Laguna Beach senior running back Nick Rogers. (Courtesy of Jake Hiemstra)
Success breeds success, and there is no better example than Laguna Beach High School’s football team.
The aptly-named Breakers from Southern California’s Orange County coast will begin their quest for a second consecutive CIF Southern Section championship when they host El Dorado of Placentia at 7 p.m. Nov. 3.
Laguna Beach, 9–1, hasn’t lost since dropping a 27–26, overtime decision at Chino in their Aug. 17 season-opener. The current nine-game winning streak matches a run the Breakers put together en route to capturing last season’s CIF Southern Section Division 9 crown before they suffered a 56–55 heartbreak against Granada Hills Charter in the state playoffs.
“Last year, we weren’t prepared for that,” Laguna Beach Coach John Shanahan told reporters after a 42–7 victory at Westminster that wrapped up the Pac 4 League championship Oct. 27. “We didn’t have any conversations about going on after winning a CIF championship. It was a little overwhelming for our kids when I said, ‘Hey, congratulations, you got practice on Monday.’ They were like, ‘Wait, for what?’ We hadn’t won a CIF championship since 1946. Those aren’t conversations you have.”
The CIF this season placed the Breakers in Division 7, where a potential championship-game rematch with Chino is among the possibilities.
Laguna Beach junior quarterback Jackson Kollock. (Courtesy of Jake Hiemstra)
“We’re going in with all we have,” junior quarterback Jackson Kollock told reporters after passing for 390 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Westminster, bringing his season totals to 2,954 yards passing and 41 touchdowns. “We’re looking to win state this year. It’s our goal, and we’re going to go get it.”
Expectations at Laguna Beach have changed in so many ways over the past couple of seasons. And that all started, Mr. Shanahan said, with senior tight end and linebacker Ryner Swanson, who has committed to play college football at Brigham Young University beginning next season.
“He has single-handedly changed our program,” Mr. Shanahan said. “When you see him get a D-1 offer, now guys are saying ‘Well maybe I don’t have to leave Laguna. Maybe I don’t have to go to these other schools to get an opportunity to play at the next level.’”
Swanson, in fact, took Mr. Shanahan’s direction and delayed his commitment to Brigham Young in order to further opportunity for Kollock. When a University of Washington assistant coach subsequently visited to scout Swanson, he saw Kollock, as well. One thing led to another and last week, Kollock committed to play for the Huskies.
“There’s not a better teammate in this world than that guy,” Kollock said. “I love all these guys. We have guys who just give and give. The team’s unreal, like we’re all such a family. I couldn’t ask to be with a better group of guys.”
Now that Swanson and Kollock will be moving on to the next level, opportunities figure to follow for more Breakers players. Freshmen Wyatt Bogdan and Jack Hurst, who have been mentored by Swanson and Kollock, respectively, are among those with every opportunity to pursue college careers.
“Having them being able to stay home and play football and have a chance to play at the next level is great for our team,” Mr. Shanahan said. “Laguna kids never had that. They never thought they could play beyond high school, but I think some of them are starting to see it now.”
Laguna Beach senior tight end and linebacker Ryner Swanson. (Courtesy of Jake Hiemstra)
At its best, high school football engenders togetherness, and that is certainly the case at Laguna Beach. Senior running back Nick Rogers presented a logical theory after rushing for 176 yards, catching four passes for 78 more, and scoring four touchdowns against Westminster.
“I think it begins with the fact we have such a small team because we’re such a small town,” Rogers told The Epoch Times. “And so, whether we like it or not, we have to be so united. And we are, even outside of football. Everyone is so close because it’s such a small school. That’s how everything starts, and that’s how we work so well together. Not a lot of schools have that.”
The Breakers, who have scored at least 50 points in a game four times this season and 42 on two other occasions, will also put their work ethic up against anyone’s.
“I think sometimes our kids get upset with me and the coaching staff because we do the same thing every single day, all year long,” Mr. Shanahan said, citing the typical practice plan. “We try to teach our kids that if you consistently work hard at the same thing over and over again, for the most part, it’s going to lead to success. The continuous, repetitive hard work we put in throughout the year is what I think allows us to be pretty consistent. Our kids have lofty goals. They’ve been working like they want to have that 16-game season. We’ll keep coaching them hard as long as they want it.”