Santa Ana's Jorge Briseno cuts upfield during his team's game against Laguna Beach in the CIF semifinals. (Photo by Michael Kitada, Contributing Photographer)

Santa Ana smashes its way past Laguna Beach, reaches title game


SANTA ANA – Three years ago, Santa Ana football coach Charlie TeGantvoort took over a program that finished 0-10 and had won just two games in three years.

Now, that same program is one win away from accomplishing its ultimate goal.

Sparked by a bruising ground game and an opportunistic defense, Santa Ana defeated Laguna Beach, 66-27, Friday in a CIF-Southern Section Division 13 semifinal game at Santa Ana Stadium.

The victory advances the undefeated Saints (13-0) to their first section title game since 1986; they will face No. 2 seed Rancho Christian of Temecula either Friday or next Saturday. A site has not been determined, but Rancho Christian – which defeated South El Monte, 42-28, Friday – will be the home team.

“Now it’s time to take that next step,” said TeGantvoort. “I’m super proud to have an opportunity to take that step.”

Santa Ana dominated from start to finish, scoring on nine of its 11 possessions, including touchdowns on all six of its possessions in the first half.

Led by offensive linemen Jose Zaragoza, Jesus Viera, Eddy Lares, Francisco Franco and Mark Hernandez, the Saints totaled 486 yards, with 426 coming on the ground.

“Those guys gashed us all night long,” said Laguna Beach coach John Shanahan. “If there was any opening, No. 5 (Jorge Briseno) or 20 (Allen Pacheco) was going to find it.”

Briseno did most of the damage, totaling 204 yards and five TDs on 30 carries. Pacheco added 142 yards and two TDs on 10 carries, and quarterback Damian Macias had 80 yards rushing to go with 60 yards passing and a throwing score.

“We live and die by our O-line,” said TeGantvoort. “We’re big, but more than that, we’re now blocking the right guys and adjusting to blitzes. The football intelligence is a lot better, and that took a lot of studying on their part.”

Santa Ana was pretty good on the other side of the ball as well, limiting the Breakers (8-5) to just 3 yards rushing and 180 total. The Saints also forced three turnovers on two fumbles and an interception, and added three sacks.

Laguna Beach quarterback Curtis Harrison completed 15 of 26 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

The game featured three kickoff returns for scores – all in the first half – by Santa Ana’s Pablo Aguirre, and Laguna Beach’s Bruce Knill and Adam Armstrong.

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