LAGUNA BEACH — Where was No. 1 in the maroon jersey Friday night at Laguna Beach High?
For much of the third quarter, Laguna Beach junior receiver Chris Paul was on the sidelines with what appeared to be leg cramps.
For most of the rest of the game, Paul was in the end zone, perhaps serving notice to Corona del Mar that this game wouldn’t be a blowout like past years.
But in the end the Sea Kings were too deep and too balanced as they took control in the second half for a 65-34 nonleague victory.
J.D. Abbott had a career-high 215 rushing yards on just 14 carries for the Sea Kings. The senior captain also scored three times, helping offset Paul’s four touchdown catches and 125 receiving yards.
But, for a half, the Breakers, who came into the game ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll, were able to hang with the No. 3 Sea Kings.
Breakers junior quarterback Austin Paxson finished with 263 yards and five passing touchdowns, the latter mark breaking Paxson’s own school record that he set last year.
“The first half, I thought it went really well,” said Laguna Beach Coach Jonathan Todd after his team was down just one at half, 21-20. “The third quarter, we were just putting people in spots they hadn’t played before.”
That was necessitated because seniors Ethan Quirarte and Chris Hilleman, as well as sophomore Norty Penney, were all out of the game after suffering concussion symptoms late in the first half or early in the second half.
“It was really tough,” Paxson said. “At one point I turned to Alec Jaffe and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re the last two left.’ It seemed like we could move the ball through the air; the offensive line had a great game and gave me time to look down the field.
“We definitely want to play [Corona del Mar] again in the playoffs if we get the chance.”
With 14 seconds left in the half, CdM quarterback Michael Borchard ran it in himself from 10 yards out, then added a two-point conversion run to give CdM the 21-20 halftime lead. The Sea Kings added an Abbott eight-yard score to start the second half then, after Laguna Beach fumbled away the kickoff return, senior Alex Swigert scored from 14 yards out to push the lead to 35-20.
In all, it was three touchdowns in just 98 seconds, and the Breakers never got closer.
“That will be one of the best football teams we play,” Todd said of the Sea Kings. “It’s like a shootout, but then we ran out of bullets in the second half.”
Alec Jaffe also caught a touchdown pass for the Breakers. Todd said he expects the team to be even stronger with Jaffe as well as when the team gets sophomore receiver Derek Reigel back from a broken collarbone.
“It’s going to be really hard to defend us,” Todd said. “Those guys can change games in one play.”
Borchard also ran for three touchdowns and junior Donald Dalton had his second kickoff return for a touchdown in as many games, helping relieve the nerves of some CdM fans who may have been used to rolling over Laguna Beach in the past.
“We’re going to have to tighten up defensively,” Sea Kings Coach Jason Hitchens said. “We’ve got some work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully at least by league, we’ll have some of that stuff settled.”
For the Breakers, it’s going to be another tough game this week. They’re at home against San Diego Section powerhouse Coronado tonight. Coronado (0-1) lost to a team from Kauai, Hawaii, 49-13 in its season opener two weeks ago.
The Islanders shut out Laguna Beach, 34-0, last year but the Breakers have proven they may be more dangerous this year.
Due to the concussions, Todd said he will move Jaffe to middle linebacker and he’s still trying to find a weak-side linebacker.
“Coronado is going to be another tough challenge for us,” he said. “They’re very well-coached. Their defense is very strong and very good.”