The team with the most victories in a single season in Laguna Beach High football history is a step away from achieving another milestone.
The No. 2-seeded Breakers face their next challenge Friday in what already has become a memorable season when they battle No. 3-seeded Garden Grove in a CIF Southern Section Southern Division semifinal game. To the winner, goes a spot in the division championship game Dec. 1 at Angel Stadium.
Friday’s kickoff is 7 p.m. at Garden Grove High.
Laguna played its final home game of the season on Nov. 16 and scored a thrilling, 28-21 quarterfinal round win over Northwood at Guyer Field. The last-second triumph not only advanced the Breakers on to the semifinals for a second straight year, it also vaulted them to a place where no previous Laguna team had gone in 77 previous years: to 11 victories in a single season.
The 1968, 1987 and 2011 teams each won 10 games.
At 11-0-1 overall, the Breakers have tied the school record for an unbeaten streak at 12 games.
“To do something that no other football team at this school has done before, is something these players have a lot to be proud of,” Laguna Coach Mike Churchill said. “The kids enjoyed the moment. For our senior players, this is the last time they would ever play on this [Guyer] field. That’s a pretty special way for them to go out. This group has achieved a lot.”
Laguna pieced together a scintillating, game-winning drive in the closing minutes to defeat Northwood. The Breakers went 81 yards to score, converting several key, fourth down plays along the way, to keep the drive alive. It culminated when senior quarterback Larry Stewart, on a bootleg, found junior receiver Jake Hexberg in the end zone to complete a 12-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds remaining.
“We had some adversity but the kids really stepped up,” Churchill said. “That was a great drive we had to win it there at the end. Everyone contributed in some way.
“Our kids came up big with the game on the line. Robert Clemons had a great, clutch catch on a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive, Drake [Martinez] ran hard all night and had a big fourth down run, and our offensive line just did a great job. The line was great all game. Heck, they’ve been great all season. They haven’t given up a sack this year.”
Churchill called Martinez’s performance “spectacular.” The senior, the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (3,455) and touchdowns (64), scored on runs of 50, two and 64 yards, and finished with 261 yards.
Nineteen of Martinez’s touchdowns have gone for 50 or more yards.
Last year, Laguna went 10-3 in reaching the division semifinals. The Breakers are about to make a return appearance.
“First off, these kids were part of last year’s success. Now, they achieve another milestone,” Churchill said. “They have done just about everything that can be done.”
Laguna’s semifinal opponent, Garden Grove, brings a seven-game win streak into Friday’s game. The Argonauts, 10-2 overall and champions of the Garden Grove League, moved on to the semifinals by pounding Segerstrom, 49-21. Running back Maze Masoe rushed for 78 yards and a career-high four touchdowns and back C.J. Del Real rushed for 121 yards and two scores in the win.
Garden Grove has averaged 51 points a game during their seven-game win streak.
“They have a lot of weapons and love to run the ball,” said Churchill who, fresh out of college, taught and coached (linebackers) at Garden Grove High in 1967 and 1968. “They are big, bigger than we are, but we are more athletic and have more speed. It should be a good match-up.”
A victory Friday would send Laguna to the school’s first appearance in a Southern Section championship game in 50 years. The 1962 team reached the Division A title game where it lost to Brea Olinda. The 1946 team owns the school’s only football title by winning the Lower Division Central championship. The 1947 (Northern Division) and 1952 (Southern Division) teams also reached Lower Division championships games.
The other Southern Division semifinal Friday pits top seed and defending champion Corona del Mar against host Woodbridge.
Laguna Results (11-0-1)
Friday: semifinals at ^Garden Grove, 7 p.m.
(*denotes league game; ^denotes CIF game)