Weeks of heavy lifting and heavy hitting, and having to mix it up with each other, has brought the Laguna Beach High football team to the cusp of a new season.
While the Breakers officially open their 2010 regular season campaign Sept. 10 at home against Northwood, they'll continue to work on all phases of their game as well as work out the kinks, when they host another Irvine school, University, in a 3 p.m. scrimmage today at Guyer Field.
One thing's certain: the Breakers are ready to go.
"We're really excited for the season," said Jonathan Todd, who begins his fourth year as head coach at his alma mater. "We have a lot of talented kids on this team, a lot of playmakers. This team has the potential to have a great year."
Todd has 10 players returning from a 2009 squad that went 5-6 overall, went undefeated (4-0) en route to winning the Orange Coast League championship and reached the CIF playoffs. The Breakers begin the new season with a No. 4 ranking in the preseason CIF Southern Division Top 10 poll.
But before the season even began, during the first week of hitting two weeks ago, the Breakers suffered a blow when senior Michael Hyden (5-10, 190), who was scheduled to start at running back along with junior Norton Penney Jr. (5-10, 185), broke his leg during practice.
"That was tough," Todd said. "But we should have Michael back by the time league starts."
Todd sad that sophomore Drake Martinez (6-1, 175), who played frosh/soph football last fall, will fill in for Hyden.
"Drake is a tough, competitive kid, and we have a lot of confidence in him," said Todd who noted that Martinez, Penney and senior receiver Chris Paul (6-1, 180) all run a 4.55 40-yard dash.
The offense is in the experienced hands of senior quarterback Austin Paxson (6-0, 165), who last year was first-team all-league, All-CIF and accounted for 26 touchdowns. His favorite target last year was Paul, who was among the county leaders last fall. Paul, the MVP of the Orange Coast League and All-CIF, had 909 receiving yards. Junior wide receiver Derek Reigel (6-1, 190) had 223 receiving yards a year ago.
Other returning all-league players are senior center Taylor Preston (5-10, 200), junior tackle Ricki Delatorre (6-2, 240) and senior outside linebacker Shane Selfridge (5-10, 175).
Defensively, Paul is the team's leading returning tackler (66) and the strong safety also had two interceptions. Sophomore cornerback Robert Clemons (6-0, 165) had 38 tackles and also a pair of interceptions.
"Last year, we were sort of 50-50 on offense but I definitely see us passing more and spreading things out this year," Todd said. "Skills-wise, I'm very pleased with what we have. One thing we will end up doing is starting some sophomores on the line. We did that last year with Ricki Delatorre and he was great.
"We'll be working some things out when we scrimmage Northwood. We'll see who can hang and who is truly ready to play. We'll also try guys out at different positions. At Laguna, we always need to have guys play on both sides of the ball."
A challenging nonleague schedule, which Todd called "much more competitive" than last year's slate, includes a tough trip Oct. 8 to Hesperia where the Breakers will take on an experienced and talented Oak Hills team. The Orange Coast League has a new look with the addition of Saddleback. The Breakers will face the Roadrunners in the final week of the regular season Nov. 12.
Quarterback: Austin Paxson
Running backs: Norton Penney Jr.; Drake Martinez
Wide receivers: Chris Paul; Derek Reigel
Tight end: Travis Clawson (6-2, 190, Jr.)
Tackle: Ricki Delatorre; Warren Abbate (6-0, 190, Soph.)
Guard: Ben Hanson (5-10, 240, Sr.); Bobby Weiland (5-10, 215, Soph.)
Center: Taylor Preston
Kicker: Austin Paxson
End: Travis Clawson; Blake Hester (6-0, 185, Soph.)
Tackle: Ricki Delatorre; Ben Hanson
Outside Linebacker: Shane Selfridge; Kevin Ulibarri (6-0, 175, Jr.)
Middle Linebacker: Drake Martinez
Cornerback: Robert Clemons
Strong Safety: Chris Paul; Zach Jaffe (5-10, 170, Jr.)
Cornerback: Norton Penney Jr.
Today: home scrimmage vs. University, 3 p.m.
Sept. 10: vs. Northwood, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17: at Ocean View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24: at Bishop Montgomery, 6 p.m.
Oct. 1: vs. Mary Star of the Sea, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8: at Oak Hills, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15: at *Estancia, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22: vs. *^Calvary Chapel, 7 p.m.
Oct. 29: vs. Godinez, 7 p.m.
Nov. 5: at *Costa Mesa, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12: vs. *Saddleback, 7 p.m.
Nov. 19: CIF playoffs begin
(*denotes Orange Coast League game)
(^ denotes homecoming game)