Win, and they're in.
It's as simple as that, for a Laguna Beach High football team that is looking to keep its season going. The Breakers play host to Costa Mesa in an important Orange Coast League and regular-season finale Friday at Guyer Field.
The Breakers have a tough assignment in Costa Mesa, and the game, played on Senior Night, presents them the opportunity, with a victory, to nail down an automatic berth to the upcoming CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The Mustangs have streaked of late, winning their last five games following a 1-3 start. Led by talented running back, senior Oronde Crenshaw, they earned a share of the OCL title last week by handing Calvary Chapel its first league defeat, 58-41. The outcome left the Mustangs (6-3 overall, 4-0 league) with a one-game lead on the Eagles.
A win against Laguna (5-4, 2-2) Friday would give Costa Mesa the title outright. The Mustangs last captured the league crown outright in 2008. They shared the 2007 title with rival Estancia.
The Breakers share third place with Estancia (4-5, 2-2) a team they defeated, 59-14, Oct. 18.
Estancia plays Calvary Chapel Friday.
Laguna, last year's OCL champion, is out of the title race mix. But a win Friday would give the Breakers a No. 3 league finish which would earn them an automatic bid to the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs, which start Nov. 15.
A loss, then other playoff scenarios unfold including a potential, tie-breaking coin flip that would determine the league's No. 3 team and automatic qualifier to the playoffs.
"This is a big game for us," Laguna Coach Corey Brown said. "Win, and we are in. I've told the kids that we don't want to find a back door to get into the playoffs. A win Friday gets us there.
"We've got a league champion coming to our place Friday, and we will play this like it's a playoff game. That's what it is, for us."
Friday's matchup will feature two of the OCL's prominent running backs.
Laguna senior Nathan Lancaster has rushed for 2,089 yards in nine games. Two weeks ago, he set the Orange County single-game rushing record with 547 yard against Calvary Chapel. He comes into Friday's game averaging 12.22 yards per carry and has 28 rushing touchdowns.
In last week's game against Godinez, a 46-24 loss for the Breakers, Lancaster rushed for 165 yards and scored two touchdowns. Those numbers established him as the program's record-holder in the following categories: season rushing yards (2,089; old record: 1,889, Drake Martinez, 2011), season rushing touchdowns (28; old record: 27, Drake Martinez, 2011), and as the school's career rushing leader, currently at 3,549 yards (old record: 3,533, Drake Martinez, 2010-12).
Like Lancaster, Crenshaw is a force to be reckoned with. In last week's 58-41 blitz of Calvary Chapel, he stormed his way for a career-high 377 yards and scored five touchdowns on 42 carries. In eight games played, he has rushed for 1,599 yards and 23 touchdowns, and averages 8.79 yards per touch.
Crenshaw presents another rushing challenge to the Laguna defense which last week had difficulty in stopping the Godinez run game. As a result, the Grizzlies, who ran for 374 yards and scored six times on the ground, came back from a 10-0 deficit, to win, 46-24.
"He's very, very good," Brown said of Crenshaw. "He's been good since his sophomore year. He was their fullback when Mario Smith was their exceptional running back. He's a tough kid, breaks tackles, and doesn't go down easily. He's by far the best back we've faced this year.
"Not only that, but I think he's a very good middle-inside linebacker. His abilities, how much his team leans on him, and how many hits he takes in a game, on both offense and defense, is what impresses me about him. He's just a tough player."
Costa Mesa comes into Friday's game ranked eighth in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division.
Laguna, which had been ranked in the Southern Division top 10 all season, fell from the rankings following its loss to Godinez.
Breakers Schedule (5-4)
24...*Godinez (at Segerstrom High)...46
Friday: *Costa Mesa (Senior Night), 7 p.m.
(*denotes Orange Coast League game)