Breakers crash on the Warriors to jumpstart playoff run

Wide receiver Ryner Swanson locks-on to a pass down the middle of the field.

Gavin Zaengle, Sports Editor

On Nov. 4, in the first round of Division 9 CIF Playoffs, the 5-5 West Torrance Warriors traveled south to take on the 7-3 Laguna Beach Breakers, where our football team protected their turf by overcoming an early deficit and willing themselves to victory. 

Early in the first quarter, the Breakers were off to a rocky start. West Torrance quarterback Jackson Sharman connected with wide receiver Kyle Cascalenda in the end zone two drives in a row, putting the Warriors up 14-0.

“After a big breakdown in coverage, our defense’s morale was low,” said captain and safety Sam Garwal. “I started to get flashbacks to last year’s playoff loss against Claremont. Our seniors rallied together and told the rest of the team we couldn’t let it happen again.”

On the ensuing kickoff, the Breakers struck back – running back Nick Rodgers gashed the West Torrance kickoff 86-yards to the end zone. After a commanding defensive stop on the next drive, the Breakers found an offensive rhythm. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Kollock drove the Breakers all the way down the field, punching the pigskin in on a read-option, with Kollock himself rushing into the end zone to tie up the contest. 

When the Breaker offense got the ball back yet again, the West Torrance defense was on their toes, taking a tipped pass 32-yards to the house. 

“After a brutal offensive mishap, what was a big play for us gave [West Torrance] the upper hand,” said Kollock. “I talked to my receivers on the sideline and kept their heads in the game. We knew we would claw back.”

At the half, the Breakers’ self-belief remained high.

“We haven’t even played our best football yet,” said Coach John Shanahan at halftime.

And after the half, the Breaker offense did just that. 6’4 tight end Ryner Swanson took a seam pass 62-yards for a score, tying up the ball game. 

“Before the game, I told Jackson Kollock that even if I wasn’t open, I was still going to make a play and keep sprinting up the field,” said Swanson. “Sure enough, he put his trust in me and threw a perfect ball to me over the middle.” 

Early on, stud wide receiver Jackson Rodriguez suffered a shoulder injury, putting him out for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, Rodriguez is the Breakers’ Swiss Army knife, as he is the kicker, punter, kick returner and punt returner. Losing him mid-game meant that a few underclassmen had to step into some big shoes. 

Perhaps Junior Nico Vidaurri stepped up the most. Although he had kicked on the lower level last year, he had barely worked on kicking all year. As the offense began driving once again, they were stopped on the Warrior 9-yard line, bringing up 4th down on the left hash.

“Can you make this?” asked Shanahan.

“Yes sir,” said Vidaurri.

Vidaurri trotted on for the biggest moment of his high school football career. With the crowd and sideline both holding their breath, he powered the ball right through the uprights. Within moments he was showered with praise and congratulations. 

“I felt nervous but confident,” said Vidaurri. “I didn’t realize the impact the kick would have on the outcome of the game at that time. Later, I recognized the importance of making it and was happy I was able to contribute to the win.”

The game was now all up to the defense, and they came up big. West Torrance found themselves with a first down on the Breaker 28-yard line with just three minutes left. Quarterback Jackson Sharman threw up a fade to senior receiver Dominick De La Torre, and corner Aidan Mulkay’s eyes lit up. He leaped up and iced the game with a clutch interception, propelling the Breakers into the second round of CIF.

“I was nervous after letting up a touchdown early on, but I knew I had to keep my head up for my teammates,” said Mulkay. “I had a feeling going into the fourth quarter that they would attack my side again, and that’s where they went wrong. As soon as I saw the ball float my way, I knew the game was over.”

The Breakers will trek out to Palm Desert on Friday, taking on the 7-4 La Quinta Blackhawks in round two of the CIF Division 9 Playoffs.