"Just from the sheer fact that I'd like to play somebody different, I'd rather play Loara," Hitchens said. "The goal is to get [to the championship game]. We want to get over this last little hurdle and get into that 14th game."
Hitchens must lead CdM past Beckman for a second time this season in order for CdM to make its first section final appearance in 21 years.
The Patriots defeated Loara, 59-42, setting up a Pacific Coast League semifinal showdown. The Sea Kings and the Patriots are two of three teams from the league reaching the semifinals. The other is Northwood, which plays top-seeded Garden Grove next.
Gardner is more than OK with a matchup against Beckman (7-5) for a shot at a title.
"We know that we can beat Beckman," Gardner said.
The Sea Kings got past the Patriots, 17-15, in the league finale, allowing CdM to claim its first outright league title since 1988. The game was not one of Gardner's best, as he finished below 100 yards passing and he was picked off three times.
Gardner did not turn the ball over against Anaheim (7-5). The Sea Kings are in for a battle next week, much more than they were against a second-place team from the Orange League.
Gardner got CdM off to a rousing start, even though he did not have Reinhardt on the field in the first half because Hitchens said he decided to hold the senior out because he suffered a concussion last week.
Gardner completed his first five passes during a 72-yard scoring drive. Brent Gray, Brent Lawson and Josh Giger caught passes. Giger hauled in the biggest one, an 18-yard touchdown strike over the middle.