Laguna faces fierce rival

The Laguna Beach football team moved into rare company Nov. 25 and at the same time carved out its own mark.

By defeating Segerstrom, 51-40, in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division football playoffs, the Breakers became just the third Laguna team — a history that head coach and athletic director Mike Churchill said started in 1936 when the school played its first game — to win 10 games in a season. The big win also catapulted Laguna (10-2) into the CIF semifinals for the first time since 1964.

The school has one CIF title to its credit in football and that came in 1946.

"That doesn't happen too often around here," Churchill said of his team's 10-win campaign, which has a chance to turn into the school's first 11-win season. The Breakers host No. 2 Corona del Mar (10-2) in a semifinal final game a 7 p.m. Friday at Guyer Field.

Laguna joins the school's 1968 (10-1) and 1987 (10-2) teams as 10-win squads.

"It's all about the kids," Churchill said. "This group has hung together and worked hard, and they're excited to still be playing. They want to keep going."

Laguna walloped Anaheim, 49-13, in its playoff opener two weeks ago. Last week's victory over third-ranked and Golden West League champion Segerstrom (9-3) allowed the Breakers to become the third Laguna team in school history to win two CIF games. The 1946 and 1962 teams also won two postseason games.

The Breakers used a big second half to gain the upper hand on Segerstrom, although senior Norton Penney set the tone for the high-scoring game by returning the opening kickoff 96 yards for the first score. A fumble recovery by defensive lineman Blake Hester at the Segerstrom 44-yard line on the Jaguars' first possession put Laguna back in business. Four plays later, junior quarterback Larry Stewart hit junior Robert Clemons with a 30-yard touchdown pass and the Breakers had a 14-0 lead only 11 plays into the game.

The Jaguars fought back to tie the score at 14 but Laguna took a 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter when Stewart and senior Derek Reigel teamed on a 35-yard scoring pass. The Breakers had a 27-21 lead in the second quarter after a 26-yard touchdown run by junior running back Drake Martinez, but the Jaguars scored with 13 seconds left in the quarter. A wild, first half ended with the teams deadlocked at 27.

"They have a really good football team," Churchill said of Segerstrom. "We knew they had a real strong running game and they had a few backs who could really move out there. It might be hard to believe, but I thought we played pretty good defense against them. After all that scoring in the first two quarters, we came out and held them scoreless in the third quarter. That was the key."

Laguna took the lead for good (30-27) on a 42-yard field goal by junior Robbie McInerny. The Breakers opened up a 37-27 advantage four plays into the fourth quarter when Stewart's third touchdown pass of the night went 40 yards to Reigel. Segerstrom got to within 37-34 on its next possession, but the Breakers' defense came up big midway through the quarter when McInerny recovered a Jaguars fumble at the Segerstrom 17-yard line. Three plays later, Martinez scored from six yards out for a 44-34 lead.

Martinez racked up 204 yards on 29 rushes and now has 1,740 yards for the season. Stewart was five of 13 for 150 yards. Reigel had two receptions for 75 yards and Clemons two catches totaled 63. Clemons also rushed for 42 yards for 105 yards of total offense.

Laguna is averaging a little over 46 points per game and 50 in its two playoff wins. The Breaker are the top rushing team in Orange County at 4,156 in 12 games.

"The kids are just working hard," Churchill said. "We surgically try to find out what defenses offer us and our guys have done a great job at finding the open field."

The same night Laguna was eliminating Segerstrom, Corona del Mar pounced on Los Amigos, beating the Lobos, 45-7, last Friday. The Sea Kings have outscored their two playoff opponents (Westminster, Los Amigos), 88-14.

Senior quarterback Brent Lawson has thrown four touchdown passes and rushed for two scores and senior running back Erik Fisher has run for four touchdowns in two postseason games. Lawson has thrown for 2,337 yards and 25 touchdowns in 12 games. Fisher tops the Sea Kings' run game with 1,319 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"They're a very good football team and they have a good tradition at their school," Churchill said of the Sea Kings. "They have a really good running back (Fisher) and their quarterback (Lawson) can throw the ball. It's going to be a really good game."

Corona del Mar has reached the semifinal round in three out of the last four years. The Sea Kings, however, last played for a section title in 1989. It was the second of two straight years in which they claimed a CIF championship.

Friday's game marks the 22nd time the Breakers and Sea Kings have met on the gridiron. CdM has won 12-straight in the series.

twitter: @MikeSciacca

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