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Breakaway threat

Mike Sciacca

No doubt you will be reading a lot about the exploits of Donnelle

Darling this fall football season.

The senior running back is the jewel of the Laguna Beach High


backfield, a go-to guy who time and again has responded to the call.

Yet for all of the accolades and high-fives he receives and all

the press clippings he may be able to collect, Darling knows where

credit is due.


Sure, he has talent and is a strong, durable rusher, but the

18-year-old is quick himself in the compliment department.

“Senior guys like Clayton Caron, Alberto Sanchez, Sky Hensel,

Satar Abass and Scott Brown -- they make up our offensive line,

which is perhaps the biggest in our league,” he said. “Those guys,

along with Marshall Paymard and Bryce Loidolt, are the heart and

soul of our team. Those are the guys who deserve a lot of credit.”

Those players joined the rest of their Breakers teammates last


Friday to make the season opener a success.

Darling began his final campaign in a Laguna Beach uniform Friday

by rushing for 129 yards and three touchdowns as the Breakers

launched their 2002 season with a resounding, 40-12 victory over

visiting La Quinta.

He electrified the crowd at Guyer Field by running 55 yards to pay

dirt on his first carry, a run that featured a nifty spin move that

turned out to be the first touchdown of the season for Laguna Beach.


“The one thing about Donnelle is that he is a very strong runner

who breaks tackles at the line of scrimmage,” Laguna Beach Coach Dave

Holland said. “He has good speed and is able to find a crease.

“He has great, natural ability. Running backs -- like kickers --

can’t be coached,” Holland said.

Darling recalled how he became the Breakers’ chief rushing threat.

“It was in a scrimmage in my junior year. I scored a touchdown on

my first carry,” he said. “In our first game last year -- also

against La Quinta, I didn’t start the game, but got to see action in

the second half.”

The first time he ran the ball in the 2001 season opener, he

ripped off a 20-yard gain. Later in the fourth quarter he scored on a

37-yard run to clinch a 14-0 victory, a run that was the first

touchdown of his career.

“I was supposed to run up the middle but it was bunched up and I

bounced to the outside,” he said. “I just ran and ran until I reached

that end zone.

“When I got back to our sideline, my first thought was that I was

hoping Coach Holland was going to keep me in the game. I remember him

telling me right then that I just earned the job. I remember thinking

then that I can rest easier now.”

But Darling did anything but “rest” the remainder of the season.

He went on to rush for 1,278 yards and 20 touchdowns, helping

Laguna Beach record its most successful season in 15 years. The

yardage was the second-most gained by a running back in a

single-season in school history.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Darling next will try to crack the

defensive armor of Bolsa Grande when the teams meet tonight in a 7

p.m. kickoff at Guyer Field.

He had his “breakout” game in the second week of the 2001 season

against Bolsa Grande by topping the 100 yard mark for the first time

in his career.

His 118-yard, three-touchdown effort keyed a 34-14 victory over

the Matadors.

“I feel I have an obligation to this team to perform well,” said

Darling, who played three games last season with a broken rib, only

finding out after the fact. “The great thing about our offense,

though, is that we’re not one-dimensional. There’s a lot of talent on

this team.”

* MIKE SCIACCA covers sports for the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. He can be reached at 494-4321 or by e-mail at