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
“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
* MIKE SCIACCA covers sports for the Laguna Beach Coastline
Pilot. He can be reached at 494-4321 or by e-mail at