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High School Football Preview: Laguna Beach hopes to continue recent success

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Andrew Johnson, the returning starting quarterback, makes a throw during practice at Laguna Beach on Aug. 2.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Laguna Beach High football team will venture out of state for the first time as a program as the Breakers prepare for their season opener against Baltimore (Md.) Green Street Academy on Thursday.

While the Breakers are on the East Coast, they will get an up close look at the nation’s history, too.

The team will fly into Washington, D.C., where it plans to stay for the majority of the trip. The Breakers will have some full days ahead of them, mixing in football activities with rampant tourism.

Breakers coach John Shanahan said that perusing museums along the National Mall and a nighttime tour of several monuments — the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial among them — will be on the agenda.

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Laguna Beach will take on Green Street Academy on Thursday, but the fun will not stop there. The next morning, the Breakers will visit Arlington National Cemetery, where four players will be granted the privilege to participate in the wreath laying ceremony.

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John Shanahan, shown watching various drills at Laguna Beach on Aug. 2, led the Breakers to the CIF Southern Section Division 12 semifinals in 2018.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We get to choose four of our kids to carry the wreaths at the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is spectacular,” Shanahan said. “I almost told [safeties coach Hunter Braun] that three kids and a coach have to do it because I would just love to do it, but we’re going to give it to the four kids.”

It is clear that senior quarterback Andrew Johnson would like to be considered as a participant.

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“That’s one of the big ones that I’m super excited about,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t be more honored that we’re going to have the chance to participate in the changing of the wreaths.”

Before returning home, the Breakers plan to tour the Under Armour headquarters, as well as bus up to New York City, where they will visit the 9/11 Memorial.

Laguna Beach went 10-3 overall last season. In the first year of the Pac 4 League, the Breakers shared the title with Ocean View and Western.

The Breakers have made the CIF Southern Section semifinals in two of Shanahan’s first three seasons in charge. For the first time, he will not have Sean Nolan, last season’s Dream Team All-Purpose Player of the Year, at his disposal.

Shanahan said that this year’s senior class is confident that it can carry on with the program’s success. It is also a special group to Shanahan, as the seniors represent the first class that he has coached for all four years.

“I think they went 8-1-1 their freshman year and 8-2 their sophomore year on that frosh-soph team,” Shanahan said. “Then 10-3 last year, so they’ve won a lot of football games. They expect to win football games.

“Does that mean we’re going to win a lot of football games? No. Does that mean we have a chance? Yes.”

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Shanahan said that he does not expect one individual to replace key two-way losses for the Breakers like Shane Lythgoe, Kai Ball and Nolan. The trio combined for eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries on defense last season.

Noah Diver, Jack Pigott, Connor Fink, Raul Villalobos and Jack Crawford, who are all seniors, will be among the returning receivers for Johnson to work with. The Breakers will also introduce junior tight end Alex Morck, a 6-foot-1, 240-pounder, to the receiving corps.

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Jack Crawford makes a catch on the run during practice at Laguna Beach on Aug. 2.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In the Breakers’ spread offense, each will have an opportunity to showcase their particular set of skills.

“We’ve just got a lot of guys who are really special at certain things,” Johnson said. “That is going to help us because we can run all the plays that we want to run, but then we can kind of specify and call certain plays that play to their strengths.”

Johnson said he enjoyed the challenge of playing in the Pac 4 League last year. He said facing upper-tier competition like Western’s two-way twin standouts Caine and Cassius Savage forced him to elevate his game.

Caine Savage, an Arizona State commit, set the CIF Southern Section single-season receiving touchdown record at 32 last season in leading the Pioneers to the Division 11 championship. His brother has committed to San Diego State.

Johnson added that he was not alone in stepping up against ranked opponents in Pac 4 League play, giving a shout out to his linemen.

“They’re putting their heart and soul into every single block,” Johnson said. “Even if they know that their name is not going to get called over the loud speaker, they know that their block is going to allow us to execute what we want to do in the run game or the pass game.

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“I couldn’t love it more that we play these great teams in our league now.”

In sharing the inaugural Pac 4 League title with Ocean View and Western, Fink was proud to carry on the program’s success after moving on from the Orange Coast League. He believes the Breakers’ reign can continue.

“I think it showed that Laguna Beach is not somebody to be messed around with,” Fink said. “We could go against any size of program and just believe that we could win any game, even against the Westerns and the Ocean Views in league.

“I think if we carry that on to this year, we’ll be pretty good.”

LAGUNA BEACH BREAKERS

CIF Southern Section Division: 12

Coach: John Shanahan (fourth year)

Staff: Darren Crawford (defensive coordinator), Nate Ball (wide receivers), Dylan Bradley (wide receivers), Zaverio Brenner (offensive line), Alex Hutcheson (running backs), Jake Ricci (defensive line), Taro Doone (linebackers), Hunter Braun (safeties), Ryan Koh (cornerbacks), John Selbe (quarterbacks)

2018 season: 10-3 overall, 2-1 in the Pac 4 League (shared first place), lost 48-6 to Lakewood Artesia in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 12 playoffs

Offensive scheme: Spread

Defensive scheme: 4-3

Returning offensive starters: Four

Returning defensive starters: Four

Returning with honors: Sr. QB Andrew Johnson, Sr. WR/CB Noah Diver, Sr. RB/MLB Sam Tyrrell, Sr. WR/SS Connor Fink

SCHEDULE

August

22 — vs. Baltimore (Md.) Green Street Academy at St. Mary’s Ryken, 3:30 p.m.

30 — Bye

September

6 — vs. Big Bear

13 — at Dana Hills

20 — at Bellflower

27 — vs. Estancia

October

4 — vs. Marina

11 — vs. Arcadia Rio Hondo Prep at Kare Park

18 — vs. Godinez*

25 — vs. Western*

November

1 — at Ocean View*

*denotes league game

All games 7 p.m. unless noted

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