Having put the finishing touches on a near-perfect showing in nonleague play, the Laguna Beach football team sets its focus on the start of the Orange Coast League season.
The league race opens Friday for the Breakers, who host Saddleback at 7p.m. at Guyer Field.
Laguna won for the fourth time in five nonleague games Sept. 28 by racing past visiting Pioneer of Whittier, 59-7.
The Breakers, the No. 2-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division, averaged 52 points per game in going 4-0-1 in nonleague action.
“We’ve put up some numbers on offense but really, it’s how the different ways that we’ve been scoring is what’s been impressive, to me,” Laguna Coach Mike Churchill said. “We scored on kickoff returns and punt returns, even interception returns. We’ve found different ways to reach the end zone and that’s terrific. It’s a team game and that’s how we’ve been winning.”
The Breakers showed that versatility in last week’s win against Pioneer. They scored on a 50-yard touchdown run by Nathan Lancaster on their first play from scrimmage on a night where senior running back Drake Martinez set the school record for career touchdowns. Martinez, who has 45 career touchdowns, scored on runs of 15 and 18 yards and returned the second half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown on a reverse handoff.
The scoring ended when Robert Clemons returned a punt in the fourth quarter 56 yards for a touchdown. It tied the school single-season record for punt returns for touchdown for Clemons, who now has seven career touchdowns on returns.
Lancaster also scored on a 21-yard run and quarterback Larry Stewart scored on a five-yard run and threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Jake Hexburg. Robbie McInerny, whose 35-yard return of an interception in the second quarter set up Stewart’s scoring run, booted a 22-yard field goal.
Lancaster led all rushers with 111 yards on seven carries, and Martinez had 81 yards on nine attempts.
As a team, the 2012 Breakers have the school single-season record for touchdowns on returns (12) and touchdowns on punt returns (six).
“I thought our defense probably gave its best performance against Pioneer than in any game that I’ve coached here in two years,” Churchill said. “We have a lot of second-year kids who have really played well, and second, we have some new kids out there who are stepping up. Robbie is doing a real nice job in the secondary. Any time a team throws in his neighborhood, he seems to be there to pick if off. In addition, he’s done a fabulous job kicking for us.”
Saddleback (2-3) has a little swagger heading into Friday’s league opener. It takes on Laguna riding a two-game win streak, their most recent win a 43-0 drubbing last week of La Quinta of Westminster.
Eddie Arvezu rushed for 102 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries to lead the way. The Roadrunners also scored twice defensively, returning an interception and fumble recovery for scores.
Arvezu also rushed for 160 yards and two scores two weeks ago in a win against Century that ended a 22-game losing streak for the Roadrunners. Of their three losses, one came in the second week of the season to Bolsa Grande, 35-32. Laguna had defeated Bolsa Grande, 62-14, a week earlier.
Saddleback has outscored its last two opponents, 78-7.
“Bottom line, I think they are the most improved team in our league,” Churchill said. “It’s easy to say they’re improved after going winless last year, but they are. They are playing hard, and I’m sure they’ll come in here Friday ready to play their best game.”