LAGUNA BEACH – In an edge-of-your-seat CIF Southern Section Southern Division Football Playoff quarterfinal game Friday, Laguna Beach star tailback Drake Martinez played the role of finisher.
On third-and-two from the Segerstrom 29, all the Breakers junior really had to do was get the first down. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder broke at least two tackles on his way to a 28-yard touchdown run – his third of the night – to clinch a 51-40 win over the Jaguars.
Call it a war of wills that Martinez and Laguna Beach (10-2) won. He rushed for 201 yards on 26 carries.
“I wasn’t going to go down for anything,” Martinez said. “We had to do it for our seniors. Our whole community supported us. We wanted this one pretty bad.”
The Breakers broke into nearly uncharted territory, reaching the semifinals for the first time since 1964.
Laguna Beach will play host to No. 2-seeded Corona del Mar, a 45-7 winner over Los Amigos, on Friday in the Southern Division semifinals. Segerstrom’s season ended at 9-3.
“No one thought we’d be here,” Breakers Coach Mike Churchill said. “The kids played their heart out. [Martinez] is our go-to guy. But we have so many players on our team who we can go to.”
One of those go-to players was junior quarterback Larry Stewart, who threw for three touchdown passes and 150 yards on five-of-12 passing.
Stewart’s most important pass was to senior wide receiver Derek Reigel, who won a jump ball and leaped up to grab and yank a pass from a Segerstrom cornerback near the Segerstom 20-yard line. Reigel took it the rest of the way on a 40-yard score that extended Laguna’s lead to 37-27.
Reigel also leaped up the Laguna Beach record books, as he moved to third in the all-time career touchdown reception books with 13.
“He’s caught so many passes for us,” Churchill said. “He came through.”
Segerstrom’s quick back Sonny Roa scampered 48 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to 37-34 with 8:56 left in the game.
Another huge play came two possessions later. Robbie McInerny recovered a fumble by Joseph Gomez on the Jaguar 19. Three plays later, with 4:34 left, Martinez scored on a six-yard outside run that made it a 44-34 ballgame.
Segerstrom showed no quit the entire game, as Aaron Morales found a wide-open Gabriel Roa on a 21-yard pass with 3:21 left, as several Breakers looked to stop the run. Norton Penney blocked the extra-point kick, which forced the Jaguars to need a touchdown instead of a field goal.
But it was no matter, as Reigel recovered the onside kick. Martinez scored his third TD on that drive, and afterward Morales missed on three straight passes to seal the deal.
All three of Stewart’s touchdown passes were off of play-action fakes to Martinez and others.
“I don’t think we wanted anything more in our lives,” Stewart said. “We showed how bad we wanted it. We’ve had games where the play-action worked for us. We had our run game going for us.”
Segerstrom’s Wing-T rushing attack, which ran for 343 yards and four touchdowns on 40 carries in the first half, was kept at bay in the second half, rushing for 67 outside of Roa’s 48-yard run.
Roa rushed for 154 yards on 16 carries, David Perkins had 136 yards on 14 carries and Gomez rushed for 97 yards on 12 carries.
The score was tied at 27 at halftime.
Laguna Beach struck first right from the opening kickoff, as Norton Penney scored on a 94-yard kickoff return. Blake Hester recovered a fumble on the Jaguars’ first drive. Then Robert Clemons caught a 30-yard pass from Stewart for a quick 14-0 lead with 7:52 left in the first quarter.
Perkins scored on a five-yard TD run. Then Segerstrom tied the game at 14 on a 55-yard sprint by Perkins. Reigel caught a 35-yard touchdown from Stewart with 48 seconds left in the first quarter for a 21-14 Laguna Beach lead.
Roa scored from six yards out to tie the game at 21 with 5:30 left in the second quarter, Martinez countered with a 25-yard TD run. Then Perkins scored again with 14 seconds left in the first half to tie the score.
McInerny kicked a 42-yard field goal for a 30-27 lead with 1:47 left in the third quarter.