Last year the 2020 Breakers finished with a record of 1-4 and, due to the shortened season, weren’t able to participate in CIF. Along with the departure of some vital seniors such as Jackson Golden and Evan Louch, the Breakers finished the season with a bad taste in their mouths as they believed that with a full season of games they could have won their league and made the CIF bracket.
“The record may not have been good that year, but we learned a lot from [the 2021 seniors] about the game and about being leaders,” said senior lineman Rowen Johnson.
Looking to make a statement early, the Breakers started the 2021 season 3-1 behind some excellent passing play from senior quarterback Will Bingham, who threw for 961 yards through the first 4 games of the season with a completion percentage of 64.1%. With blowout victories over Costa Mesa and Northwood the Breakers started to build momentum early.
Bingham credits this stellar passing play to the countless hours he and the receivers put in over the Covid-19 pandemic. “The receivers and I put a lot of work on the field to try and perfect everything as much as possible,” said Bingham.
Weeks 5 through 11 saw the Breakers hit full stride as they closed in on the playoffs. They went a flawless 6-0 to finish the regular season with some stellar team play on both the offensive and defensive end. Seniors Luke Degner and Tyler Fields held it down on offense, recording 1,001 total yards and 19 touchdowns between the two of them during this 7 week stretch, with Fields only playing in 3 of the 6 games. On defense, Junior Michah Chavez and Senior David Dworakowski wreaked havoc on the front lines while Senior Cooper Buckhorn anchored the back. Dynamic Senior Jack Arntz proved to be extremely impactful on both sides of the field during this stretch as well, recording 276 total yards, 6 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while playing the back lines with Buckhorn.
“Usually 8-9 games in, people start to wear down and tire out, but [Tyler Fields’] return gave us the huge boost to coast through our league,” said Johnson when asked about his teammate’s return.
Perhaps the most unsung hero of this incredible season is Senior lineman, Rowen Johnson. Johnson managed to anchor the most technically sound line in the league, keeping quarterback Bingham spotless while simultaneously rushing the opposing quarterback relentlessly. Johnson does things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet but he is the glue to this Breakers team.
“Rowen’s biggest impact on our team was his leadership. On and off the field he was a leader especially for our young offensive and defensive line. He was always optimistic and he worked extremely hard,” said senior receiver Luke Degner.
The Breakers finished the regular season with a record of 9-1 entering the playoffs full of confidence, winning league outright for the first time since 2012, and earning the number one seed in the Division 9 CIF Southern Section bracket. In the first round, Laguna matched up with Chino High School Cowboys, the 16 seed in the tournament. The Cowboys went 7-4 and finished 2nd in the Sierra league. Wasting no time in the game against the Cowboys, the Breakers jumped out to a 28-7 lead by halftime behind some lockdown defense halting numerous drives by Chino. The final score was 42-21, giving Laguna their first playoff win since 2018.
“Chino we knew was a solid program and definitely was [going to] be a challenge for us, but we executed and did what we needed to in order to get that victory,” said Bingham
Matching up with the Breakers in the second round was Claremont High School, a very big, disciplined, and run heavy team. The Wolfpack finished 7-5 and placed 2nd in the San Antonio league earning them the 9 seed in the playoff bracket. In their game against Claremont, the Breakers got off to a rocky start turning it over twice on their first two drives which ultimately led to a 17-0 deficit for the Breakers at the end of the first quarter. This early lead proved to be insurmountable for the Breakers as they could never fully bring it back and ended up losing to Claremont 38-7.
“Unfortunately we fell short to Claremont which hurt a lot. What hurt, even more, was the fact we were the better team and we would have probably beat them 6-7 times out of 10. We played a sloppy game and quite frankly our worst game of the year,” said Degner when asked about the loss to Claremont.
A 9-1 regular season, winning league outright for the first time in 9 years, on top of the programs first playoff win in 3 years all contributes to one of the programs greatest seasons in history. It was how this team won, however, that makes this season so impressive. The smallest public high school in Orange County brought together a group of kids and against all odds dominated almost every opponent they faced. A 9 game win streak with 8 of the games requiring a running clock to keep the lead from getting any more out of hand speaks to this dominance more than any other stat.
“I don’t think our legacy lies in the 9-1 record and #1 seeded team in the division, but it lies in the examples of leadership and responsibility that we gave to the grades below us,” said Johnson.