It's been a rough few weeks for the Laguna Beach High football team.
The Breakers, who have become accustomed to victories and high rankings over the past two years, enter the start of their Orange Coast League season this week with neither.
A 35-19 loss to Northwood in their final nonleague game on Oct. 4, was the second-straight setback for the Breakers. The loss also cost them a slot in the weekly CIF Southern Section Southern Division rankings. At No. 7 last week, the loss to Northwood dropped the Breakers out of the rankings.
They had risen as high as No. 4 in the poll three weeks ago.
This week marks the first time since 2010 that the Breakers haven't been ranked, and that season also marked the last time they had dropped consecutive games.
Now, Laguna gets the chance at a new start. The halfway point of the season this week brings the beginning of league play. The Breakers (3-2) begin defense of their 2012 league championship on the road against winless Saddleback on Friday.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Segerstrom High in Santa Ana.
Laguna comes into the game with consecutive losses starting with a Sept. 27 loss at St. Margaret's (No. 1, CIF Southern Section East Valley Division).
"We haven't played very well the past two weeks, but we've played two very good teams," Laguna Coach Corey Brown said. "You can't turn the ball over like we did against Northwood, and expect to win. We turned it over early, and never recovered."
Laguna turned the ball over on its first five possessions (four fumbles, three interceptions) and, as Brown said, never did recover.
The first two Laguna possessions ended in fumbles, the second one occurring at the Northwood two-yard line after a big, 67-yard run by Nathan Lancaster with the Breakers seemingly going in for a score in a scoreless game. The Timberwolves turned the turnover into a 98-yard touchdown drive of their own which they kept alive early by a gutsy and successful fake punt from their own end zone.
The Timberwolves also cashed in on another fumble recovery for their next touchdown which gave them a 14-0 lead at the half. Leading 21-0 in the third quarter, they went up four scores by returning an interception 44 yards for a 28-0 lead.
Laguna trailed, 35-0, before getting on the scoreboard late in the third quarter on a 69-yard touchdown run by senior running back Andres DeLaRosa. Sophomore quarterback Jack Simon threw a 31-yard scoring pass to junior running back Jake Smith, and Lancaster scored on a nine-yard run, both scores coming in the fourth quarter, to make it 35-19.
Both Lancaster (16 carries, 120 yards) and DeLaRosa (13-118) rushed for more than 100 yards. Simon was 11 of 28 for 180 yards.
The Breakers were without two-way starter, running back/defensive back Keaton Martinez (illness) for the Northwood game. Brown said the senior is questionable for Friday's game against Saddleback.
Laguna didn't score in the first half of the losses to St. Margaret's and Northwood.
"Defensively, I thought we played pretty well," Brown said. "In the grand scheme of things, the defense only gave up 28 points. Special teams-wise, we need to get better. [Northwood] converted two fake punts, one of which was my fault. And turnovers. We had seven, and that pick-six was a big one. Northwood came in and played really hard."
Saddleback is 0-5 but the Roadrunners have lost three games by eight or fewer points. In the last two weeks, they've lost two games by a total of nine points.
They are coming off a 25-20 loss to Westminster La Quinta, which scored the final 12 points of the game to pull out the win. Senior fullback Antonio Soto rushed for a game-high 135 yards and a season-best three touchdowns for the Roadrunners.
"They may be 0-5 but that's what makes them a dangerous team," Brown said. "It would mean a lot to them, to beat us.