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High School Football Player of the Week: Andrew Johnson is a natural leader for Laguna Beach

High School Football Player of the Week: Andrew Johnson is a natural leader for Laguna Beach
Andrew Johnson holds the Laguna Beach High single-season records for passing yards (2,472) and passing touchdowns (33), and the single-game record for passing touchdowns (six). (Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Laguna Beach High football team is in the midst of a special season.

At the center of it all is junior quarterback Andrew Johnson, who will have his name all over the Breakers’ record book by the time this season ends.

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Already, he has set single-season records for passing touchdowns (33) and passing yards (2,472), as well as the single-game record for passing touchdowns (six).

After each accomplishment, Johnson has deflected the attention from himself, crediting his teammates for helping him to set those marks.

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“Obviously, it feels good,” said Johnson, who passed for 276 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-7 win over Godinez on Oct. 25, giving him the records for single-game passing touchdowns and single-season passing yards. “[The records] were never my goals going into the season. My goal going into the season was to do the best that I could to help my team win a CIF [Southern Section Division 12] championship.

“Ultimately, that is still my main goal. I think those are just little tidbits that show off how much has been put into the season so far.”

Being humble helps ingratiate one to their teammates, especially for a first-year varsity starter like Johnson. He says the quality is one that he was raised with.

Johnson relayed a message he has heard from his father growing up, saying, “You can’t do anything alone. The only way that you’re going to achieve anything you want to do is if you have people around you supporting you, completely, throughout the entire experience.”

Laguna Beach High quarterback Andrew Johnson (12) throws against Marina during the first half of a nonleague game at Westminster High on Sept. 28.
Laguna Beach High quarterback Andrew Johnson (12) throws against Marina during the first half of a nonleague game at Westminster High on Sept. 28. (Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The co-Pac 4 League champion Breakers have qualified for the postseason in three consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. Second-seeded Laguna Beach (8-2) will host Saddleback Valley Christian (3-6) to begin its Division 12 playoff run on Friday at 7 p.m.

Many have contributed to the offensive exploits of this historic Laguna Beach team. There have been 14 different receivers to make a catch for the Breakers, and six of them have caught multiple touchdowns.

A stroke of luck has also accompanied the Breakers. Drew Fink, Clay Gershenson, Sammer Tarazi, Conrad Pierpoint and Brendan Schmanski, the offensive line starters, have remained healthy all season.

“He’s a very smart guy,” Tarazi, the Breakers’ center, said of Johnson. “He knows where to put the ball. Up front, even though we’re not the biggest and strongest offensive line, we have very good technique, and that’s what helps us give him time to put the ball in the receivers’ hands.

“Our receivers, they can make moves on people. Once we get the ball in space, I think we’re the team that will win.”

Johnson took over the starting quarterback duties after winning a CIF Southern Section Division 4 title with the Breakers’ boys’ tennis team in the spring. He began playing tennis at the age of 10, and it has played a major part in his development as an athlete mentally.

He’s exceeded every expectation when it comes to toughness. He’s blown me away with his ability to take the hits and throw the ball late.


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While watching the BNP Paribas Open, the professional tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Johnson heard a commentator say something that changed the way he looks at sports entirely.

“I was sitting there watching a professional match one day, and I heard that you only need to win 51 percent of the points to win the match,” Johnson said. “The other person can win 49 percent of the points, and you can still win.

“That really broadened my mindset because that’s only one percent away from being a tie. I think once I heard that and realized that, it just completely changed the way I looked at everything.”

Johnson recognizes that he is prone to mistakes. He has 10 interceptions, but he knows that the next pass is the one that matters most.

“There’s no doubt that playing huge points in tennis against great tennis players and battling with his team with so many late, late victories in that playoff run last year has had a dramatic effect on his ability to step in and be successful right away,” Breakers coach John Shanahan said.

When Johnson was chosen to succeed recent graduate Curtis Harrison at quarterback, Shanahan believed he had leadership qualities, but he had questions about his toughness.

“My biggest question was if he was going to be tough enough to hang in there and take a beating and stay in there and continue to compete,” Shanahan added. “He’s exceeded every expectation when it comes to toughness. He’s blown me away with his ability to take the hits and throw the ball late.”

Laguna Beach High senior Andrew Johnson goes back for a long pass in a Pac 4 League game against Godinez at Santa Ana Valley High on Oct. 25.
Laguna Beach High senior Andrew Johnson goes back for a long pass in a Pac 4 League game against Godinez at Santa Ana Valley High on Oct. 25. (Christine Cotter)

Andrew Johnson

Born: April 21, 2002

Hometown: Aliso Viejo

Height: 6 feet 2

Weight: 170 pounds

Sport: Football

Year: Junior

Coach: John Shanahan

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite movie: “Remember the Titans”

Favorite athletic moment: Johnson helped the Breakers win the CIF Southern Section Division 4 boys’ tennis title as a singles player last spring. Laguna Beach beat Redlands East Valley 10-8 in the final.

Week in review: Johnson threw for 276 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-7 win over Godinez on Oct. 25. He set the Breakers’ single-game record for passing touchdowns and the single-season record for passing yards in the same game.

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