LAGUNA BEACH — A game-winning drive in the closing minutes Friday made the Laguna Beach High football team the most victorious team in program history.
When quarterback Larry Stewart hit receiver Jake Hexberg with a 12-yard touchdown pass with just four seconds remaining, it lifted host Laguna to a thrilling, 28-21 victory over Northwood at Guyer Field. The triumph in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs did two things: it put the Breakers into next week's semifinals where they will face Garden Grove on Nov. 23, and moved them to 11-0-1 on the season. The 11 wins is the most by a Laguna team in the program's 78-year history.
"We had some adversity tonight but the kids really stepped up," Laguna Coach Mike Churchill said. "That was a great drive we had to win it there at the end. Everyone contributed in some way."
After Northwood, which had trailed, 21-7, tied the score with five minutes to play, Laguna responded with its decisive, 82-yard scoring drive. Stewart ran a bootleg before finding Hexberg for the winning touchdown.
"Our kids came up big with the game on the line," Churchill said. "Robert Clemons had a great, clutch catch on a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive, Drake [Martinez] ran hard, and our offensive line just did a great job. The line was great all game. Heck, they've been great all season. They haven't given up a sack this year."
Churchill called Martinez's performance "spectacular." The senior, the school's all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, scored on runs of 50, two and 64 yards, and finished with 264 yards.
Last year, the Breakers went 10-3 in reaching the division semifinals.
They are about to make a return appearance.
"First off, these kids were part of last year's success. Now, they achieve another milestone," Churchill said. "They have done just about everything that can be done."
Churchill said that Laguna, which played its first two playoff games at home, will travel to face Garden Grove next Friday.
The other Southern Division semifinal Nov. 23 pits top-seeded and defending champion Corona del Mar against Woodbridge.