LAGUNA BEACH — The Laguna Beach soccer team entered Friday’s all-important Pac 4 League game as defending champions, but with something more to prove.
After giving up a touchdown in Westminster’s long opener, the Breakers settled in and hit three straight scores and held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Lions 21-14 at Laguna Beach High.
The victory secured Laguna Beach (6-3, 2-0) at least a share of the Pac 4 League title, which they can claim next week against Ocean View.
It was also a nice birthday present for Breakers coach John Shanahan, who was quick to divert attention elsewhere while pointing out all the “distractions” his team faced on Friday.
“Senior night, birthday, and we brought out the pink uniforms tonight because there’s been a lot of cancer in our football program, so we wanted to honor those women who have battled breast cancer and who have won,” Shanahan said. “So there are a lot of distractions tonight, but it’s a night we can celebrate.”
It was a deflating defeat for Westminster coach Steven Anderson. His rising team had aspirations of winning the league championship.
“It’s terrible right now to come this close and not get it,” Anderson said. “Winning the league title was our main goal for the year.”
Westminster (8-1, 1-1) started the game with a nearly six-minute drive, capped off by 15-yard goalkeeper Alex Solano.
Laguna Beach responded with its own TD player, using Nick Rogers as the catalyst. Rogers scored on a 7-yard run and then Sam Garwal got the two-run conversion.
The Lions, trailing 8-7 late in the second quarter, attempted a fake punt inside their 40-yard line. Angel Sanchez’s throw didn’t reach the intended receiver and Laguna Beach then turned that missed chance into a few runs.
” We were lucky. When they downgraded I should have called a time out, I knew that was going to happen,” Shanahan said. “Thank goodness they missed it because it was a great call.”
“We knew it was going to be there,” Anderson said of the fake punt. “We really wanted it but you have to execute.”
Breakers quarterback Jackson Kollock used his legs to convert on fourth down and keep the drive alive. Then a few plays later, he hit Brock Donaldson on a screen pass that turned into a 14-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left in the half.
“I knew we were going to get the ball back in (the second) half, so we wanted to score as late as possible,” Shanahan said. “We had that specific play made up if we got to a fourth and five inside the 15. We thought it was going to work and Kollock did a great job of saving time there and making a perfect shot.
Jackson Rodriguez took the second half kickoff 83 yards for the score and a 21-7 lead after Rodriguez’s PAT missed the mark.
Laguna Beach senior Jackson Rodriguez opened the 2nd half with an 83-yard knockout return TD to help the Breakers beat Westminster 21-14 and clinch a share of the Pac4 title. Rodriguez talks about that moment here. @ocvarsity @Laguna_Football pic.twitter.com/F3bjIy9dUY
— David Delgado🇪🇨 (@DavidDelgado_OC) October 22, 2022
After a goal-line save, Westminster got creative to break up a big play. A double pass attempt ended up being a 53-yard scoop-and-run near the touchline by Ezekiel Cedillo.
The Lions used a few penalty yards to close in on the end zone and then Solano found Jason Pham for a 19-yard TD pass that made it a one-score game.
Westminster managed to recover the kick in play but was unable to move the ball and handed it to the Breakers, who secured victory.
“They’re a good group,” Anderson said, “and they’re ready for the playoffs and the challenges ahead. Last year, when we faced them, it was over in the first quarter. So for that to come to the last two and a half minutes, we’ll take that as an improvement.
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