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Laguna Beach’s Caden Capobianco stops Huntington Beach boys’ water polo

Caden Capobianco waited for what seemed like an eternity for the whistle to blow.

His Laguna Beach High team had just committed a foul, giving Huntington Beach attacker Reilly Pfeiffer a five-meter penalty shot. As the official moved players into position, Capobianco remained still, minus the occasional bob up and down in the pool.

The shrill whistle blew, Pfeiffer launched a rocket and Capobianco thwacked the ball almost halfway to the opposing goalkeeper.

The save neutralized a late Huntington Beach rally to secure the Breakers’ 11-7 Surf League victory Wednesday night at Newport Harbor High.


With the win, the Breakers move to 11-7 overall and 2-1 in the league, while Huntington Beach dropped to 8-6 and 1-2. This is Laguna Beach’s second victory over Huntington Beach this year. The Breakers beat the Oilers 13-11 on Sept. 22.

The result should shift the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll. Laguna Beach entered No. 10, while Huntington Beach was No. 7.

“[Capobianco] is a beast,” Laguna Beach coach Robert Grayeli said. “He’s one of the three best goalies in high school. If he’s not, I’m crazy. We did a good job of funneling shots to him, but he made the defense look even better.”

Capobianco made 11 saves.


Huntington Beach’s Cooper Haddad, a UCLA commit, finally became eligible Wednesday after sitting out the first 30 days because he transferred from Mater Dei. The standout failed to score.

“It was rough for him,” Huntington Beach coach Sasa Branisavljevic said of Haddad. “I think he can blend in better than he showed tonight. He’s a target, but he needs to be the guy to score goals for us.”

Laguna Beach jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter behind goals from senior Colton Gregory and freshman Logan McCarroll. In addition, the Breakers’ defense pushed the Huntington Beach attack several feet from the goal, forcing a handful of misfired shots from long distance.

“We did a great job defensively,” Grayeli said. “I think James Nolan did an amazing job covering Haddad. We crashed down on the center and didn’t make anything easy for them.”

Laguna Beach’s James Nolan takes a shot under pressure from Huntington Beach’s Myles Simpson during
Laguna Beach High's James Nolan takes a shot under pressure from Huntington Beach's Myles Simpson during a Surf League match at Newport Harbor High on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Laguna Beach started feeding off momentum, first after a McCarroll goal on a six-on-five advantage. Seconds later, fellow freshman William Kelly found a gap in the defense, crept inside and lasered a shot past Jack Doyle for a 4-0 lead.

After Capobianco wedged a shot against the post, he hit Gregory on an outlet pass for a fastbreak score. Junior Zachary Cord muscled his way to the center and converted a short shot to bolster the lead to 6-0.

“In the rush to come back, we started making more mistakes,” Branisavljevic said. “We started off patient, but after some bad plays, we lost that.”


Huntington Beach’s Jack Green and Saxon Varon chipped in goals just before the break to cut the deficit to 6-2.

Green scored again in the third to draw the Oilers within three, but McCarroll capitalized on a penalty shot to stem the momentum. Gregory sprinted behind the defense minutes later to slap home another score for an 8-3 margin.

The freshman and the senior are the leading goal-scorers for Laguna Beach, and they added to their total with four goals each on the night.

[Capobianco] is a beast. He’s one of the three best goalies in high school. If he’s not, I’m crazy.
Robert Grayeli, Laguna Beach High coach

The final quarter belonged to Capobianco, as the junior keeper stretched for three saves over seven minutes. The denial on the penalty occurred with Laguna Beach leading 10-6.

A McCarroll empty-netter and a final conversion by Huntington Beach’s Chase Dodd finished the scoring.

The Breakers play No. 8 San Clemente at Vista Hermosa Sports Park in San Clemente on Saturday at noon, while the Oilers look to rebound against Fresno Clovis West in the S&R Sport Invitational at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine on Friday at 10 a.m.

SAM DODGE is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @samgododge