter, Henry Kieu added a 5-yard touchdown run to give Pacifica a 28-0 lead. Moments later, Ross returned a punt 75 yards for his third touchdown of the game and increasing the Mariners lead to 34-0.  

On the ensuing kickoff, Ben Buettell returned the ball 85 yards for a touchdown for the Saints only score. Late in the half, Ed “Jun” Ramos added a 73-yard TD run as Pacifica built a 41-6 halftime lead.  

Cowens completed 12 of 14 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns.

“My offensive lineman were awesome and they helped make it easier for me,” said Cowens. “We had great practices this week, but we still can get better. We want to win a CIF championship.”

Ross and Jimenez combined to catch 10 passes for 182 yards and 3 TDs and Ramos added 115 yards on the ground for the Mariners. 

“Our goal is to win a league championship and I want a ring,” Ross said.

Lopez was pleased with his team’s performance.

“We came in and did what we had to do and we played a clean football game,” said Lopez. “I was a little worried about the kids this week after we lost a tough one last week, but they practiced hard this week and were ready to go tonight.”

Gavin Rogers completed nine passes for 128 yards and Buettell and Curren Wallace combined for six catches and 107 yards for the Saints.    

“Despite our record, our kids played hard,” said Curtis. “We’re excited about our team. We’re young and we’ve had a lot of injuries and tonight I started freshmen for the first time in my career, but we’re raising the bar.”

The Saints family lost another member this past week, Steve Loeb, father of Assistant Athletic Director Austin Loeb, passed away. Both Steve Loeb and Mary Curtis were honored by a special prayer that was read aloud in a pregame tribute.

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone