Dana Hills established its credibility and silenced its doubters with a 34-21 victory over third-ranked Laguna Hills Friday at Mission Viejo High.
The Dolphin defense held running back Michael Jones in check, and Dana Hills showcased its own running back, Julio Peraza.
Peraza rushed 34 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns as the Dolphins improved to 4-1.
Laguna Hills (4-1) is ranked third in Orange County and second in the Southern Section Division VIII rankings.
Laguna Hills Coach Steve Bresnahan's pregame concerns about Dana Hills were well-grounded.
"I've seen Santa Margarita, Mater Dei and Tustin and I think Dana Hills is a top-10 team," Bresnahan said.
"They're a tough bunch of kids," said Laguna Hills quarterback Tommy Banning, who was sacked three times in the second half as the Hawks tried to come back from a 21-point halftime deficit.
Laguna Hills got as close as 28-21 with 8 minutes 52 seconds left in the game on Banning's four-yard scoring pass to Jeff Fischer, capping a 17-play, 70-yard drive.
Dana Hills answered with a 75-yard drive, highlighted by tight end Aaron Shook's juggling 25-yard catch off a deflection by defender Dustin Adams.
Peraza scored from two yards with 3:10 left. The point-after was blocked. Peraza also scored on runs of one and 24 yards in the first half.
"We needed to find out some things," Bresnahan said. "Maybe we're not as good as we think we are."
The Dana Hills defense, led by Shook, a linebacker, shut down Jones, who needs 118 yards to break the county career rushing mark.
Although he rushed 23 times for 189 yards, 92 yards came on one play, tying the score at 7-7 with 9:41 left in the second quarter.
"We kept saying, 'Don't give up more than one big play to them,' " second-year Coach Scott Orloff said.
Dana Hills also scored in the first half on Rida Sharaf's four-yard run and Jeremy Walker's 25-yard pass to Larry Page after maintaining possession on a punt when officials ruled a Laguna Hills receiver had touched a ball that Dana Hills appeared to down.
Dana Hills outgained Laguna Hills, 321-260, running 59 plays to the Hawks' 46, and held a 226-189 edge in rushing.
"We respect them because they came back hard in the second half," said Shook, also a tight end, "but we worked hard for this, and that's why we won."