Before the start of the prep football season, Mike Churchill felt his first team at Laguna Beach could do something special.
"I told everybody that we'd be good, but I don't think anybody listened to me," he said. "The guys went out and showed what they could do, and they had a real nice season."
The Breakers did. They won early and often, scoring a lot of points along the way, and played a 13th game for the first time since the program's inaugural varsity season in 1935.
The Breakers (10-3) saw their season end Dec. 2 following a 41-14 loss to visiting Corona del Mar in a CIF Southern Section Southern Division semifinal game at Guyer Field.
"They're a good team and were much better than us that night," Churchill said of the second-ranked Sea Kings (11-2), who earned the right to battle Pacific Coast League rival and top-ranked Beckman (11-2) for the division championship Friday at Orange Coast College.
Beckman defeated Orange Coast League champion Estancia, 57-21, in the other division semifinal game Dec. 2.
Laguna found itself down, 20-0, to the Sea Kings in the second quarter before getting on the scoreboard. That score came on a trick play when senior Norton Penney fielded a kickoff and lateraled the ball to Robert Clemons at the Laguna 12-yard line, and the junior raced 88 yards to the end zone.
The Sea Kings scored the first 21 points of the second half to pull out to a 41-7 lead, and the Breakers got their final score on a five-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Larry Stewart to senior tight end Travis Clawson in the final seconds of the game.
Corona del Mar scored five rushing touchdowns and also scored on an interception return. The Sea Kings, who hold an 18-4 series lead against the Breakers, advanced to play in their first Southern Section final since 1989.
Junior running back Drake Martinez led Laguna in rushing with 149 yards on 17 carries. Sophomore running back Nathan Lancaster rushed once, but the carry went for 60 yards.
Martinez rushed for 1,889 yards for the season and averaged 10.49 yards per carry. The Breakers' formidable run game also included 1,189 yards on 115 attempts (10.34 avg.) from Penney and 717 yards on 52 carries (13.79 avg.) from Clemons.
The 2011 Breakers became the third Laguna team to win 10 games in a season. The last Laguna team to accomplish the feat was the 1987 (10-2) squad. Before that, the 1968 team (10-1) was the first 10-game winner. They also became the first Laguna team to reach the CIF semifinals since 1964.
"The kids had a real good year," Churchill said. "I think the early success we had helped the kids build on that. And I've got to say that for all the work the kids put in on the field, I'd say we only had one practice that wasn't up to tempo, not full-speed, really, and that was just last week.
"It was a good bunch of kids who won for many reasons. First, we had talent. Second, they did the things we asked them to do. We'll be back next year, even better…but how much better? It all depends on the work the kids put into it. Our No. 1 priority is to get bigger, especially in the trenches."