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Late surge carries Laguna Hills to victory
LAGUNA HILLS - Laguna Hills coach Bruce Ingalls has a simple philosophy.
"We're never going to quit," Ingalls said. "We're going to play all 48 (minutes)."
The Hawks needed every last second to rally from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and defeat Dana Hills, 31-27, with two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes and 12 seconds.
Laguna Hills (6-3, 3-1) clinched at least a share of the Sea View League title by halting Dana Hills' three-game winning streak. It was the first meeting between the two schools since 1997 and its was Laguna Hills first victory over Dana Hills (3-6, 2-1) since 1996.
"What we were trying to do was win the second half and try to get some doubt in their mind because its been a long time since they won a league championship. We were trying to get them down a little bit. Our kids just really did a courageous job of coming back in the second half."
Dana Hills started to unravel in the fourth quarter with a series of penalties late in the fourth quarter and Laguna Hills took advantage of the situation.
Laguna Hills trailed, 27-17, when it took over at its own 36-yard line with 5:32 remaining. A pass interference penalty and a face-mask penalty on consecutive plays moved the Hawks to Dana Hills' 37. Hawks quarterback Kevin Cunningham quickly moved his team in for the score, connecting with Adam Salcido for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 4:12 remaining. That cut Dana Hills' lead to 27-24.
Dana Hills was unable to pick up a first down and was forced to punt. Dolphins punter Logan Warren got off a beauty and had the Hawks pinned back inside their own 15, but he was forced to punt again because of an illegal procedure penalty. Warren got off another good punt and had the Hawks pinned back inside their own 20, but another illegal procedure penalty forced him to punt again.
Will King was able to return Warren's third offering and he returned it 56 yards to Dana Hills' 16.
"That punt return was huge," Ingalls said. "That got us right back in the game. It was a complete team victory. We've been winning with special teams all year long and I think you saw how resilient our team is. I mean, we're not going to give up we're going to go all 48 with you and that's what we did tonight."
Four plays after King's punt return, Cunningham called his own number and scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give Laguna Hills a 31-27 lead with 33 seconds left.
"We came in knowing it was going to be a battle to the fourth quarter," Cunningham said. "Our motto is to play all 48 minutes and that's what we did tonight."
The Dolphins had 33 seconds to work with, but only got off two plays. Salcido picked off Dana Hills quarterback Mac Vail with 21 seconds left to seal the victory for the Hawks.
That was the final game of the regular season for Laguna Hills, but the Hawks haven't clinched a playoff berth even though they did clinch a share of the league title. Dana Hills and Capistrano Valley (7-2, 2-1) are tied for second a half game behind Laguna Hills. Dana Hills owns the tiebreaker over Capo Valley and Capo Valley owns the tiebreaker over Laguna Hills. There are only two guaranteed playoff berths in the Sea View League. If Dana Hills beats San Juan Hills and Capistrano Valley beats Aliso Niguel, it would create a three-way tie for the league title and coin flips would determine the two guaranteed playoff berths. The team that gets left out would have to receive one of the two at-large berths in the Southwest Division to get into the postseason.
"After our last game (against Capo Valley) we talked about how we didn't want to go out like that," Cunningham said. "We didn't want to not make the playoffs. We wanted to pull it together and get that league championship this week."