For as strong as Laguna Beach High’s start to the football season had been, coach John Shanahan knew that it could all be for naught if the Breakers did not win one of the key games on the schedule.
When the Pac 4 League was formed, Shanahan circled games against Western and Ocean View as those that would make or break his team’s season.
After dropping last week’s matchup with the Pioneers, the Breakers understood the gravity of the situation in front of them. Shanahan had come out immediately after the loss at Western and called Friday’s home game against undefeated Ocean View a must-win game.
The Breakers looked as though the message had been received, as Laguna Beach led wire to wire in defeating the Seahawks 38-21 in a pivotal Pac 4 League game.
“I told the kids, ‘This is do or die,’” Shanahan said. “They’ve known it forever. We [had] to win one of these two to give ourselves a chance to play Thursday night against our nemesis, Godinez, to give ourselves a chance to get into the [CIF Southern Section Division 12] playoffs.”
Senior wide receiver Kai Ball helped hand Ocean View (8-1, 1-1 in league) its first loss and move the Breakers (7-2, 1-1) into a second-place tie in the league with the Seahawks. Ball had nine catches for 134 yards, and he added a second-half fumble recovery on defense.
Laguna Beach had forced two early turnovers, but it came away with just a 21-yard field goal by Noah Handel on its first two drives.
Ball made the Breakers’ first big play on offense, pulling in a 31-yard catch to put Laguna Beach in the red zone. He got up and stood over Seahawks defensive back Naeco Logan, who took exception to the act of taunting.
“I usually don’t talk, but he kept talking to me, so I told him to cover me after I caught the ball, and then he hit me,” Ball said. “He was upset, I guess, about it, but that’s a ‘him’ problem.”
Ball finished off the drive by pulling in a six-yard touchdown to give Laguna Beach a 10-0 lead with 2:11 left in the first quarter.
Ocean View had just 109 yards of total offense at halftime. The Seahawks’ managed their lone scoring drive of the first half when Brandon Alcaraz found a soft spot in the Breakers’ secondary for a 22-yard touchdown on a seam route.
Laguna Beach used big plays to go up big going into the break. Sean Nolan returned a punt 51 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. The next time the Breakers touched the ball, Shane Lythgoe cut back to the right on a screen pass for a 27-yard touchdown with 28 seconds left in the first half.
Junior quarterback Andrew Johnson set the Laguna Beach school record for passing touchdowns in a single season with his 27th on the play. The previous mark of 26 passing touchdowns had belonged to Austin Paxson since 2009.
Lythgoe had just 60 total yards, but he found the end zone on three separate occasions. His two rushing scores in the second half helped Laguna Beach fend off a comeback attempt by the Seahawks.
Ocean View had rallied to cut its deficit to 24-21 on Rodrigo Adame’s second short-yardage rushing touchdown with 3:08 to go in the third quarter. The Seahawks found success running the ball off the right edge in the second half.
“We hadn’t been in that spot all year,” said Seahawks coach Luis Nuñez, whose team wraps up the regular season at first-place Western (8-1, 2-0) on Oct. 25. “I’m proud of my kids. They rebounded in that third quarter, and I just think [Shanahan] did a good job. They were better prepared. I put that on me and my staff.
“I told the kids, ‘We’re going to face adversity at some time, and we’re going to bounce back.’”
Will Earthman carried the ball 12 times for 105 yards to lead the Seahawks. He added four catches for 59 yards.
Noah Hickman was largely held in check by the Breakers’ defense. He finished with 106 passing yards, and he threw just his second interception of the season.
Calob Molstajo had three of the Breakers’ five sacks, and Jack Pigott had an interception and a fumble recovery.
“It feels so great, especially when we worked so hard to get this win,” Molstajo said. “We prepared so much for this game after Western. Our confidence rose up. We were ready for this one.”
Pac 4 League
Laguna Beach 38, Ocean View 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Ocean View 0 – 7 – 14 – 0 — 21
Laguna Beach 10 – 14 – 7 – 7 — 38
LB – Handel 21 FG, 5:51.
LB – Ball 6 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 2:11.
OV – Alcaraz 22 pass from Hickman (Stead kick), 11:02.
LB – Nolan 51 punt return (Handel kick), 2:24.
LB – Lythgoe 27 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), :28.
OV – Adame 2 run (Stead kick), 10:03.
OV – Adame 1 run (Stead kick), 3:08.
LB – Lythgoe 10 run (Handel kick), :11.
LB – Lythgoe 1 run (Handel kick), 4:54.
OV – Earthman, 12-105.
LB – Lythgoe, 22-32, 2 TDs.
OV – Hickman, 13-26-1, 106, 1 TD.
LB – Johnson, 14-25-2, 230, 1 TD.
OV – Earthman, 4-59.