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Webber Is Generous When Giving Thanks : Division VII: Dependable running back’s numbers are impressive, but he credits Laguna Hills’ coaches and offensive line for his success.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

To anyone who believes Dave Webber has loaded the Laguna Hills football team on his back and carried it to the Division VII semifinals by himself, Webber says, no way. Not even close. It couldn’t be that way.

Even if by some odd chance it really was true, Webber would never admit it anyway.

Credit goes to the Laguna Hills coaching staff, which created a simple-yet-efficient offense, and the offensive line, which has knocked the stuffing out of the opposition. So says Webber, who also says he merely has to run through those humongous holes to make the Hawks’ run-oriented game plan work.

Smart. Give thanks where it’s due, and everyone goes away happy. It’s especially important to give those guys in the trenches a pat on the back, Webber said.

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So here’s a big thank you from Webber to tight ends Sergio Jimenez and Ryan Gayer, tackles Ryan Brubaker and Andy Jacobs, guards Roman Vasquez and Sam Steinberg and center Chris Bevans.

Without them, Webber might not be the workhorse running back he’s become, and Laguna Hills might not be in the midst of the best season in school history. When the Hawks (8-3-1) play host to Santa Maria Righetti (8-4) at 7:30 tonight at Mission Viejo High, it will be the school’s first semifinal playoff appearance.

Despite Webber’s protests, the numbers would seem to indicate that he is responsible for most of the Hawks’ good fortune this season.

In 12 games, Webber has gained 1,568 yards in 301 carries--an average of 5.2 yards--and scored 15 touchdowns. He finished the regular season tied with Kevin Pola of Santa Ana for seventh among Orange County’s rushing leaders. No county rusher has carried the ball as many times as Webber has, however.

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And that has been his greatest contribution this season.

“He hasn’t missed a handoff,” Laguna Hills Coach Steve Bresnahan said. “Every time we wanted to give him the ball, he was there for us. Thirty to 35 times a game, he’s going to help us.”

Webber, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior, was the sort of durable, dependable player Bresnahan needed to play in the Hawks’ one-running-back offense. There isn’t much deception involved, and the back often takes a beating.

“Just about every Saturday morning, I have a bump or a bruise that makes it hard to get out of bed,” Webber said. “At first my body wasn’t used to getting jumped on 30 or 40 times a game.”

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Webber only has himself to blame. Where Marwan Saba, who held the position last season and is now playing at Saddleback College, ran away from defenders, Webber tries to run into and over them. Five yards and a pile of bodies is the best way to describe a typical gain by Webber.

“I don’t have the speed,” he said. “I don’t have the moves. The guys the line hasn’t taken care of, I have to run over.”

Often, it takes three or four defenders to drag him down.

“I don’t know if I see the defensive players, I just hit ‘em,” he said. “I know they want to take me out, but I can’t let that happen. I try to lay them out before they lay me out.”

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Although Webber runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds, considered slow for a running back, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a strong runner. Once a week, usually Tuesdays, Webber and the reserve running backs run a hill workout for 10 minutes before beginning their regular routine.

The results can often be seen in the fourth quarter. When others grow fatigued, Webber plugs away, legs churning, for bigger gains.

“On the first play against Temple City (last week), he was hit at the line of scrimmage, broke two tackles and gained 17 yards,” Bresnahan said. “On the same play later, he broke four tackles in the fourth quarter.”

Webber gained 172 yards and scored three touchdowns in 26 carries, leading the Hawks into the semifinals with a 31-17 victory.

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The week before, he gained 267 yards and scored five touchdowns in 37 carries in a 38-6 victory over El Segundo.

“We’re pretty much a simple team,” he said. “Our offense has worked all season. . . . Usually we have to move the ball on the ground to be victorious. It shows the strength up front.”

Simple, but effective.


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