Mike Churchill called last week's game an "important test" for his Laguna Beach High football team. The Breakers, you could say, passed the exam with flying colors.
This week, Laguna faces another type of test: as in, road test.
The Breakers play their initial away game of the season Friday when they travel to San Pedro to take on Mary Star of the Sea. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
"It'll be different for us," Churchill said of a nonleague road test that puts the Breakers far from the friendly confines of Guyer Stadium. "We played them last year. Our emphasis all week has been that we may be playing Mary Star, but our opponent is ourselves. Our goal is the game at hand and to just get better."
Churchill said his team's resolve in the second half of last week's win against Bishop Montgomery impressed him. Following big scoring outputs and big victories in its first two games, Laguna wasn't able to jump on Bishop Montgomery early, the way it had against Webb and Ocean View.
"If you want to be a good team, you need to win the games you're supposed to and also overcome adversity to win others," he said. "We were scoreless after the first quarter last week and that was something new for us and something that we hadn't been through this season. At halftime, we had a 'gut check,' but everyone was calm about it in the locker room. I was impressed with the way the kids responded because we came out in the second half, 'bang-bang,' and we were off and running."
Laguna found itself trailing, 3-0, early in the second quarter against Bishop Montgomery but came back to take a 7-3 halftime lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Drake Martinez. The Breakers wouldn't trail again and strengthened their lead by scoring on both of their possessions in the third quarter.
The lead grew to 14-3 when quarterback Larry Stewart threw a nine-yard scoring pass to halfback Norton Penney Jr. After the Knights came back to narrow the score to, 14-10, Robert Clemons scored on a 22-yard run to put the Breakers in front, 21-10, through three quarters.
Up 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Stewart recovered a Bishop Montgomery fumble with under 10 minutes to play. The recovery at the Laguna 44-yard-line set up a four-play drive for the Breakers that culminated with a 48-yard scoring run by Penney with 5:47 remaining.
The win over Bishop Montgomery allowed the Breakers to become the eighth Laguna team, and first since 2003, to open a season with three straight victories. Churchill said that Penney, the lone senior in the Laguna backfield, was a key catalyst in the victory.
"Individually, Norton Penney really played well," he said. "He had a key interception (40-yard return), threw a long completion (34 yards) on a halfback pass, had that long (48 yards) touchdown run on a fourth-down play and was in on several tackles. He was our offensive and defensive player of the game.
"As a team, one of the things that I've been really pleased with is the play of our secondary. Bill Douglass, who coaches that unit and is someone I've known since the 1970s, has really broken everything down for them and the kids are absorbing it. That's great to see."
Martinez rushed for 64 yards on 13 carries and now has 501 yards (33 carries) to rank 19th in Laguna's single-season rushing list. Robbie McInerny booted four extra points in the win and now is tied for 10 all-time for PATs in a single Laguna season. Four of his five kickoffs were touchbacks and makes the junior 20 of 26 in that category for the season. Clemons rushed for a team-high 75 yards on eight touches.
Through three games, Clemons is averaging 18.42 yards (12 carries, 221 yards), Martinez 15.18, Nathan Lancaster 11.40 (15 carries, 171 yards), Penney 10.5 26 (carries, 275 yards) and Ricky Coury 10.2 (five carries, 51 yards) per carry.
Mary Star of the Sea is winless through three games. The Saints have lost to Notre Dame/Riverside (20-15), El Segundo (42-7) and Aquinas (24-14) and are coming off a bye week.