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SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS : Vedder Finds His Niche at Laguna Hills : Division VII: Transfer student throws for two touchdowns and runs for one in 34-7 semifinal victory over Righetti.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Justin Vedder left a football power when he transferred from Mater Dei High School to Laguna Hills last season.

And he seemed to fit into his new surroundings nicely Friday night.

Vedder, a sophomore quarterback, threw for two touchdowns and ran for one in Laguna Hills’ 34-7 victory over Righetti in the Southern Section Division VII semifinals at Mission Viejo High School.

Unseeded Laguna Hills (9-3-1) advanced to the final for the first time and will play the winner of Saturday night’s semifinal game between Trabuco Hills and La Mirada.

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The Hawks can thank Vedder, a reserve who took over the starting job early in the league season when Mike Maceranka broke his collarbone.

Vedder, a left-hander, completed six of 11 passes for 181 yards and brought some diversity to an offense that has relied heavily on running back David Webber. Webber did his share, running for 170 yards and a touchdown in 29 carries, but it was Vedder who put the Hawks in the end zone.

“Righetti was playing nine guys on the run, and we knew they couldn’t cover every (receiver),” Laguna Hills Coach Steve Bresnahan said. “Justin did a great job of getting them the ball.”

Vedder said his play-action fakes to Webber, which set up both touchdown passes, caught Righetti by surprise.

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“We hadn’t passed a lot in the playoffs and they weren’t looking for it,” he said.

Laguna Hills’ defense also got into the act in the second half, intercepting three Kevin Edelbrock passes and shutting down Righetti’s rushing attack. The Hawks scored 20 straight points in the second half.

Tailback Todd Lacey, who had 91 of Righetti’s 107 rushing yards in the first half, had only 17 in the second half.

“We didn’t do anything differently in the second half,” Bresnahan said. “Righetti had a lot of speed, and we couldn’t simulate that in practice.”

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Laguna Hills scored on its first possession after the Hawks’ Rafer Kingston recovered a fumble by Todd Lacey at the Righetti 49. Three plays later, Vedder threw to Ryan Miller for a 49-yard touchdown pass.

Righetti (8-5) tied it, 7-7, when Lacey’s eight-yard touchdown run with 10:12 left in the second quarter capped an eight-play, 70-yard drive.

The Hawks appeared to have taken the lead on the following possession, when Vedder threw 22 yards to Sergio Jimenez in the end zone. But Jimenez and Righetti’s Jeff Persson came down with the ball together, and the officials awarded the ball to Righetti on a touchback.

Laguna Hills got the ball back at its 41 after a punt. The Hawks drove to the Righetti five, where Vedder scored on a quarterback rollout with 56 seconds left in the second quarter. Laguna Hills led, 14-7, at halftime.

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Vedder pushed the lead to 21-7 when he threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to an open Sergio Jimenez on a slant pattern with 7:22 left in the third quarter.

Devon Higgins added field goals of 42 and 30 yards as Laguna Hills increased its lead to 27-7. Webber scored on a seven-yard run with 57 seconds left to make it 34-7.


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