Who is the best football team in the Southern Conference? The answer was blowing in the wind Saturday night in Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium.
El Toro High School, defying gusts of up to 50 m.p.h., scored on its first two possessions and blew away Los Alamitos, 36-6, to capture its second straight conference championship in front of 8,000.
Bret Johnson, the Chargers' gifted quarterback, completed his first seven passes for 175 yard and 3 touchdowns in less than 19 minutes of the first half. Johnson took advantage of Los Alamitos' single coverage in its secondary as the Chargers built a 30-0 halftime lead.
"Single coverage against us is suicide, big time," Johnson said. "I thought we played a perfect half. The line was giving me great protection, and I couldn't believe how wide open our receivers were."
Los Alamitos (12-2) came into the game billed as the best defensive team in Orange County. The Griffins had shut out seven opponents and had allowed only 27 points in the regular season.
But El Toro set the tone for the lopsided game by driving 80 yards against the wind for two touchdowns in the first quarter and the rout was on. Johnson teamed with wide receiver Jason Vivonia on an 11-yard touchdown pass and then threw a 63-yard bomb to wide receiver Adam Brass for another score.
"All we heard about was their No. 1 defense and it was 30-0 at halftime," Johnson said. "The championship game was last week when we beat Santa Ana (13-12)."
Johnson completed 10 of 15 passes for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brass caught 4 passes for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Chargers were also effective on the ground, gaining 180 yards before Bob Johnson, El Toro coach, removed his starters with 10:56 remaining in the game.
Cory Wayland, the Chargers' 240-pound tackle who starts on the offensive and defensive lines, said El Toro controlled both lines of scrimmage.
"Their defense got real quiet after we went up 14-0 on them," Wayland said. "They didn't have any emotion and they let up."
The Griffins' defense had a moment of glory in the second quarter that was quickly erased when El Toro's defense scored a safety. Los Alamitos had staged a goal-line stand, stopping the Chargers on two successive plays at the Griffin one-yard line.
But on Los Alamitos' first offensive play, running back Marcus Garcia was tackled three yards behind the line of scrimmage by El Toro's Adam DeMalignon for a safety and a 16-0 lead. It only got worse for the Griffins.
Johnson teamed with Brass on another touchdown pass that covered 35 yards with 7:31 remaining in the half for a 24-0 lead, and then sophomore Ken Romaniszyn scored on a three-yard run for a 30-point lead at halftime.
Afterward, John Barnes, Los Alamitos coach, had little say about the game.
"To be honest, I thought the conditions last week were a lot nicer than tonight," he said. A downpour last week aided Los Alamitos' 7-6 win over Mission Viejo in the semifinals.
The victory signaled an appropriate end to Bret Johnson's three-year career. Johnson won every game he started over the past two years.
Bob Johnson, Bret's father, summed up his son's prep career in one word: Unbelievable.
"Someday when I'm sitting back in my rocking chair, I'll look back and admire what Bret did in high school," he said. "I don't think Los Alamitos had seen a quarterback of Bret's caliber.
"I thought the first drives against the wind set the tempo for the game. I told the team before the game that it wasn't raining and the field wasn't muddy, so what did we have to worry about?"