Laguna Beach High football coach John Shanahan likened his team’s propensity for sharing the ball on offense to an unselfish basketball squad. But there is no doubt about whom the Breakers want to take the last shot.
Senior Sean Nolan made the most of his opportunities to touch the ball, leading Laguna Beach to a 21-18 nonleague victory over host Marina on Friday night at Westminster High.
Nolan turned three of his five receptions into touchdowns and also had a crucial interception to help the Breakers, ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section Division 12 poll, win their fourth straight to improve to 5-1.
Nolan caught scoring passes from quarterback Andrew Johnson for six and 21 yards before halftime. His first second-half reception was a 21-yard touchdown and he later added a 55-yard pitch and catch from Johnson to help solidify the Breakers’ ninth win in their last 11 games.
For a kid that didn’t start playing football until late in life, because he is from another country, he’s really, really savvy.
Nolan, who has 10 receiving touchdowns this season, finished with 129 receiving yards. He also had a 27-yard run with a fake punt to convert a long fourth-down situation on the Breakers’ first possession of the game.
“We do like to share the ball,” Shanahan said after his Breakers recovered an onside kickoff and took a knee after the Vikings (2-5) scored with 12 seconds left to finalize the scoring. “We think we have 10 or 12 kids who can play for us out there, but Sean is special. He just does a lot of things and we can take some shots with him that we can’t necessarily take with the other guys, because he is going to go fight for the ball and make a play.”
Perhaps Nolan’s best play was his interception, on which he broke from the hash mark toward the sideline to make a sliding pick in front of a Marina receiver near midfield with 5:50 left in the game.
“For a kid that didn’t start playing football until late in life, because he is from another country, he’s really, really savvy,” Shanahan said of the Irish import, whose primary sport is rugby.
Johnson used seven receivers to complete 16 of 25 passes, without an interception. He finished with 233 passing yards.
Marina battled valiantly behind junior quarterback Jack Miller, who finished with 381 passing yards, including three touchdown tosses. He completed 25 of 37 passes.
Miller used eight different receivers, though he was sacked six times. Nathan Pendleton (seven catches for 141 yards), Gavin Dykema (seven catches for 86 yards, including the 37-yard touchdown in the waning seconds), and John Robinson (six catches for 109 yards and one touchdown) were Miller’s favorite targets.
Miller was a target for the Breakers’ pass rush, led by senior end Calob Molstajo, who had three solo sacks and shared another.
“He’s a great football player; our best football player,” Shanahan said of Molstajo. “We can’t block him at practice. Sometimes I just have to get him out, because we can’t do anything in practice. He is just a phenomenal kid. We love Calob.”
Marina has lost four straight, all to teams ranked in their respective CIF divisions.
The Vikings drove 80 yards on eight plays with the second-half kickoff, with Miller hitting Nathan O’Rourke out of the backfield for a nine-yard touchdown to cap the march.
After Nolan upped the lead to 21-6, Miller connected with Robinson for a six-yard touchdown pass with 3:26 left in the third quarter. The Vikings, playing without injured kicker Eric Church, missed one conversion kick and failed on two subsequent two-point-conversion attempts.
Pharoah Rush carried 19 times for 80 yards for Marina, but was sidelined with an unspecified injury the entire fourth quarter.
Laguna Beach stopped Marina at or behind the line of scrimmage 14 times. Jack Pigott made a diving interception in the end zone to complete another stop for the Breakers’ defense.
Laguna Beach 21, Marina 18
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Laguna Beach 7 – 7 – 7 – 0 — 21
Marina 0 – 0 – 12 – 6 — 18
LB – Nolan 6 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 1:32.
LB – Nolan 21 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 10:04.
M – O’Rourke 9 pass from Miller (kick failed), 9:10.
LB – Nolan 21 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 6:13.
M – Robinson 6 pass from Miller (run failed), 3:26.
M – Dykema 37 pass from Miller (pass failed), :12.
LB – Lythgoe, 12-49.
M – Rush, 19-80.
LB – Johnson, 16-25-0, 233, 3 TDs.
M – Miller, 25-37-2, 381, 3 TDs.
LB – Nolan, 5-129, 3 TDs.
M – Pendleton, 7-141.
BARRY FAULKNER is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5