LAGUNA BEACH — Estancia High football coach Mike Bargas said coming into Friday's Orange Coast League opener against Laguna Beach that it would be a matter of his defense "staying the course" if it hoped to slow down the Breakers' high-powered Wing-T offense.
He also said the game could be determined in the trenches.
Bargas was two for two in his pregame predictions.
Estancia's offensive line, which held a definitive weight advantage over Laguna's smaller defensive front, continually opened up big holes for running back Robert Murtha. The Eagles' defense also held Laguna's vaunted run game well in check and limited what had been a quick scoring offense, in check. The result was a 35-14 Estancia victory that spoiled Laguna's homecoming.
Laguna entered the game 5-0 and ranked fifth in this week's CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll. Estancia was 3-2 overall and ranked sixth.
Those rankings are certain to change next week.
"This was a big one for us," said Bargas whose team successfully opened defense of the league title it won last fall. "We were the underdog coming into this one. They were 5-0 and kicking butt, but our guys set the tone early.
"I thought we played an ugly first half but the second half was a lot prettier. Our offensive line did a great job tonight and our defense set in in the second half. I also thought that play toward the end of the first half was a big key for us."
Laguna, which came into the Friday's showdown averaging 53 points a game, was looking to tie the score late in the first half when it reached the Estancia five-yard line where it had first-and-goal with 45 seconds left. On second down, Eagles linebacker Alex Rodriguez broke through the line to drop Laguna running back Norton Penney for a three-yard loss. The clock then ran out on the Breakers who were out of timeouts. Rodriguez's big hit allowed Estancia to hold on to a 21-14 lead at halftime.
"Alex made a huge stop for us," Bargas said. "That gave us some momentum going into halftime and our defense went on to shut them out in the second half."
Estancia pulled out to a 28-14 lead with 3:37 left in the third quarter after quarterback Brad Wilson scored on a one-yard keeper. The Eagles put the game out of reach when Murtha reached the end zone for the third time, the final time on a two-yard run to make it 35-14 with 9:21 left in the game.
Murtha routinely ripped off big chunks of yardage throughout the game and powered his way for 255 yards on 40 carries. He had 154 of those yards in the first half alone.
"We got beat by a real good football team," Laguna Coach Mike Churchill said. "They are just so much bigger up front than we are, and they pretty much ran on us all night. [Murtha] had another great game for them."
The Eagles sacked Laguna quarterback Larry Stewart twice and pressured the junior throughout the second half. Stewart, a lefty, threw for 128 yards.
Laguna, which was looking to go 6-0 for the first time since 1986, had rushed for just over 2,000 yards in its first five games. Estancia limited the Breakers to just 133 yards.
Junior running back Drake Martinez, who had 861 yards entering Friday night's game, led the Breakers with 93 yards on 12 carries.
"This is a big win but we still have four more (league) games to go," said Bargas.
Estancia 35, Laguna Beach 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 7 – 14 – 7 – 7 – 35
Laguna 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 – 14
Est – Murtha 2 run (Cabrera kick), 6:59.
LB – Clawson 38 pass from Stewart (McInerny kick), 3:49.
Est – Wilson 5 run (Cabrera kick), 11:56.
Est – Murtha 12 run (Cabrera kick), 4:22.
LB – Martinez 22 run (McInerny kick), 3:40.
Est – Wilson 1 run (Cabrera kick), 3:37
Est – Murtha 2 run (Cabrera kick), 9:21.
Est – Murtha, 40-255, 3 TDs.
LB – Martinez, 12-93, 1 TD.
Est – Wilson, 6-11-0, 98.
LB – Stewart, 7-15-0, 128, 1 TD.
Est – Murtha, 3-55.
LB – Clawson, 2-56, 1 TD.