Granada Hills outlasts Laguna Beach, ending Breakers’ memorable season
After the Laguna Beach High football team delivered the program’s first CIF Southern Section title in 76 years, the community came out in droves for what would be the final home game in the Breakers’ historic season.
Those in attendance were treated to a show, one that did not lack for drama, as Laguna Beach came up on the short end against Granada Hills Charter, 56-55, in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division 4-A bowl game at Guyer Field.
Granada Hills stuck to its formula of striking at will on the ground, compiling 487 rushing yards as a team. Senior workhorse Dijon Stanley, bound for Utah, rushed for 260 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s a great feeling,” Stanley said of his team’s offensive capabilities. “I feel like we’re a high-caliber, high-powered offense, and we could come out any play and do anything, and that’s what’s very great about our offense.
“I love it. Not just me, but DJ Richmond, Kanye Martin, Darrell Stanley. They all can get it any play, as they did today. Any play, it could be lights out.”
Both teams realized the shootout was on early, as the teams exploded for a combined 58 points in the first 15 minutes of game action.
It began with a 52-yard screen pass from Laguna Beach’s Jackson Kollock to Nick Rogers, which led to a goal-line rushing touchdown by the sophomore quarterback on a play-action rollout.
Granada Hills (12-2), the L.A. City Section Division I champion, responded — as it did time after time — with a big run. Darrell Stanley had a 49-yard rushing touchdown on the Highlanders’ first drive, Martin an 83-yard scoring run on the first play of their second possession, and Dijon Stanley a 55-yard sprint to the end zone on the third to take a 24-14 lead on the opening play of the second quarter.
In need of a spark, Laguna Beach (11-4) got it from its standout senior wide receiver in Jackson Rodriguez. Already with a touchdown grab to his credit, Rodriguez ran back a kickoff for a 78-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Myles Freeman picked up a fumble, returning it 53 yards to give the Breakers a 28-24 edge.
Keeping with the theme, Dijon Stanley struck again on the ground 75 seconds later — this time on a 46-yard sprint — sending Granada Hills to a 30-28 lead and capping a torrent start that had the scoreboard lit up like a Christmas tree.
“That was fun,” Rodriguez said. “It was just an absolute shootout.”
Rodriguez turned his first two catches into touchdowns, the second giving the Breakers the lead back at 35-30. After getting a stop, it appeared Laguna Beach was set to go into the half with the lead after getting the ball back with 1:14 on the clock.
An attempt to build on the lead backfired. A 23-yard completion to Ryner Swanson got the Breakers near midfield, and then they spiked the ball. Consecutive incompletions thereafter stopped the clock, and the Highlanders made the most of the remaining 44 seconds, getting a 67-yard touchdown around the left edge from Dijon Stanley as the half expired.
“I think our kids played so hard,” Laguna Beach coach John Shanahan said. “I wish I could do a few things over, to be honest with you, but we were trying to steal possessions here and there, … so we tried to stay aggressive, and in retrospect, we probably should have done things a little different at times.”
The Highlanders broke loose again on the first play of the second half, Darrell Stanley’s 49-yard scamper extending the Granada Hills advantage to two possessions at 44-35.
A new face made a sizable impact for the Breakers after halftime. With injuries to Brock Donaldson and Freeman, Merrick Vellmure was prominently featured in Laguna Beach’s offense.
Vellmure, who made six catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns, made a six-yard scoring grab, the start of a key run for the Breakers.
Sam Garwal then jumped on an onside kick, and although the Breakers could not cash in, they soon had the ball again when the Highlanders fumbled the snap on their next possession, the ball winding up in the hands of Micah Chavez.
Kollock made no mistake this time, finding Aidan Mulkay for a 20-yard gain before connecting with Swanson on a 17-yard touchdown. Laguna Beach was back in front 49-44 heading into the fourth quarter.
After Dijon Stanley’s fourth rushing score, Laguna Beach methodically worked its way down the field, taking five minutes off the clock before Vellmure’s second receiving score vaulted the Breakers into the lead once more. A Kollock incompletion on the two-point conversion attempt left Laguna Beach leading 55-50.
“It was surreal,” Vellmure said of scoring twice in the regional final. “I couldn’t believe it. I was finally here. This is my first year playing. It’s great that I just got to be here.”
It was the first time in the game that the Breakers had not kicked the extra point. Nico Vidaurri-Tucker was perfect in seven chances. Conversely, Granada Hills attempted two-point conversions after every touchdown.
Darrell Stanley dashed through the Laguna Beach defense on the ensuing kickoff, and the Highlanders had answered in lightning-quick fashion for the last time.
Laguna Beach’s chance to strike back was derailed when junior defensive lineman Oliver Taylor came up with his second sack, a 14-yard loss for the Breakers on third-and-10 at the Granada Hills 40.
“I feel absolutely amazing right now,” Taylor, who had two sacks in the contest, said of his team advancing. “It’s the emotions, the adrenaline, the excitement. It’s really an unreal feeling.”
By the time the Breakers got the ball back, they had one play from their own 37-yard line, and Kollock was intercepted by Richmond.
Granada Hills will play at Novato San Marin in the Division 4-A state championship game on Saturday. Dec. 10. San Marin beat Atherton Menlo School 29-21 in the Northern California regional.
Kollock threw for 310 yards and five touchdowns, adding 40 rushing yards for another score. It marked the first time that the Breakers had lost a game with the sophomore starting at quarterback.
“We accomplished a lot,” Shanahan said. “Hopefully, we just keep building, and building, and building.”
CIF State Southern California Regional Division 4-A bowl game
Granada Hills Charter 56, Laguna Beach 55
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Granada Hills 16 – 20 – 8 – 12 — 56
Laguna Beach 14 – 21 – 14 – 6 — 55
LB — Kollock 2 run (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 9:37.
GH — Da. Stanley 49 run (Martin run), 8:05.
LB — Rodriguez 7 pass from Kollock (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 5:29.
GH — Martin 83 run (Di. Stanley run), 5:09.
GH — Di. Stanley 55 run (Di. Stanley run), 11:50.
LB — Rodriguez 78 kick return (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 11:36.
LB — Freeman 53 fumble return (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 10:31.
GH — Di. Stanley 46 run (Di. Stanley run failed), 9:16.
LB — Rodriguez 18 pass from Kollock (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 4:33.
GH — Di. Stanley 67 run (Da. Stanley run failed), 0:00.
GH — Da. Stanley 49 run (Di. Stanley run), 11:49.
LB — Vellmure 6 pass from Kollock (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 7:23.
LB — Swanson 17 pass from Kollock (Vidaurri-Tucker kick), 4:24.
GH — Di. Stanley 26 run (Martin run failed), 10:22.
LB — Vellmure 10 pass from Kollock (Kollock pass failed), 5:15.
GH — Da. Stanley 80 kick return (run failed), 5:02.
GH — Di. Stanley, 26-260, 4 TDs; Da. Stanley, 5-112, 2 TDs; Martin, 4-80, 1 TD.
LB — Rogers, 15-79; Kollock, 4-40, 1 TD.
GH — None.
LB — Kollock, 26-42-1, 310, 5 TDs.
GH — None.
LB — Swanson, 8-98, 1 TD; Rogers, 4-69; Vellmure, 6-61, 2 TDs; Rodriguez, 6-57, 2 TDs; Mulkay, 2-25.
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