When Jeff Gahagan tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee this past summer, doctors told him to forget about playing football his senior year at Laguna Hills. Friday, exactly 100 days after knee surgery, Gahagan completed an almost miraculous recovery.
But Gahagan wasn't the only medical marvel in the Hawks' 15-14 victory over Dana Hills.
Todd Heller, who broke his leg 17 minutes into the first practice with pads, Aug. 24, started at inside linebacker and was Laguna Hills' player of the game.
Coach Steve Bresnahan said it was hard to believe both could come back so quickly, but credited their commitment to return.
"They went to therapy every day after practice; they worked at it," he said. "It wasn't something that just happened."
Gahagan, who was cleared to play two weeks ago, bugged his coach incessantly to get him into a game. Bresnahan finally said yes in the third quarter.
On his fifth play, Gahagan made a key 32-yard reception, setting up a one-yard run by Mike Jones for the Hawks' first touchdown.
"He needed to do that, not only to prove to me that he was OK, but to prove to himself that he was ready to play in a varsity football game where he was going to get hit by someone other than his teammates," Bresnahan said. "I don't think there's any question in his mind that he's 100%. I think he's 100% healthy, but he's not 100% of his top speed. I think he's a little slower, but he's still pretty fast."
Gahagan and Heller make Laguna Hills (4-1) even more formidable. Gahagan scored three touchdowns in last year's semifinal loss to Bloomington, and Heller is a starter who could be pivotal in Friday's showdown with Aliso Niguel (4-1).
"We've been struggling personnel-wise since our first game," Bresnahan said. "Getting both those guys back, we feel good about the rest of the season."
Rod Perry's season may be over. Perry, Mater Dei's all-county receiver who was injured Friday in the Monarchs' 38-0 victory over Riverside Ramona, learned Monday that he had suffered a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee. The extent of the tear won't be known until today.
Perry had a magnetic resonance imaging examination Monday at UCI Medical Center.
Funeral services for former Saddleback football Coach Ben Haley Sr., who died Friday from the effects of several strokes, will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Village Bible Church in Garden Grove.
Haley, who was 66, coached the Roadrunners from 1969-73. He was a longtime assistant to Dick Hill, the winningest coach in Orange County history. He assisted Hill at Santa Ana Valley from 1959-66 and 1974-79, and at Santa Ana from 1985-92. He also assisted at Santa Ana from 1980-84 with Tom Meiss.
His son, Ben Jr., is the head coach at Santiago.
Haley is survived by his wife, Inez, and children Ben Jr., Vicki, Bill, Christie and Robert.
Correspondent Michael Casey and Times staff writer Mike Terry contributed to this story.