Rain managed to postpone the matchup of two lower-division powers on Friday night, but once the teams took the field on Saturday, the shootout that everyone expected unfolded.
Anthony Munoz completed 18 of 30 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns, as Western defeated visiting Laguna Beach 47-35 in a Pac 4 League opener.
The game was played in the early afternoon because Western had its homecoming dance scheduled for that night. Munoz, who was named king of the homecoming court, delivered a regal performance. He led the Pioneers (7-1 overall) on four scoring drives in the first half.
Coming into the game, Munoz had thrown 24 of his 35 touchdowns to junior twin brothers Caine and Cassius Savage. Against the Breakers, however, his leading receiver was James Mendoza. The senior tight end brought in eight catches for 126 yards, including the first two touchdowns for the Pioneers.
“I knew coming in that they would be guarding them, especially, the twins,” Munoz said. “James stepped up huge today. He had some big plays, some big touchdowns. He started it off early for us.”
Western, the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 poll, is seeking its first playoff appearance since 2008. Pioneers coach Dan Davidson commended his kids for buying into the program despite its recent struggles.
In winning their league opener, the Pioneers are likely one win away from accomplishing the goal of ending their playoff drought.
“Our second [goal] is to try to win league, and the third is to try to make a run [in CIF],” Davidson said. “We want to play 14 games this year. I think we just have to keep pushing, pushing, pushing.”
Senior running back Rahsaan Hester had 12 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. He added two catches for 55 yards and two scores. The Savage twins combined for eight catches and 123 yards.
The Pac 4 League has put pressure on teams to come away with results every week. Only the top two finishers in the four-team league will receive automatic berths into the section playoffs.
Laguna Beach (6-2) traded scores with the Pioneers for most of the first half, but a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown by Caine Savage tipped the scales in Western’s favor. The Pioneers took a 34-21 lead with 4:56 left in the second quarter, and that would be the score at halftime.
Andrew Johnson threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns for the Breakers. Sean Nolan made four catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, while running back Shane Lythgoe provided 108 total yards and two touchdowns.
Noah Diver and Kai Ball also had receiving touchdowns for Laguna Beach.
Lythgoe, who also plays outside linebacker, brushed aside the notion that playing both sides of the ball in a high-scoring game was particularly taxing.
“I’ve played both sides of the ball since fifth grade, so it’s nothing different to me,” he said. “I play every play, and I play every play as hard as I possibly can.”
The Breakers, the third-ranked team in Division 12, will be back at home against Ocean View (8-0, 1-0) on Friday. The Seahawks are the second-ranked team in Division 11.
“It’s a must-win,” Breakers coach John Shanahan said. “It’s as simple as that. I think it’s a must-win for both of us. [The Seahawks] have a shot against Western, but it’s just a huge game. It doesn’t get any bigger.”
Pac 4 League
Western 47, Laguna Beach 35
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Laguna Beach 14 – 7 – 0 – 14 – 35
Western 14 – 20 – 6 – 7 – 47
W – Mendoza 35 pass from Munoz (Palacios kick), 11:26.
LB – Lythgoe 12 run (Handel kick), 7:30.
LB – Lythgoe 11 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 2:00.
W – Mendoza 10 pass from Munoz (Palacios kick), 1:00.
W – Hester 10 pass from Munoz (Palacios kick), 8:17.
LB – Nolan 61 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 7:31.
W – Cai. Savage 20 pass from Munoz (Palacios kick), 5:11.
W – Cai. Savage 23 INT return (Palacios kick failed), 4:56.
W – Hester 45 pass from Munoz (Munoz pass failed), 11:08.
LB – Diver 10 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 4:20.
W – Hester 15 run (Palacios kick), 2:44.
LB – Ball 34 pass from Johnson (Handel kick), 1:26.
LB – Lythgoe, 13-90, 1 TD.
W – Hester, 12-104, 1 TD.
LB – Johnson, 18-38-2, 280, 4 TDs.
W – Munoz, 18-30-1, 304, 5 TDs.
LB – Nolan, 4-120, 1 TD.
W – Mendoza, 8-126, 2 TDs.