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Laguna Beach football advances to first CIF final since 1962

Sam Garwal (5) celebrates a touchdown with teammates in the end zone for Laguna Beach.
Sam Garwal (5) celebrates a touchdown with teammates in the end zone for Laguna Beach during the CIF Southern Section Division 9 football semifinal game against Riverside Norte Vista on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Sixty years is a long time.

On Friday night, the Laguna Beach High football team did something that no other Breakers team had done since 1962.

They will be the first Laguna Beach team in their generation to play in a CIF title game. Their parents’ generation never did it, either.

Laguna Beach edged Riverside Norte Vista 42-35 in a CIF Southern Section Division 9 semifinal playoff game at Guyer Field, and pandemonium set in.

The Breakers (10-3) will make their first CIF title game appearance in 60 years when they play at Diamond Bar (12-1) on Saturday, Nov. 26.

Laguna Beach head coach John Shanahan runs onto the field in celebration after defeating Riverside Norte Vista.
Laguna Beach head coach John Shanahan runs onto the field in celebration after defeating Riverside Norte Vista in the CIF Southern Section Division 9 football semifinal game on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Those guys are like 70 or 80 [years old] right now,” Laguna Beach junior tight end Ryner Swanson said. “That’s nuts.”

Diamond Bar beat San Dimas 21-14 in the other Division 9 semifinal.

Laguna Beach will be playing for its second CIF title. The school’s only other one in football came in 1946; the other finals appearances were in 1947, 1952 and 1962.

Laguna Beach, which has won eight straight games, appears to be surging toward the finish. The Breakers are averaging 35.5 points per game during the streak.

Sophomore quarterback Jackson Kollock threw five touchdown passes — two each to Swanson and junior running back Nick Rogers — and ran for another on Friday night.

Senior Sam Garwal added a 46-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter for the Pac 4 League champion Breakers.

Laguna's Ryner Swanson (87) takes a pass from Jackson Kollock and steps into the end zone for a touchdown.
Laguna’s Ryner Swanson (87) takes a pass from Jackson Kollock and steps into the end zone for a touchdown in the CIF Southern Section Division 9 football semifinal game on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We were the most focused we’ve ever been,” Swanson said. “We knew we were going to win … lost in the quarterfinals last year, and we knew what we had to do. We’re just smarter. We planned well for it.”

The Breakers took a two-touchdown lead early but had to survive a bruising rushing attack from Norte Vista (9-4) and senior running back Damarion Richardson. Listed at just 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, Richardson was very tough to bring down, and he amassed 38 carries for 321 yards and three touchdowns.

“They’re good, right?” Laguna Beach coach John Shanahan said. “I coached with [former longtime Tustin coach] Myron Miller— the best at doing this. I know that you eventually break the will of the other team when you keep running and pounding and pounding. We kept telling our kids, don’t give up the big play. We’ll get a turnover, we’ll get one or two stops and [we‘ll] feel like we’re going to be really good on offense tonight. We don’t need a lot of stops in order to have a chance to win.”

Nick Rogers of Laguna Beach (1) runs through a big gap in the defense against Norte Vista.
Nick Rogers of Laguna Beach (1) runs through a big gap in the defense during the CIF Southern Section Division 9 football semifinal against Norte Vista on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Breakers got a first-quarter turnover when the Braves fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone, stopping a long drive. Micah Chavez caused the fumble for Laguna Beach.

That was one of 19 straight run plays by Norte Vista to start the game. The 20th play, out of a timeout, was a five-yard touchdown pass from Favae Sola to tight end Eddie Villarreal.

“Sometimes I make a good call,” Norte Vista coach Ken Batdorf, in his 29th season, said after the game. “The Laguna kids play tough, I mean you’ve got to give it to them. Those kids play hard and they’re well-coached. Offensively, they’re incredibly talented.”

Norte Vista took its first lead, at 28-27, midway through the third quarter on Richardson’s second rushing score. Laguna then had to punt it away, with freshman Hudson Mills pinning the Braves at their own 4-yard line.

Jeremy Kanter (22) of Laguna Beach makes a big hit on quarterback Favae Sola (2) during Friday's Division 9 semifinal game.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Needing a stop, the Breakers defense got one, giving the ball back to Laguna Beach as the fourth quarter began.

The Breakers got touchdowns on their next two drives to surge back ahead. Both were screen passes to Rogers, who also had 153 yards rushing behind the offensive line of left tackle Leonardo Adjemian, left guard Skyler Schwarm, center Charlie Kelly, right guard Nico Cambruzzi and right tackle Teddy Dworakowski.

Richardson’s third score brought the visitors back within a touchdown with 2:18 left, but an onside kick was unsuccessful. Laguna Beach then got first-down runs by Kollock and Rogers to end the game.

Laguna Beach quarterback Jackson Kollock (12) runs for a long first down against Riverside Norte Vista on Friday.
Laguna Beach quarterback Jackson Kollock (12) runs for a long first down against Riverside Norte Vista in the CIF Southern Section Division 9 football semifinal game on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Shanahan, hired in 2016, led the Breakers to the finals after semifinal losses that year and in 2018.

“We got physically beat up twice in those two games,” he said. “This has been kind of an off game for us. We’ve been targeting this for a long time. We really wanted a home game, the last two times we played away.

“It was a special night, and our kids were really, really tough.”

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CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs

Semifinal

Laguna Beach 42, Norte Vista 35

Norte Vista 0 – 21 – 7 – 7 — 35

Laguna Beach 14 – 13 – 0 – 15 — 42

FIRST QUARTER

LB — Garwal 46 pass from Kollock (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 9:37.

LB — Swanson 17 pass from Kollock (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 4:21.

SECOND QUARTER

NV— Villarreal 5 pass from Sola (Martinez kick), 11:04.

LB — Swanson 5 pass from Kollock (kick blocked), 8:33.

NV — Richardson 27 run (Martinez kick), 4:56.

LB — Kollock 1 run (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 2:02.

NV — Martinez 19 pass from Johnson (Martinez kick), 0:08.

THIRD QUARTER

NV — Richardson 6 run (Martinez kick), 6:33.

FOURTH QUARTER

LB — Rogers 30 pass from Kollock (Donaldson pass from Kollock), 11:14.

LB — Rogers 10 pass from Kollock (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 6:52.

NV — Richardson 6 run (Martinez kick), 2:18.

INDIVIDUAL RUSHING

NV — Richardson, 38-321, 3 TDs.

LB — Rogers, 16-153.

INDIVIDUAL PASSING

NV — Sola, 5-8-0, 50, 1 TD.

LB — Kollock, 13-19-0, 188, 5 TDs.

INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING

NV — Martinez, 2-38, 1 TD.

LB — Rogers, 5-76, 2 TDs.

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