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Laguna Beach opens playoffs with big victory
LAGUNA BEACH - Laguna Beach was out to make a point and Loara ended up being on the receiving end as the Breakers rolled to a 42-14 victory in the first round of the CIF-SS Southern Division playoffs on Friday night at Laguna Beach High.
"A lot of these kids have been there before," said Laguna Beach coach Mike Churchill, who guided the Breakers to the semifinals last season. "They went three rounds in the playoffs last year, and I think they are a little hungry. I don't think people take us serious. We're here. We're in the playoffs and they better deal with it."
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Laguna Beach has smashed many school records this season, and more fell in the victory over the Saxons. Robert Clemons III and Nathan Lancaster returned punts for touchdowns in the first half, giving the Breakers 12 kickoff and punt returns for the season, which is believed to be a state record. Laguna Beach has 17 total returns for touchdowns on the season.
"They just seem to be there, and we're executing," Breakers running back/safety Drake Martinez said.
Clemons got the Breakers' scoring spree off to a start with his 74-yard punt return for a touchdown with 8:02 remaining in the first quarter. That was Clemons fifth punt return for a touchdown this season. He also has two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
After Laguna Beach's defense forced a three-and-out, Lancaster broke a 43-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.
The Breakers put together an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive on its next possession. Larry Stewart connected with Keaton Martinez on a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap that drive.
Drake Martinez, who had 154 yards on 14 carries, got in on the fun with a 20-yard touchdown run.
Lancaster's 37-yard punt return for a touchdown gave Laguna Beach a 35-0 lead at the half.
Laguna Beach received the kickoff to start the second half and marched right down the field for another score. Martinez's 48-yard run set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Stewart to make it 42-0.
Loara made sure Laguna Beach would not get a shutout and prevented a running clock by scoring in the third quarter. Henry McNamara's 42-yard run set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Connor O'Shea with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter. O'Shea found Jacob Mugica on the 2-point conversion and cut Laguna Beach's lead to 42-8.
Loara quarterback David Gistlinck scored on a 2-yard run on the final play of the game.
"I think the first thing that we talk about, and everybody in the playoffs talks about, is half the teams are going to be eliminated (in the first round) and you don't want to be one of them," Churchill said. "The kids played well. They came out and did what they had to do and I was happy for that."
Laguna Beach plays host to Northwood in next week's quarterfinal matchup.
"I think we have the same chances as last year," Martinez said. "I thought we could have went all the way last year, but we slipped up. I think we can do it this year."